The Coyotes Are One of the 2015 Draft Winners

Which team drafted the best and should be considered as one of the 2015 NHL Draft winners? Just shortly after this year’s draft came to an end the first impressions on top team performances were shared on social media and everyone was looking for draft winners and losers. It might take around five years until you can give a more detailed evaluation on the development of the 2015 draft class, but one team which you should have on the list of potential winners are the Arizona Coyotes.

The team had tough pre-draft days with all the stories released, but it seems that this didn’t affect their scouting team as they selected a strong group of prospects. Not only could they draft Dylan Strome at third overall, they also selected some interesting prospects in the mid and lower rounds. They had multiple picks in the first and third round and single picks in the second, fifth and seventh round. THW takes a closer look at the most notable newest Coyotes.

Strome, Hanifin or trade?

There have been questions whether the Coyotes will select Erie Otters center Strome, go for Boston College defenceman Noah Hanifin or even trade their third overall pick. And when Gary Bettman announced a trade just quickly before the Coyotes were on the clock, everyone thought they have traded their pick. But it turned out to be the Avalanche-Sabres deal and Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney was ready to walk to the podium to announce Strome as their pick. Since the team has lost Antoine Vermette they are lacking a number one center, and given the fact that they have Oliver Ekman-Larsson as their puck-moving defender number one, it made more sense to select Strome than Hanifin. The big center is a great playmaker with game changing abilities but was often in the shadow of his team mate Connor McDavid. However, Strome possesses huge upside and he is a very good selection by the Coyotes as he fits the needs of the organization perfectly.

Nick Merkley
Nick Merkley: one of the top forwards available for the 2015 NHL Draft. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)

With their second first round pick they have selected Kelowna Rockets forward Nick Merkley. Most draft ranking sources had the smallish playmaker in their top 20, also because of his strong season with Kelowna where he had 90 points, 70 of them were assists. The 5’11” center possesses tremendous vision and showed he is highly competitive, playing with a lot of heart and energy. Together with Strome, he builds a strong first round tandem for the Coyotes.

Fischer selected early in the second round

Christian Fischer was projected to be picked in the second round, maybe not as early as 32nd but it seems that the Coyotes scouts were impressed by this powerful two-way forward. The 18-year-old Illinois native is a work horse who uses all of his 212 lbs to protect the puck very well and drive the net with and without the puck. He is the type of player you want to have on your team and who does all for the win. He doesn’t possess high end scoring skills and therefore you might wonder if Arizona picked him too early in the second round, but they knew he won’t be available in the third round, therefore had to pick him that early.

Warren and Looke solid third round picks

At 81st and 83rd overall, Arizona selected Brendan Warren from USA Hockey respectively Jens Looke from Swedish Brynas. Warren wasn’t projected by many rankings to go so early but the 18-year-old had a decent season scoring 38 points. He isn’t a player with high end offensive skills but he fits in a third or fourth line because he plays with a lot of energy and is able to come up big in important games. He participated in the U18 Worlds and had four points in seven games. Warren is a good forechecker, an effective penalty killer and is underrated by many hockey fans.

Looke played the majority of the season in the Swedish Hockey League with Brynas. He was part of the Swedish U18 team at the Worlds but got injured which limited his ice time. Looke is a two-way player who doesn’t stand out in any area but is well rounded overall. He shows a good work ethic and can be used as a penalty killer as he is in shooting lanes effectively and isn’t afraid to block shots. Looke fits into a third line role and will provide the Coyotes with depth, good work ethic and competitiveness.

Garland – Top scorer of the QMJHL

The Coyotes used their fifth round pick to select Conor Garland, the topscorer of the QMJHL, who had impressive 129 points. Although he had a very productive season with the Moncton Wildcats, Garland is a rather risky pick. He is listed at only 5’8” and there are lots of question marks if he can bulk up and be competitive at NHL level. Nevertheless, he plays with a lot of energy and tries to make his lack of size forgotten with his great vision. Garland is a pass first guy and plays with a lot of heart. The Coyotes hope that his career blossoms in the same way like for example Tyler Johnson’s and if it does so, he is for sure a steal in this year’s draft. But time will tell.

Conor Garland
(Credit: Daniel St. Louis Photography)

Next to the 2015 picks mentioned above, the Coyotes have several other prospects in their system from earlier years. Brandon Gormley, Max Domi and Anthony Duclair are among some other notable prospects who could give the Arizona Coyotes a bright future, so at least on the ice things seem to become better for the organization. This year’s draft was one step in the right direction for the Coyotes and it gives their fans hope for a more colorful future.