Arizona Coyotes – Draft Grade and Review
June 26, 2017
By Grant McCagg
Arizona Draft picks:
#23 – Pierre-Olivier Joseph
#44 – Filip Westerlund
#69 – Mackenzie Entwistle
#75 – Nate Schnarr
#82 – Cam Crotty
#108 – Noel Hoefenmayer
#126 – Michael Karow
#128 – Tyler Steenbergen
#190 – Erik Walli Walterholm
The Coyotes entered the draft with a prime opportunity to fortify the young core on the wing and defence. Gabe Vilardi was available at seventh overall and would have been a nice addition on Arizona’s top line in a couple of years alongside Max Domi and Clayton Keller. Instead the Coyotes chose to trade the pick for yet another center with top-two upside in Derek Stepan, the only difference being that this one was already well established and is expected to step into the first-line center role to take the pressure off of Clayton Keller and Christian Dvorak, and presumably allow Dylan Strome to spend some time in the minors working on his skating.
With Stepan’s addition the club is quite loaded at center, and a sign that GM John Chayka wasn’t prepared to be patient in allowing the young core to go through some more growing pains – he wants the club to compete sooner rather than later. It may help the team win more now, but the move may hurt the club significantly in the long run. Next year’s draft will be loaded at the top with high-end defencemen. If Arizona misses out on the elite ones because they become a competitive team that still misses out on the playoffs, it may help at the ticket office…but five years down the road they may still be in that situation – missing out on the playoffs as a treadmill team. Alas…Chayka is a young GM in a market where rumours of the team moving have been rampant for years due to an tenuous southern fan base in a non-hockey market that’s supposed to support a team that has had one good playoff run.
On the positive side, the Coyotes did address a major need as the club added five defencemen in the top 126 picks, with the peach of the bunch being Pierre-Olivier Joseph, a smart puck-moving defenceman who needs to add some beef to his slender frame before he can compete for an NHL position. Expected to go anywhere from 20 to 35 as he’s very raw and you have to hope that a lot of things go well in his development in terms of getting the strength to improve his speed enough to defend capably at the NHL level. His poise in making a smart, no-nonsense first pass out of his own zone will endear him to his pro coaches.
Filip Westerlund was a curious selection for some at 44th overall as he’s a 5-11 defenceman with limited offensive upside who will never be a physical defender at his size. As a rule, players taken in the top 50 have more long-term upside, but he’s a pretty safe pick who has the smarts and mobility to procure a bottom-line position on the Coyotes in a few years given how the game has changed in recent years. No longer do third-pairing defencemen have to be big plodding bruisers as teams are looking for mobile puck movers throughout the lineup. Westerlund has already proven that he can play against men as he was a regular on Frolunda’s blueline for most of the season, so he’s a good bet to play for Arizona some day – just don’t expect much offence or edge to his game.
Arizona got good value with the selection of Mackenzie Entwistle in the third round as he has the raw physical skills and competitiveness to play at the NHL level, perhaps in a third-line role. Given that the Coyotes are stocked at center he may ultimately end up on the wing, giving the team another option to take faceoffs and play center on the penalty kill. Much like Westerlund, Entwistle has limited offensive upside but was a safe pick as he’s expected to be able to play at the pro level.
Nate Schnarr in the third round looks like a bit of a reach given how disappointing he was in Guelph, the Top Prospects Game, and in the U-18’s. A player once touted as a first-round possibility, Schnarr simply underachieved and disappointed this season….the sum doesn’t appear to equal the parts. That said…Arizona will hope that it was just a poor season and that the rangy center will find his way in the OHL as a 19-year-old.
Cam Crotty at 82nd overall may have been their best value pick in the draft. Ranked ahead of Westerlund on Recrutes draft list, Crotty is a long-term project with excellent mobility and decent hockey sense who will be given lots of time to develop at Boston University. What makes him more intriguing than players the Coyotes picked ahead of him is his upside…he may turn out to be the best player drafted by Arizona with the possible exception of Joseph, but there is also some risk of course. Well worth the gamble midway through the third round.
Noel Hoefenmayer is a smart, competitive junior defenceman who anticipates the play well and will keep producing at the junior level, but he is undersized and has definite skating issues that will need plenty of work before he can defend at the pro level.
Michael Karow is a solid defender who, along with Crotty, may end up being the best value pick of the Coyotes’ draft haul given that he was chosen in the fifth round. He brings good size and skating skills, defends well and has decent competitiveness. What he lacks in offensive skills he makes up for in his own end…he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and keeps it simple. Don’t be surprised if Karow ends up competing for a bottom-pairing role in Arizona after attending a great program at Boston College.
Tyler Steenbergen was another solid pick in the fifth round after an eye-opening 50-goal campaign for Swift Current in his second year of draft eligibility. A little on the short side, Steenbergen is a sturdy winger who won his coach’s confidence in all situations both offensively and defensively. His shot is his main weapon and what will perhaps one day give him a decent shot at the NHL level as teams are always in need of goals.
Draft Grade – B- : The addition of Derek Stepan undoubtedly helps the team in the short-term, but at what long-term expense? Arizona is not likely deep enough to compete for the playoffs next season, so what will the addition of Stepan achieve other than perhaps making the team strong enough to finish ahead of the NHL bottom feeders and miss out on a good shot at adding Rasmus Dahlin? The odds of teams outside of the bottom three once again winning the draft lottery next season are infinitesimal.
One more year of growing pains as Keller and Strome develop was likely the best way to go, but GM Chayka faces some pressures in regards to pleasing a tenuous fan base and a relatively new owner that may not look kindly to having a GM that showed little if any improvement in his first 2-3 years at the helm. The bottom line is that a team which entered the draft with a top-ten pick and two selections in the top 25 did not leave the draft with a player ranked in Recrutes first round. Chayka refers to Stepan as a “true first-line center”, yet it would not be surprising to see Keller assume that role within a year. On a contending team Stepan should be no better than a second-line center.
The Coyotes chose one player in Recrutes top 50 and two in the top 60. Crotty presented the best value in Recrutes rankings, being chosen 20 spots after he was ranked, and the only pick that represented true value among their nine selections.