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It’s rare to see a Coyotes draft pick play in Arizona in the same season in which he was drafted.
Jakob Chychrun made the NHL roster in his draft year of 2016 and Clayton Keller played three games for the Coyotes late that same season; games in which former coach Dave Tippett humorously noted that he looked like a child on the ice.
Mikkel Boedker and Viktor Tikhonov made the NHL roster in their draft year of 2008, Kyle Turris did it in 2007, and JJ Moser did it last season.
Until the past two years.
Which is another way of saying just how much hockey has grown in Arizona since the Coyotes’ arrival in 1996. It has grown so much that we now have a Division I college program at Arizona State.
That’s why Coyotes draft pick Josh Doan has been able to play home games in Tempe the past two seasons, and that’s why Logan Cooley made his Arizona debut on Friday at Mullett Arena when his second-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers opened a two-game weekend series against the Sun Devils.
Logan Cooley just converted the Michigan (he doesn't like that name) at Mullett Arena.
Minnesota leads ASU, 3-1.
Cooley with a goal and an assist.
Logan Cooley just converted the Michigan (he doesn't like that name) at Mullett Arena.
It’s a rare treat for Coyotes fans and college hockey fans alike. Cooley is one of the most anticipated prospects in the franchise’s history. That makes sense since he was taken third overall in 2022; one of three No. 3 overall picks that the Coyotes have made (Turris and Dylan Strome are the others), and the highest the franchise has ever picked in the NHL Draft in its Arizona years.
Cooley is off to a very good, if not great start in his collegiate career with five goals and 14 points in 14 games. That is tied for third on a loaded Gophers roster that also features Blues draft pick Jimmy Snuggerud, Ducks draft pick Jackson LaCombe, Leafs draft pick (and Arizona product) Matthew Knies, Kings draft pick Brock Faber and Sabres draft pick Ryan Johnson, among others.
“It’s been a little adjustment, just getting used to the school aspect,” Cooley humorously told the PHNX Coyotes show on Tuesday. “Being at the NTDP, we didn’t really do too much school. I don’t know if I should be saying that, but actually going to class, it’s been a while.
“The hockey part, going against older, stronger, faster guys, it’s been a little adjustment but I feel like I’ve been adjusting pretty well so far.”
Coyotes fans lucky enough to land a ticket to this weekend’s series will get to judge for themselves.
I wrote about Cooley recently in the October edition of the prospect report. Since we also had him on our show this week, I decided to take a different tack and look at him in the context of the most anticipated draft prospects in Coyotes history.
Aside from Cooley, here are 11 more to round out our top dozen.
Coyotes 2006 draft: Peter Mueller, 8th overall
Peter Mueller was the kind of player that coach Wayne Gretzky and GM Mike Barnett wanted to build around. After Mueller’s second season with Everett of the WHL, Gretzky and Barnett decided that the 19-year-old was ready for the NHL.
Mueller was granted a lot of freedom at the offensive end and he didn’t disappoint, posting a Coyotes rookie-record 22 goals and 54 points. That tied him for third among NHL rookies with Chicago’s Jonathan Toews, and he finished fifth in Calder Trophy voting for NHL Rookie of the Year.
He was also granted a big role, logging an average ice time of 17:16 per game, which was the fourth-highest total among Coyotes forwards behind Shane Doan, Kyle Turris and Radim Vrbata.
That’s as good as it got. The next season, the Coyotes’ financial troubles came to a head when owner Jerry Moyes told commissioner Gary Bettman and other league officials that he planned to stop funding the club. A year later, Gretzky resigned as coach, Dave Tippett took over behind the bench and Mueller fell out of favor in Tippett’s more structured system.
“He and Marty Hanzal were two guys who were supposed to turn the franchise around and there was a lot pressure on them — maybe too much because they were just 19-year-old kids and maybe they got rushed into a bigger role too soon,” veteran defenseman Zbyněk Michálek said.
Not seeing a path forward with the Coyotes, Mueller and his agent, Paul Cappizano, requested a trade. New GM Don Maloney granted that wish, sending him to Colorado with forward Kevin Porter for forward Wojtek Wolski. Injuries eventually led Mueller to pursue what turned out to be a successful and fulfilling career in Europe.
2007 draft: Kyle Turris, 3rd overall
Let’s just get right to it, and stop us if you have heard this one before.
The prize at the top of the 2007 draft was forward Patrick Kane. The winner of the drawing would move up a maximum of four places, with all other clubs’ draft order being adjusted accordingly (and no team moving down more than one spot). The Chicago Blackhawks, originally slated to draft in fifth place, won the lottery and as a result had the first overall pick in the draft and took Kane.
The Coyotes, who had the league’s second-worst record, dropped to No. 3 (they have never moved up). Still, Gretzky was excited about Turris. Like Mueller, he was also granted license along with what was probably another rushed development path in the franchise’s long history of such mistakes.
