A quick reminder that all top 10 candidates must be no more than 25 years old as of October 7, 2015. The lists consider all skaters in that age group who have played in fewer than 40 NHL regular season games, with 25 games being the cut-off among netminders.
We have finally arrived in the top five of our prospects team ranking where we find the stocked Arizona Coyotes organization. While their future is filled with uncertainty off the ice, on the ice their future looks as bright as the desert sun. Their prospect depth chart is very deep from 1-7 with several prospects who can make a difference for the franchise. Because of some open roster spots there might be some prospects who can benefit from the weak team Arizona has ahead of the start of the new season and earn a legit chance to compete for an opening night spot. More than one of those profiled below will have good chances to keep those spots for the long haul.
- Dylan Strome, C, Erie (OHL) 6-3”, 185. 3rd overall, 2015
- Max Domi, LW, London (OHL) 5-9”, 197. 12th overall, 2013
- Nick Merkley, C, Kelowna (WHL) 5-11”, 190. 30th overall, 2015
- Anthony Duclair, RW, Quebec (QMJHL) 5-11”, 177. Trade: Mar. 1, 2015. Originally: 80th overall, 2013 (NY Rangers)
- Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara (OHL) 6-3”, 205. 12th overall, 2014
- Christian Dvorak, LW, London (OHL) 6-0”, 178. 58th overall, 2014
- Christian Fischer, RW, USNTDP (USHL) 6-1”, 212. 32nd overall, 2015
- Louis Domingue, G, Portland (AHL) 6-3”, 210. 138th overall, 2010
- Klas Dahlbeck, D, Portland (AHL) 6-2”, 194. Trade: Feb. 28, 2015. Originally: 79th overall, 2011 (Chicago)
- Lucas Lessio, LW, Portland (AHL) 6-1”, 206. 56th overall, 2011
Players likely to lose eligibility
- Brendan Shinnimin, C, Portland (AHL) 5-10”, 185. UFA: Mar. 2, 2012
- Maxim Letunov, C, Youngstown (USHL) 6-2”, 155. Trade: Mar. 2, 2015. Originally: 52nd overall, 2014 (St. Louis)
- Jens Looke, RW, Brynas (SHL) 6-0”, 185. 83rd overall, 2015
Despite rumors that Arizona might trade away their 2015 third overall pick, they decided to keep it and selected center Dylan Strome. Strome spent the past two seasons with the Erie Otters. His point production literally exploded last season as he scored 129 points and finished as both the Otters’ and the OHL’s top scorer. In many respects, he seems to be ready for the next step and given the lack of centers on the Arizona system, he might get a chance to make an early impact in the NHL. Strome has good size and a terrific wrister, which is both very hard and very accurate. He shows tremendous competitiveness and possesses great offensive positioning as he always seems to be in the right position for the puck. His two-way game is solid as he backchecks very well and his work ethic is great. It remains to be seen how he deals with bigger and stronger players but he has all the tools to become a leader and cornerstone player at NHL-level.
On the ice, Max Domi doesn’t share a lot with his father, former NHL tough guy Tie Domi. Unlike his father, Max is a tremendous playmaker who consistently produced impressive numbers in his last three seasons with the London Knights. Domi is looking to impress at camp to secure for himself a roster spot for opening night. The chances are strong for him to manage to do so as there are a couple of free spots in the Coyote line up. Domi possesses tremendous vision and is very comfortable with the puck. He isn’t overly big but compensates for his lack of size with his good balance, strength on his skates and top-end speed.
After Dylan Strome, the Coyotes picked Nick Merkley as their second first rounder at 30th overall. Merkley was expected by many to go earlier in the first round but when he was still available at the time the Coyotes were on the clock, it was an easy decision to pick the playmaker from the Kelowna Rockets. He shows outstanding vision and is always aware of his teammates. His passing skills were among the best in the entire 2015 Draft Class and he is very confident with the puck and likes to set up plays. One of the reasons he dropped to the 30th position might be his lack of size but he shows great work ethic with a non-stop motor and a willingness to battle to compensate. He should be a lock to make the NHL one day with a top six role a high likelihood.
