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NASHVILLE — In the week since I returned from vacation, well-connected sources have reached out to tell me that they heard the Coyotes were interested in a certain player with the No. 6 overall pick.
There’s only one problem with all of that valuable information: They all heard it was a different player; five to be exact.
It’s a lesson that gets repeated every season. The closer we get to the NHL Draft, the more the misdirection and misinformation flows. Some of it is a product of questionably sourced information. Some of it is purposeful misinformation, planted to throw other teams off the scent. Some of it may even represent uncertainty on the part of teams’ scouting staffs; especially in a year when there are multiple players close in ability (albeit with different skill sets) at that stage of the draft.
Some of it may stem from a hard truth that hardened experts know all too well: Nobody knows how these 17- and 18-year-old kids are going to pan out; not even the most seasoned scouts and analysts.
With that in mind, here’s a whittled version of the possibilities that the aforementioned sources have connected with the Coyotes at No. 6 (they grow exponentially for the No. 12 pick). This list of five possibilities comes with a giant qualifier, however. They could be wrong.
The Coyotes could trade out of this spot if they feel they can get their guy a few spots lower and gain another asset. They could also be interested in another guy altogether. The only honest answer this time of year is that I don’t know whom the Coyotes are going to pick, but I’ll take a stab at some strong possibilities if they stay at No. 6.
C Dalibor Dvorský
This one makes sense for a few reasons. Dvorský has good enough size and a big enough frame (6 feet 1, 200 pounds) to slot into a top-six center role and complement the slightly smaller Logan Cooley. GM Bill Armstrong likes size, and when you consider that Clayton Keller, Matias Maccelli and Cooley are all under 6 feet tall, the addition of more size to the top-nine forward group makes sense.
Analysts have raised concerns about Dvorský’s offensive upside because he has not put up great numbers in Allsvenskan (14 points in 38 games with AIK), but TSN’s Bob McKenzie noted on the PHNX Coyotes show on Thursday that Dvorský has produced in international competitions when playing against his peers (18 points in 14 international games last season; 38 in 23 the season before); a good sign of pro potential.
“Do I think that he’s going to be Logan Cooley? No, but I see a player that can absolutely be in that 55-60 point range because he’s smart and he’ll go and grind for pucks, and then he’ll come out with pucks and make plays with the puck,” McKenzie’s TSN colleague, Craig Button said. “I think that those are really important qualities for a player who doesn’t have these overwhelming offensive skills like Logan Cooley.
“Dalibor is invested. He works hard. He competes on the wall, he competes to the net, he competes below the goal line, and then he wins pucks and wins battles. His points are going to come in a different manner than guys with smooth skill. It’s going to come off the back of really diligent, purposeful effort and work, but he’s a smart player and he’s got good hands. Again, he grinds his points.”
F Ryan Leonard
Ryan Leonard doesn’t boast the type of size that you would normally associate with power forwards. According to NHL Central Scouting’s official measurement, he stands a half inch short of 6 feet tall. But if you ask draft analysts, they’ll cite that old cliché: ‘It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.
“Ryan is the complete package. He’s got the skill and the size and he’s a guy that excels in physical situations,” NHL Central Scouting Director Dan Marr said. “But he’s also a guy that can excel in skill situations when he has the puck on his stick when the game is on the line and you need a goal and he gets a scoring chance. He’s got some speed to pull away.
“When we look at size, we just have to ask a question: Is his size preventing him from doing anything or preventing him from playing his game, preventing him from utilizing his skills and assets? The answer is no. Some of the smaller guys have got a little more grounded center of gravity that actually comes in handy when you have some of the open-ice hits and the battles that we see in the game today. He’s really solid.”
In 57 games with the NTDP’s U18 team, Leonard had 51 goals and 94 points. He put up 11 goals and 20 points in 17 games with the NTDP’s USHL team, and he had eight goals and 17 points in seven games at the U18 World Championship. Leonard is slated to play at Boston College next season.
D David Reinbacher
David Reinbacher may not be the consensus top defenseman in this draft, but if you compiled the votes, he would come out on top. It’s easy to see why. A 6-feet-2, mobile, right-handed defenseman is a hot commodity in the NHL.
