The 2014-15 NHL season comes to an end on Saturday for the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes are guaranteed to finish with the worst record in the Western Conference and will finish 29th overall, just ahead of the Buffalo Sabres. However, the future is looking promising for the team, both in terms of existing talent and the skilled prospects waiting to make their breakthrough.
The MVP of the Coyotes this season has to be Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Heading into the final day of the season, Ekman-Larsson leads all NHL defenseman 23 goals. The Swedish defenseman needs one more goal on Saturday to set a Coyotes/Jets franchise record for goals by a defenseman in a season. Ekman-Larsson has not been the only young talent making noise in the desert this year as rookie Tobias Rieder has also been a big part of Arizona’s offense this season. After getting called up in November, the German forward has contributed 13 goals, three of which came shorthanded. Those 13 goals put Rieder fourth among active Coyotes, trailing Ekman-Larsson, Sam Gagner, and Shane Doan. In addition, Mark Arcobello has made a significant impact after being acquired off waivers. In a season that saw Arcobello play for the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Nashville Predators, he has settled in well with Arizona. Arcobello has nine goals and 16 points in 26 games for the Coyotes, including the game-winning goal in Arizona’s dramatic 5-4 overtime win in Detroit on March 24.
On the Ontario Hockey League front, both Max Domi and Christian Dvorak finished their campaign with the London Knights with over 100 points. The Knights are currently locked in a playoff battle with Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters.
Goaltender Mike Smith has had another tough season between the pipes for the Coyotes. At the end of January, Smith was 8-21-4 with a 3.49 goals-against average and a .888 save percentage. However, his play has shown signs of improvement in the second half of the season. Since February, Smith has allowed two even-strength goals or fewer in 21 of 27 appearances. There have been a handful of games in the last two months where Smith has given the Coyotes a chance to win. Unfortunately for Smith, it has been the Arizona offense that has been unable to put together enough support to pick up two points.
Charles Woodall-Pike is a journalist who writes about the Arizona Coyotes for The Hockey Writers.