West: Desert Dogs Rising – Arizona’s Future (Almost) Upon Us

by Kevin Wickersham on March 20, 2017
  • The Wild West
  • West: Desert Dogs Rising – Arizona’s Future (Almost) Upon Us

The Wild West Desert Dogs Rising – Arizona’s Future is (Almost) Upon Us


Apologizes for the obvious pun but these are the dog days for teams out of the playoff hunt. The last few weeks of the season we tend to speculate if certain of their players have given up, if others are ducking games due to minor injuries and the like. With the second worst record in the NHL the Arizona Coyotes have been candidates for us to ask all of these things. There’s no getting around it, they’ve been bad for the bulk of this year. Too many turnovers and too few goals, but they’re getting better as the season progresses and recently are on a pretty good roll (13-10-3 since January 21).

Instead we should carefully watch what is taking place on the ice in Glendale in spite of all the arena drama. For those of us wanting to learn about players ready to break out next season, with perhaps the best crop of prospects in the NHL Arizona is one of the top teams we should focus on.

Goal-scoring 20 year-old left wing Brendan Perlini on Arizona’s second line is maybe the most interesting Coyote name to watch right now. His extremely quick release, powerful shot, impressive skating speed, and strong wrists that allow him to accurately rifle the puck bode well for his future. See if he’s been snapped up in your league. He’s available in 71% of them on Fantrax and has found the net 13 times in 46 Coyote contests.

With a goals-per-game average of .283 he is fourth among rookies having played 35 games or more behind only Matthews, Laine and Aho, and has a history of high goal numbers including 14 in 17 games this season with Tucson, Arizona’s AHL affiliate. His shooting percentage is also impressive, second in the league at 16.9% to Laine (18.9%) among rookies playing 35+ games. Teammate Christian Dvorak is fourth at 14.7%. Perlini’s OHL totals over the previous three campaigns were also impressive as we can see below:


Brendan Perlini’s scoring since 2013-14:






Points per game

Goals per game

2013-14 Niagra (OHL)







2014-15 Niagra (OHL)







2015-16 Niagra (OHL)







2016-17 Tucson (AHL)







2016-17 Arizona (NHL)








The post-Hanzal Coyotes have also seen a boost for first line center Dvorak (available in 53% of Fantrax leagues). Post hand-surgery Max Domi and Dvo have evolved a good playmaking rapport, which includes top Arizona scorer and fantastic bargain ($1 M before bonuses) Radim Vrbata (17 G, 34 A) at right wing, a pending UFA rumored to perhaps re-sign. With a point total equal to Toews and Giroux, and currently greater than those of Kopitar, Thornton, Perry, Hall, and other notables he may be a wise veteran re-sign for the young club. The post-Michael Stone days have also helped marinate the defensive pairing of 18 year-old Jacob Chychrun and 21 year-old Anthony DeAngelo (57% and 55% Fantrax available respectively), Sarnia Sting teammates in 2014-15 that are quickly developing into a potent combo both at even strength and on the power play.

Tobias Rieder is getting more shots, and more high quality shots, while serving admirably on defense with an offensive zone start percentage of 40.13 OZ%, a drop of nearly 12% from last season. Lawson Crouse is becoming the valuable two-way forward we expected with 136 hits in just 11:48 average ice time over 61 contests and a 37.62 OZ%. Jordan Martinook’s been a versatile staple on the Perlini-Rieder line that can score occasionally and do the dirty work. Dylan Strome’s impending step forward should be soon as the uber-prospect is having another ridiculous year at center with OHL Erie (22 G, 53 A in 35 games). He too is available in 46% of Fantrax leagues.

Mike Smith is healthy, putting in some amazing performances while seeing the young squad through periods of inconsistency, and 2-1-2, with a 2.56 GAA and .917 SV% over his last five contests. Louis Domingue has upped his game recently with a 3-0-0 record, 1.76 GAA, and .952 SV% in his last four as well. His 44-save victory against the Kings last week with 10 stops during an epic shootout was masterful.

Connor Murphy’s continued development as an old-school defenseman in a new-school system is worthy of checking out. He has 161 hits (11th among NHL defensemen) with 95 blocks and is available in 82% of Fantrax leagues. Luke Schenn, while a candidate to go unprotected into the expansion draft, also adds toughness to the back end with a team-leading 239 hits (third among NHL blueliners to Borowiecki and Gudas) and second in blocks on the squad to Alex Goligoski with 112. He’s also available in 80% of Fantrax leagues. Having a down year while playing since late November with a broken thumb, we can hope for a revitalized and healthy OEL in 2017-18.

Imagine adding Nolan Patrick or another top-shelf lottery pick to the mix along with a few key free agents. GM John Chayka has about $27.6 million under the cap this off season to play with. With some gelling, the desert could quickly grow much more interesting.

Perhaps best of all, Chayka claims he will attempt to sign Clayton Keller after his Boston University season ends enabling him to potentially join the team before season’s end. Since he’s considered by some the top prospect not currently in the NHL that’s something to really look forward to. The WJCs showed us what a game-changer he can be (3 G, 8 A in seven games with a gold medal and named tourney all-star at forward), and he has 20 goals and 22 assists in his 29 contests as an NCAA freshman. He’s only owned in 40% of Fantrax leagues to boot. The possible arrival date depends upon how long BU’s postseason lasts and, as Frozen Four Tournament invitees Keller’s Terriers could be busy until April 8, one day before the NHL season finale.

The prospect pipeline doesn’t stop there. Anthony Duclair has great promise he can realize if he gets back to his 20 goal, 24 assist form of 2015-16. Christian Fischer looked ready in his three-game, two-goal scoring stint with the big club in late January and has nearly a point-per-game average (19 G, 24 A, 51 games) with AHL Tucson. Who knows, maybe Teemu Pulkkinen can get back some of the left wing prospect mojo he flashed before his 2015-16 injuries.

Kyle Wood is a massive 6’ 5”, 235 lb., 21 year-old offensive defenseman with 13 goals and 26 assists in 56 games with Tucson, and winner of the hardest shot competition at this year’s AHL All Star Game reaching an impressive 99.3 miles per hour. He excels on the power play and could add significantly to the Coyote blueline at some point next year. He’s also 90% available on Fantrax. Cam Dineen has been slowed by injury this year but the 18 year-old rearguard torched the OHL for 13 goals and 46 assists in 2015-16. And there are more promising prospects to discuss at another time.

For now, imagine this interesting 2017-18 lineup or something similar prior to outside free agent additions and non-lottery draft selections, and including a Vrbata return:


Left Wing


Right Wing








 Top pick – Patrick/Hischier/Vilardi






Left Defense

Right Defense












It’s tough to determine how potential free agent signings will affect the roster, but there is that $27.6 M available entering the free agent derby. That can do a lot. Among those they might try convincing to come to the southwest include UFA forwards Radulov, Oshie, Vanek, Eaves, Sharp, and Hanzal and UFA defensemen Shattenkirk, Engelland, Stone, Alzner, and Quincey. There are also many desirable RFA targets including Granlund, Pastrnak, Arvidsson, Draisaitl, Wennberg, Drouin, Gostisbehere, and Parayko.

So while the hockey world drinks in Vegas this summer and fall, make sure to remember the existing desert team in Arizona whether the ongoing arena talk is about Phoenix, Glendale, Mesa, Seattle, Quebec City, Portland, Anchorage or anywhere else.



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