I've tried to come up with a Core Three for each team in the West in 2020 and 2021 and figured it was time for the 2022 version.
This is never as easy as it seems as there are a few factors that come into play, like long-term contracts, blue-chip prospects and emerging players that play better than most people thought they would. It's become more evident to me that when a team picks in the top six or seven of the entry draft and doesn't get a core player it is somewhat of a missed pick.
A core-three player should be a player that you hope will lead the team for the next three to five seasons at the top of his game and be a player to build a Stanley Cup contender around.
We will see how the 2020 and 2021 core has held up and which clubs have moved on from some players.
As recently as 2020 the Ducks were a little weak in this department as I had John Gibson, Cam Fowler and an 18-year-old Trevor Zegras as their core. In 2021 I replaced Fowler with Jamie Drysdale.
Trevor Zegras (will turn 21-years-old in a week) (F) 55-16-28-44
Zegras has cemented his place here this season as he is on pace for 22 goals and 38 assists this season and is in the running for the Calder Trophy.
Jamie Drysdale (19) (D) 61-3-22-25
Drysdale has had flashes in his rookie season and is on pace for four goals and 29 assists.
Troy Terry (24) (F) 57-29-22-51
I've added Terry to the core three this year, as his production hasn't really slowed down from his fast start to the season and he is now a legitimate 30-goal player moving forward. He is on pace for 39 goals and 30 assists this year.
The average age of core: 21.33 years old (22.0 last year)
After two years of being a core piece, I'm removing John Gibson as he's had three sub-par seasons in a row. He is still only 28-years-old and should be able to get back on track to where he was from 2018-19. The Ducks have improved the top-end of their lineup with some very good draft picks and are in much better shape than 2020.
In 2020, the Coyotes core was Clayton Keller, Barrett Hayton and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. In 2021, I removed Hayton and added Jakub Chychrun to the mix. Ekman-Larsson is now in Vancouver and the development of Hayton has been hampered by injuries and consistency.
Clayton Keller (23) (F) 58-25-31-56
Keller has had a great year and is on pace for a career-high of 35 goals and 44 assists. Four seasons after putting up 65 points in his rookie season, Keller has emerged as the player the Coyotes were hoping they had all along.
Nick Schmaltz (26) (F) 39-16-23-39