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The Coyotes reduced their training camp roster to 29 players on Monday and there were no great surprises in the latest round of transactions. General manager Bill Armstrong assigned goaltender Ivan Prosvetov, center Jan Jeník and defensemen Janis Moser and Vladislav Kolyachonok to Tucson of the AHL. He assigned young goaltending prospect Anson Thornton to Sarnia of the OHL, and he placed forward Michael Carcone on waivers with the purpose of sending him to Tucson if he clears waivers on Tuesday.
The assignment of Moser and Kolyachonok reduced the battle for the sixth and seventh defensemen spots to Vladislav Provolnev, Kyle Capobianco and Victor Söderström.
The assignment of Jeník reduces the battle for the fourth center spot to Barrett Hayton and Travis Boyd. Hayton has been out of the lineup with a lower-body injury for which he is listed as day to day.
“He had a great camp,” Armstrong said of Jeník. “You could certainly see the difference in his game with the added strength and I think he added a step in his skating. He has what we like in our culture with those first and second efforts and with that determination and grit that he has, he really brings an element to the game that we like.
“He’s got to go down to Tucson and continue to work on his game, make those small improvements to become an NHL player, but I like what I saw and again, he has taken good steps in the right direction.”
The Coyotes do not have to submit their 23-man, opening-night roster until Oct. 12 so they have time to make decisions on the remaining six slots. There are several factors weighing into those decisions.
Forwards Phil Kessel (foot), Andrew Ladd (lower body), Ryan McGregor (upper body) and Hayton (lower body) are all out of the lineup with injuries, and it is still helpful to have three goalies around to share the practice and game workload, although Armstrong said he does not envision that trio continuing into the season because he would rather have his goaltending prospects playing games than serving as a third/practice goalie.
Ladd, McGregor and Hayton are still all considered day to day while Kessel (foot) has started skating on his own in what Armstrong termed “light workouts.” He is still a possibility to open the regular season. Kessel has played in 900 consecutive games, the fifth longest ironman streak in NHL history and 64 games behind leader Doug Jarvis (former Coyotes Keith Yandle, now with the Flyers, is second at 922).
“Phil is obviously a tremendous player in the National Hockey League and it’s an incredible streak,” Armstrong said. “He has produced longevity and still maintained an ability to produce so it’s been fun to watch.”
While Söderström still looks like he needs more time in the AHL, particularly away from the puck, the Coyotes are giving their 2019 first-round pick (No. 11) a good, long look.
“He has taken some steps with his overall strength and overall game,” Armstrong said. “He has matured in the sense that he knows that he’s coming to camp in a fight for a job and he has to be at his best every single night.”
The Coyotes gave 18-year-old goalie Anson Thornton a long look in rookie camp and the preseason and they came away impressed.
“He surprised us right from the get-go,” Armstrong said. “His composure for being a young man is really, really good. I’m pretty excited about his future. We’re continuing (contract) talks with him (and agent Pat Brisson) and you never know where they’ll go.”
Armstrong said Thornton is still under contract with the Coyotes until the first NHL game is played, at which point he would go back into the 2022 NHL Draft.
The Coyotes were off on Monday after a weekend of games including the Kraft Hockeyville game in El Paso, Texas on Sunday. They will conclude the preseason with games at Los Angeles on Tuesday and Vegas on Thursday. They’ll open the regular season in Columbus on Oct. 14.