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Morgan: 2022 Draft was first major step in Coyotes’ rebuild

Craig Morgan Avatar
July 9, 2022

MONTREAL — Let’s get this out of the way right off the hop. Nobody knows if the Coyotes nailed or failed the NHL Draft. It’s more likely that the truth lies somewhere in between. 

The percentages say that most of Arizona’s 10 selections will not become NHL players, let alone NHL stars, but following a 2020 draft in which they only netted four late-round picks, and 2021 draft whose evaluation was greatly impacted by COVID-19, the Coyotes took their first major step in the rebuild by taking some better educated swings.

“In three or four or five or six years we’ll find out if we’re right,” Coyotes director of amateur scouting Darryl Plandowski said. “We wanted to improve our skill, we wanted to improve our size, we wanted to improve our depth, and by the end of the seven rounds, we feel we did it.”

After trading away picks on Thursday, the Coyotes added picks in the third and seventh rounds on the second and final day of the draft to make seven selections in all on Friday. Here are some takeaways from Montréal.

Conor Geekie makes his way to the stage after the Coyotes drafted him 11th overall. (Getty Images)

Center depth

The Coyotes opened the draft with a mild surprise when they selected Logan Cooley while Shane Wright was still available. Anybody who had been paying attention in the weeks leading up to the draft, however, knew that there were concerns that Wright was already close to his ceiling, that he lacked dynamic elements to his game, and per some scouts, that he lacked passion. 

The only significant concern voiced about Cooley was his size (5-10½).

“There’s guys that are smaller than him playing in the National Hockey League,” Plandowski said. “We looked at his frame, we looked at his genetics, we looked at how big his shoulders are, we looked at how long his arms are. 

“The big thing for him was his motor. We loved how hard he played and maybe one of the negatives is he plays too hard sometimes. Just because you’re short, doesn’t mean you can’t be strong and powerful and we feel that he can be powerful.”

The ceiling for Cooley is to become a legitimate No. 1 center in the NHL. If that happens, he will fill a long-standing void in the organization. The Coyotes didn’t stop at Cooley, however. When Conor Geekie, a projected top-10 pick, kept falling, the Coyotes made a move to grab a big centerman whom The Athletic’s Corey Pronman believes can be a No. 2 center if he can find more consistency in his game.

“To be able to get two centerman like that; a guy that’s extremely skilled like Logan and a guy that has the size and presence like Conor, that sets us up really nicely down the middle,” associate director of amateur scouting Ryan Jankowski said. “Things are gonna happen over the next few years with those two players. They’re both going to have their ups and downs. Conor has a ways to go still physically to mature into that body, but it gives us a nice one-two punch somewhere down the line, (whether) it be three, five or seven years from now.

“We did a lot of research in the last week of where Conor might go and we felt that he was in the seven-to-12 range. Sure enough, he went 11 and from our understanding he was going at 12 if we didn’t pick him at 11. There’s a lot of market research that goes with that and that’s a part of our job is not just to know the players, but we’ve got to try and get a range on where these guys might go. So when he started to go down the board from seven, that’s when Bill started to get excited and we got excited and were kind of asking Bill to try and get us this pick to pick him.”

With the additions of Cooley and Geekie, the Coyotes now have a credible pool of young centers that also includes Barrett Hayton, Jack McBain, Nathan Smith and John Farinacci.

Jeremy Langlois cracks a smile after the Coyotes selected him at the NHL Draft. (Getty Images)

Defensive depth

One of the many narratives surrounding this draft was that there were no elite defensemen in it, but there would be good value later in the first round and later in the draft. The Coyotes saw the same thing, selecting five defensemen to add to a prospect pool that needed that infusion of depth.

“We talked a lot about that,” Plandowski said. “Defensemen are incredibly important. There’s always good value in every round, but we always thought that there was going to be really good value with defensemen later in the draft.”

After selecting 6-feet-7 Drummondville defenseman Maveric Lamoureux with the 29th pick on Day 1, the Coyotes started the second day by selecting Russian defenseman Artem Duda with the No. 36 pick. Duda played last season with Krasnaya Armiya Moskva in the MHL. The Coyotes are content to let him develop in Russia for the next couple of years while tensions remain high between Russia and the US after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.

Arizona traded for another third-round pick and selected Cape Breton defenseman Jérémy Langlois, who had 47 points in 60 games. It added Canadian defenseman Matthew Morden out of St. Andrew’s College in the CAHS, and Polish defenseman Maksymilian Szuber in the sixth round. Morden will play with Muskegon in the USHL next season. Szuber will return to the DEL and play for Munich. 

“I think it’s somewhat of luck that we ended up with two forwards and two defenseman out of our first four picks, but we’re extremely happy about that, that we were able to get that balance,” Jankowski added. “You don’t really design it that way, but the way that it ended up, we got the 6-foot-7 defenseman and the 6-foot-1 skill defenseman.”

Defenseman Maveric Lamoureux towers above the Coyotes contingent at the 2022 NHL Draft. (USA TODAY Sports)

Size

Cooley is the only player whom the Coyotes selected at the 2022 NHL Draft who is less than 6 feet tall.

Geekie is 6-4. Lamoureux is 6-7. Duda is 6-1. No. 43 overall pick Julian Lutz, a German forward, is 6-2. No. 67 overall pick Miko Matikka, a Finnish forward, is 6-3. Langlois is 6-1. Morden is 6-4. Szuber is 6-3 and seventh-round pick Adam Zlnka, a Slovakian forward, is 6 feet tall.

GM Bill Armstrong has made no secret of the fact that he likes size. The teams that he helped draft in St. Lous were big, punishing teams and that character trait was evident at this draft.

More picks

Aside from shoring up the premium positions of center and defense, while adding size, Armstrong also ensured that he will have the chance to do so again in the next few years when the drafts are projected to offer more high-end talent.

When the Coyotes took Zack Kassian’s contract off Edmonton’s hands, they added a second-round pick in 2025 and a third-round pick in 2024 in exchange for the No. 32 pick on Thursday (Arizona also got the No. 29 pick; Lamoureux).

In 2023, Arizona has 10 picks including four third-rounders. In 2024, the Coyotes have 13 picks, including three second-rounders and three third-rounders. In 2025, they already have eight including two second-rounders, and Armstrong will no doubt look to add more by taking on other teams’ troublesome contracts as training camp approaches.

“The goal is just to continue on that pace of building picks and going to the draft and just going at it,” Armstrong said.

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