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Logan Cooley thriving on line with Dylan Guenther

Raz Devraj Avatar
February 8, 2024

Throughout the trials that the Coyotes and their fan base have endured this year — from arena talk to relocation conspiracies to hoping this roster has what it takes to push for a playoff spot — there are a couple of things that have helped block out the noise.

One of those things has been the growth of this franchise’s newest prized possession, Logan Cooley. The 2022 third-overall pick has played a little more than half a season and is continuing to improve and gain more confidence. 

Cooley’s NHL start was underwhelming from a point production standpoint, considering his draft position. He has six goals and 19 assists for 25 points in 48 games, but there is more to Cooley’s game than production, and there are recent signs that the production is coming.

It’s no coincidence that his recent progress has come while playing on a line with 2021 ninth overall pick Dylan Guenther. A Jan. 11 game against the Calgary Flames was the first time since the preseason that Cooley and Guenther played on the same line, and they have been paired ever since.

“Since Gunner’s with us, Cooley is twice the player he was,” coach André Tourigny said. 

In the past five games, Cooley and Guenther each have four points and have combined on two goals, both of which were the result of Cooley crashing the net as Guenther sent the puck toward the net from the right circle. 

We have only seen a glimpse of what these two players can create on the ice together, but already the chemistry is visible. The more they play together, the stronger that bond will grow.

“I think it takes a little bit of time trying to figure out each other’s tendencies and talking about where he likes to be and where I like to be,” Cooley said.  “You kinda just mesh that out a little bit and figure out what each other likes to do and I think we have done that so far.”

Cooley can score goals, and we have seen the innate talent and skill he possesses, but what he has taken pride in throughout the majority of his hockey career is his playmaking ability. Whether it was with the United States National Team Development Program, Team USA’s World Junior club, or the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Cooley has always had more assists than goals. 

“Personally, I am a guy that likes to get in the action and I’m not afraid to go to the dirty areas,” he said. “I’m just trying to use my speed a little more. I feel more confident with the puck on my stick and have a little more poise in making plays.”

Based on his stat line this season, it’s clear that he has been able to play to his strengths and produce as a playmaker. That said, Cooley wants to be a threat on the ice in more ways than one. 

“I like being around guys that can shoot the puck and personally I like to make plays in the slot to shooters,” he said. “For myself, I want to be more of a shooter coming down the stretch.”

Guenther is in his second stint in the NHL. The Coyotes reassigned him to the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) after 33 games last season. He was a point-per-game player in Tucson (AHL) before the Coyotes recalled him on Jan. 6. He has three goals and seven points through 11 games with the Coyotes.

Logan Cooley and Dylan Guenther have found chemistry on a line together.
Logan Cooley and Dylan Guenther will continue to play together after the All-Star break. (Getty Images)

When Guenther arrived, GM Bill Armstrong indicated that this was a temporary call-up, so Guenther knows that he is fighting to keep his roster spot every day. So far, he is winning that battle. 

“I think from the start I’ve just tried to hit the ground running, take some momentum that I produced down in Tucson and bring it here,” he said. “Continue to play the right way, do the little things and try to earn that next day; earn that next-shift mentality.”

What makes these two young, talented forwards a perfect fit for each other are their playing styles. Cooley’s playmaking skill alongside Guenther’s sniper mindset and elite shot create the possibility of a lethal combination for years to come. 

“We play fast, I think we play with speed — it’s probably our best asset — and we complement each other well,” Guenther said. “He’s a pretty puck-possessive player, he skates really well and I’m kind of able to get open. I can make plays, too, but I try to use my shot to create opportunities so I think we have started to build some chemistry off the ice and it’s kind of helped on the ice.”

For a majority of NHL rookies, it takes a while to grow accustomed to the pace and skill level of the league. Trying to adapt, fit in, and find their game in the best league in the world is a process.

Except for some hiccups early in the season, Tourigny has consistently praised Cooley’s progress in his details away from the puck. With Guenther at his side, however, it looks like Cooley is finding a greater comfort zone. 

“Coming into the league at 19, there’s a lot of expectations of, ‘Oh what is he going to put up points-wise,’ but I’m just trying to not focus on that and become a two-way player, play both sides of the puck and the rest will take care of itself,” Cooley said. “I’m not worried about the production at all. I know it’s going to come.”

Throughout the first three months of this season — specifically from Oct. 13 to Dec. 4 — Cooley had 14 points; 10 of them on the power play. He was slotted on the first power-play unit right off the bat, getting a chance to play with a few of the most skilled players on the team such as Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz and Sean Durzi. It was a perfect way to ease him into the league and allow him to play in a scenario where there was more time and space for him to make a play — an opportunity for him to gain that much-needed confidence with the puck on his stick. 

Since then, Cooley has elevated himself into a role where he is producing in other situations. Since that game on Dec. 4 against the Washington Capitals, Cooley has three goals and 11 points, none of which have come on the man advantage. The fact that he has been able to produce at about the same rate 5-on-5 as on the power play shows improvement. It means that he has started to find his stride and make quicker plays with less time and space. 

Cooley is on a roll, he has found chemistry with Guenther, and his development is seemingly on track. With Connor Bedard slated to return to the Blackhawks’ lineup soon, and Minnesota’s Brock Faber wowing analysts, Cooley’s preseason goal of a Calder Trophy as rookie of the year is still a long shot, but he has at least climbed back into the conversation.

More importantly for the Coyotes, he is starting to look like the elite, top-six center that this franchise has lacked for two decades.

Top photo via Getty Images: Logan Cooley celebrates a goal vs. the Penguins with teammates Dylan Guenther and Sean Durzi on Jan. 22.

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