The Coyotes are flying high in the Pacific, but the best is yet to come
After 40 games the Arizona Coyotes sit 2nd in the Pacific Division, with 20 wins. The Yotes went winless in pre-season, but then started the league with a three game win streak – defeating LA, Pittsburgh and Anaheim.
Admittedly, the Pacific Division isn’t the most star-struck league right now, but it is one of the most competitive – mainly because the majority of the teams are having fairly weak seasons.
The LA Kings don the division and – as they were at the start of the season – are considered to be a Stanley Cup favourite. Then there are the Ducks, who started incredibly poor; but after calling up John Gibson from the Gulls they’ve reincarnated into playoff contenders.
Vancouver are still knocking about playoff contention but won’t make the automatic places, and most likely wouldn’t be good enough to fight off Central Division competition for the Wild Card spots.
San Jose could be contenders if they sorted out their home form which, after 38 games, stands at 5-12-0. They have the skater pedigree to make the playoffs, but they still seem to be in an adjustment period with new coach Peter DeBoer.
The Flames have slumped – predictably – after they exceeded themselves last season. Sean Monahan is suffering from some second-season-syndrome, just as top pick of his class Nathan MacKinnon did last season (Monahan’s just taking place in his third season).
Finally there are the Edmonton Oilers. They put all of their hopes on Connor McDavid pulling the team out of their funk, kicking the other top picks into gear, and making a fair playoff push. What really happened was Yakupov and Nugent-Hopkins are still not living up to their expectations, and the Oilers still lack defence and goaltending. Darnell Nurse will get good, but they need more than just one decent blue-liner – and McDavid broke his clavicle in-game and is still injured.
Arizona, on the other hand, have been able to put together decent strings of form this season, which has enabled them to rise up the division. What took the notice of the league was their very youthful team.
The Young Yotes
So far, Laurent Dauphin, Tyler Gaudet and Phillip Samuelsson have been dipped into the first team. Then there’s Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Jordan Martinook and Klas Dahlbeck who are all rookies with 39/40 games played in the NHL this season.
Following the injury to Mike Smith, Louis Domingue (5th round in 2010) was pulled into the first team, and has started to phase out back-up Anders Lindback.
The Arizona team is full of quality young skaters – their top five point scorers average to be 22.4-years-old, with the oldest being Mikkel Boedker at 26.
Their star man has still got to be Swedish defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. At just 24 years of age, he is by far their best blue-liner and one of Arizona’s top point scorers. Soon he’ll be considered amongst the very top defenders in the league.
There’s more to come
The Coyotes have been very patient with their top draftees, giving them ample time to develop their game in the minors before allowing them to step onto NHL ice. Just seeing the wonders that this has worked for Max Domi proves that Arizona’s patience pays off.
Still to be pulled up in the next couple of seasons are: four first round forwards (Perlini, Samuelsson, Merkley and Strome); second round center Dauphin and; two highly rated defensemen in Capobianco and Mayo.
Due to the patience that the franchise has with its prospects, all of the players that come up to the first team will be NHL ready, and will be able to perform at a high level.
If the Arizona Coyotes can keep these young stars in their team, they could eventually have one of the best classes of players in the league. The future looks very bright for the Yotes; if their fans think that this season’s going well, just wait for what’s to come in a couple of years time.
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