Anthony Duclair could be another NHL-ready prospect in the Coyotes organization. Arizona acquired the blazing Duclair from the NY Rangers, who had selected him in the third round in 2013, as part of the return for Keith Yandle. He played his first 18 NHL-games with the Rangers last season before he was sent back to the Quebec Remparts to finish the season there. Duclair has a nose for the net and is a good finisher. He has very quick hands and is effective in one-against-one situations. A shoot first player with a lot of skating energy, Duclair will have every chance to make the roster straight out of training camp.
Brendan Perlini and Christian Dvorak are two forwards currently playing in the OHL and both were selected in the first two rounds of the 2014 draft. Dvorak was the London Knights’ second best scorer behind Mitch Marner and just before fellow Coyotes prospect Max Domi while Perlini missed most of the first half of the season to injury but was still the Niagara IceDogs’ third best scorer. Dvorak is a very agile skater and his shot release is lightning quick. He shows a good two-way game and has good hands which help him to maneuver from in tight. Perlini has a good combination of size and skills. He has good hands and plays a very effective offensive zone game. He is a good and agile skater despite his size. Both Dvorak and Perlini played their first AHL-games after the completion of their OHL-seasons as they participated in the Portland Pirates abbreviated post-season.
Christian Fischer is a workhorse with great work ethic. He does whatever it takes to win and convinces with a matured game. He uses his body effectively to protect the puck and is hard to shove around as he demonstrates great lower body strength. He can carry the puck and go full speed without losing control. Fischer will play next season with the Windsor Spitfires after he was previously committed to the Notre Dame program. He needs to work on his offensive game a little more before turning pro.
The only goalie of note in the Arizona system is Louis Domingue. He is a big goalie with good athleticism and shows a solid positional game. The improved numbers in his game from his rookie season to last year were encouraging.
Klas Dahlbeck has good size and is considered a defensive minded defender. He plays a solid own zone game but needs to work on his skating agility. He is a reliable defender who doesn’t commit a lot of mistakes. Dahlbeck could see some ice time in the NHL next season as well and entered training camp penciled into the third defensive pairing. He was acquired by Arizona as part of the return on the last few months of Antoine Vermette’s contract.
Rounding out the top ten is grinder Lucas Lessio. The big-bodied forward convinces with good puck protection and a physical game. The second round pick from 2011 played in 29 NHL-games already and is expected to receive more ice time this year in an energy line role until he demonstrates that he can bring some of his decent offensive contributions from the AHL up to the big leagues.
Brendan Shinnimin is a high energy level forward who is a dangerous forechecker despite lacking in ideal NHL size. Expect the Manitoban undrafted free agent signee to add to his 12 games of NHL experience this season especially after he has increased his AHL scoring rate for three seasons in a row. Former Blues prospect Maxim Letunov is an offensively gifted forward who is tall but needs to add a lot of extra muscle mass. He is committed to play for the University of Connecticut next season after lighting up the USHL. Finally, keep an eye on Jens Looke. He spent the last season with Brynas in the highest Swedish League as a first year draft eligible skater. Looke plays with a physical edge and shows good work ethic along with solid playmaking skills.
The interesting thing about the Coyotes system is that they would have actually ranked higher had they not dealt still-eligible blueliner Brandon Gormley to Colorado this summer for a young, but no-longer-eligible skater in Stefan Elliott. The system is currently heavily weighted towards forwards, with eight of the top ten and all three sleepers playing in offensive positions. This does not harm the Coyotes as the system has a few more under the radar defenseman who may yet make waves, including Philip Samuelsson, Kyle Capobianco and Dysin Mayo, among others, but more pertinently due to the NHL team strength being youth on the blueline, led by Oliver Ekman-Larsson and followed up with the still improving Michael Stone and Connor Murphy. The Coyotes may not be long for Arizona, but wherever this franchise ends up, it should emerge as a very exciting team.