Here is a look at Arizona’s organizational needs and possible draft targets:
The Coyotes have loaded up on forwards in recent years, especially at center, with Dylan Strome and Clayton Keller selected with top seven picks and the rapid development of former second-round pick Christian Dvorak. At seventh overall, the BPA in this draft, however, is very likely going to be a forward as there is a gap between the top-two defencemen and the rest. Unless Cale Makar or Miro Heiskanen drop to Arizona, the best course for the Coyotes may be to draft the BWA – best winger available.
The positive in that scenario is that it doesn’t restrict a team to just drafting wingers, as it’s quite common for a player that was a center in his minor hockey career to switch over to the wing. Thus, it’s quite possible that if Michael Rasmussen is on the board at seven, the Coyotes think long and hard about drafting him. Rasmussen played the wing at the Top Prospects Game and was quite effective. Given his size and willingness to drive to the net, it’s possible that he evolves into an NHL winger some day.
The same holds true for Gabe Vilardi, but he has a jump on Rasmussen in that regard as he spent most of the past season on the wing even though he’s always been a center. Given that there are concerns about his speed and skating…wing may be the best option for Vilardi in the NHL. Like Rasmuseen…he goes to the dirty areas and is excellent on the cycle.
The player who is perhaps best suited to be picked by Arizona is Kristian Vesalainen, as he is the pure winger out of the trio, and like the other two brings size and puck skills. The Coyotes could use a big winger to complement Max Domi and co., especially if Domi and Keller end up being on the top line. They would need a big, skilled linemate who can handle the board work that would be required, and unlike their other recent high pick with size in Strome, Vesalainen is also a strong skater with good speed.
The Coyotes also hold the 23rd pick, and at that point it should be a prime spot to pick up one of the second tier of defencemen available…perhaps even one of the blueliners once thought to be top-ten locks if they drop that far; specifically…Timothy Liljegren or Cal Foote. Arizona grabbed the draft’s biggest faller in Jakob Chychrun last year…so they may think they can capture lightning in a bottle once again if either defenceman is there at 23. Chychrun would be a good mentor for Foote being the son of a former NHL who grew up in the US but has dual citizenship and was once thought to be a top three prospect who fell in his draft year. There would be a lot of commonalities for the two defencemen if they ended up being teammates.
Similarly – Liljegren would be able to garner the support and wisdom of countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson if he were to end up being picked by Arizona. If both are gone before pick 23, it means at least one of Jusso Valimaki, Urho Vaakanainen, Conor Timmins or Erik Brannstrom will still be available unless there is a substantial run on blueliners from 15 to 22..so I would be quite surprised if the Coyotes don’t grab a rearguard with their second first-round pick.
In the second round at 35th overall, it would be wise for Arizona to look at whatever goalies are left on the board and strongly consider selecting one as there is a decided lack of depth in the organization at that position. Perhaps they even consider taking Jake Oettinger at 23 if that’s who they really like and figure he will be gone at 35…but since the team also needs another top-four defenceman in the farm system, grabbing a dman at 23 and hoping the second-best (or even third-best) goalie is there at 35 is not only plausible, but also the best course of action. Oettinger is likely gone by the time they pick at 35, but at least one of Keith Petruzzelli and Michael DiPietro will be available at 35. If Petruzzelli is there I would suspect the Coyotes will look long and hard at taking him…with DiPietro..perhaps not quite as likely given the concerns about his lack of height.
That said – The Coyotes won’t reach for a goalie if one isn’t high on their draft board when they pick at 35…so if there is a forward or defenceman in their top 25 or even top 20 still on the board, it’s quite likely they’ll take him at 35th overall, and hope to get one of their top-rated goalies at 689…perhaps Stuart Skinner.
With the 69th pick and later, a lot will depend on who they picked earlier, especially in regards to goaltending. If the Coyotes don’t get a netminder with any of their first three picks, the odds are quite high that they’ll grab one at 69, with Skinner, Cayden Primeau, Olle Eriksson Ek and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen being strong candidates if any or all are still available.
After that, you go with the BPA on your list unless it’s a virtual tie and the club is still looking to stick up at a certain position. I could see the club frafting more than one goalie and several defencemen.