The 18-year-old Reinbacher averaged 18:31 of ice time per game last season, playing against men for EHC Kloten in the Swiss National League. Some analysts think Reinbacher will not last past the top five. Some have even compared him to Detroit Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider, the sixth overall pick in 2019, but others think he falls well short of Seider at this stage of his development.
“It isn’t a reach to take him that high if you believe he’s a top-four defenseman,” Flo Hockey senior content creator Chris Peters said. “What would you rather have: a top-four defenseman or a top-six winger? A lot of teams would say the defenseman and there’s an outside chance that he is a top-pairing guy. He’s got size, he’s got mobility, he’s got good offensive capabilities. He’s not as good a defender as Seider was and he’s not as physical as Seider was, but he has a lot of pro traits.
“I think the reason people compare him to Seider has nothing to do with style of play. It was about situation. How many defenseman have we ever seen play in the German Elite League in their draft year like Seider, and how many first-year, draft-eligible defenseman have played in the Swiss league as a professional? There’s not a lot of precedent to compare him to, which gives you a little bit more comfort one way or the other. I like the player a lot. I think he’s the best defenseman in the draft and I think he has the most upside.”
F Matvei Michkov
Michkov is the wild card of the 2023 NHL Draft. He could go as high as No. 3 or No. 4. He could fall as far as No. 7 or No. 8 if scouts, executives and owners are afraid of his size, his recently reported character flaws (approach those with great caution), his unwillingness to play for certain teams and the current situation in Russia, which may now include a military coup.
Almost every scout and executive to whom you speak believes that Michkov is a top-three talent in this draft; an electric player who overcomes his average skating and small stature (5-10) to score goals no matter where he plays. If there is a team outside the top five or six that want Michkov badly, it would not be a surprise to see that team engineer a trade. That could make things interesting for the teams that sit at No. 4 (San José), No. 5 (Montréal) and No. 6 (the Coyotes).
TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that Michkov was due to arrive in Nashville for the draft this weekend in advance of interviews with several NHL clubs; none of which has conducted live viewings over the past year due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s exclusion from all IIHF tournaments.
“We’re talking about a player who could be a franchise player in the National Hockey League and yet, it’s less than a week before the draft and virtually nobody has interviewed him,” McKenzie said. “Do they know this player as intimately as they know the other players? I would say, ‘no they don’t,’ and that’s why these interviews are going to be so, so important.
“By all accounts, based on where he was as a 16-year-old and how he played over the course of this year, he’s right in the same conversation with Connor Bedard in terms of goal-scoring ability. But, there are a lot of good players like Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, Will Smith, Ryan Leonard, Dalibor Dvorský, David Reinbacher. Any of these teams picking in top five, six, seven, eight have to decide: ‘What risk or exposure do we have on Michkov?'”
F Matthew Wood
If you’re looking for a surprise pick at No. 6, Matthew Wood may be your guy. Button had Wood going to the Coyotes at No. 6 in his mock draft released late last week. Wood had a good freshman season at Connecticut with 11 goals and 34 points in 35 games, but he was overshadowed by a spectacular NCAA freshman class that included Fantilli, Cooley, Jimmy Snuggerud and Cutter Gauthier.
That said, Wood enrolled at UConn as a 17-year-old and did not turn 18 until late in the season so he’s a bit younger than his freshman cohorts. The easy reason to connect him to the Coyotes is his size. Wood is a 6-feet-4 wing. GM Bill Armstrong loves size. If the Coyotes trade out of the No. 6 spot, Wood might still be there for them a little later.
“I have compared Matthew Wood, in terms of the type of player he is, to Tage Thompson. And by the way, Billy Armstrong was in St. Louis running the draft when they drafted Tage Thompson,” Button said. “I’m not even so sure that he himself knows how good he can be. He’s got talent and he’s got ability and he’s productive, but I think he’s still probing the limits of his potential; like still scratching the surface. He can score in so many different ways. He’s got great hands in tight, he can shoot the puck and score from distance. He arrives in the right spots at the right times.
“I think about Logan Cooley playing with Jimmy Snuggerud at the University of Minnesota and I wonder if Wood were playing with a superb, play-making center, what could he do? The power forward today is different than the power forward from 20 years ago. The power forward today just carves out space for himself and doesn’t let you get to him with his reach and length and everything that goes with it. That’s what makes Matthew a unique player.”
Top photo of Dalibor Dvorský at the NHL Scouting Combine via Getty Images
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