Making matters worse, Turris’ teammates noticed a sense of entitlement from him. That didn’t play well in a veteran locker room, and when coach Dave Tippett came in for the 2009-10 season, he didn’t think Turris was ready for the NHL so he played the season with San Antonio of the AHL. He had a subpar 2010-11 season with 11 goals and 25 points and then held out in a contract dispute the following season. Six games after he signed, the Coyotes traded him to Ottawa.
Turris had three very good NHL seasons elsewhere, but he never lived up to his draft status. Just as importantly, he did himself no favors in the eyes of local fans who still consider him among the top two or three most hated ex-Coyotes. Turris later admitted to me in a very frank interview for FanRag Sports that he had been very immature while in Arizona. He regretted that, but he grew from it and moved on.
“I’m way past it now and I appreciated my time here,” he said. “I’ve matured a lot, I’ve gained a ton of experience and confidence. I was always confident in my ability when I was here but it’s a different kind of confidence having done things that you feel have been big steps toward the player you want to become.”
Coyotes 2008 draft: Mikkel Boedker, 8th overall
You could drive yourself crazy looking at the players who went after Boedker in the 2008 draft, especially the defenseman list that includes Erik Karlsson, John Carlson, Roman Josi, TJ Brodie and Jared Spurgeon. Instead, the Coyotes chose another smallish, quick forward with skills they thought could elevate them.
As he reached maturity, the Coyotes tried like hell to feature him in their offense, including a failed stint quarterbacking Newell Brown’s power play. He responded with a 19-goal, 51-point season in 2013-14, but he never topped 40 points in any other season until his last one with the Coyotes.
Entering a rebuild, Arizona traded Boedker to Colorado at the 2015 trade deadline in exchange for veteran winger Alex Tanguay and prospects Conner Bleackley and Kyle Wood. Tanguay only played 18 games with the Coyotes and neither of the prospects panned out.
Despite a less-than-expected career, Boedker will always hold a special place in Coyotes history. He scored back-to-back OT goals in Chicago in Game 3 and Game 4 of the team’s Western Conference quarterfinal series with the Blackhawks, helping Arizona post the first playoff series win in Coyotes franchise history.
2009 draft: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, 6th overall
The Ekman-Larsson hype was muted in Arizona because fans simply didn’t know enough about him. The smooth-skating Swede had just been elevated to the SHL’s Leksands IF, and his three goals and 17 points didn’t scream franchise defenseman.
Inside the Coyotes’ war room, however, the excitement was palpable. Of all the draft picks that Don Maloney oversaw, I don’t think he ever sounded more excited in an interview than he was for OEL.
He was right. At this point in time, only Danny Briére can challenge Ekman-Larsson for the title of best first-round pick in franchise history, and the Coyotes never got to enjoy the fruits of the Briére pick because they lacked foresight and the ability to evaluate what they had.
That wasn’t the case with OEL. Between 2012-16, he was one of the NHL’s very best defensemen, topping 20 goals twice. Coyotes fans got a glimpse of his ability during the run to the Western Conference Final in 2012 when, as a second-year player, he led the team in ice time; a remarkable feat under coach Dave Tippett, who generally relied on veterans players whom he trusted.
It is a genuine shame how the Ekman-Larsson era ended in Arizona. Yes, his game diminished. Yes, he was ill-suited as a captain. Yes, his contract became an albatross. Yes, he fell out of favor with coach Rick Tocchet and then the Meruelo ownership group, but he was a remarkable player for a five-year stretch (Shane Doan will rave about him until you’re exhausted listening) and he is a remarkable human being.
When you have finished reading this story, go through the list and find a player who has panned out better than Ekman-Larsson. To date, there is none. He belongs in the ring of honor. Hopefully, time will heal the wounds and everyone will realize just how much he contributed to this franchise.
Coyotes 2013 draft: Max Domi, 12th overall
You can look back at this pick and shake your head if you want. Max Domi is small, he’s not skilled enough to overcome that lack of size and become an elite player. He never became the impact player that the Coyotes’ scouting staff imagined, despite a stellar 52-point rookie season in which he finished sixth in Calder Trophy voting.
Go through the 2013 draft and you’ll gain a different perspective, however. Other than Anaheim’s Shea Theodore, Penguins’ third-round pick Jake Guentzel, and now maybe Carter Verhaeghe, there isn’t a player taken after Domi who screams, “You missed me.” The truth is, the 2013 draft was shallow.
Domi never recaptured his rookie magic in Arizona. His dad was a vocal critic of the franchise and GM John Chayka traded him to Montréal for Alex Galchenyuk after three seasons in Arizona; a trade orchestrated by agent Pat Brisson, who represented both players.
Canadiens media declared the Coyotes fools after Domi posted a 72-point season in 2018-19. Then his play fell off a ledge to the point where he is now in Chicago, his fifth NHL team in eight NHL seasons, but likely not his last as he is widely viewed as trade-deadline bait.
2014 draft: Brendan Perlini, 12th overall
The tantalizing aspects of Perlini’s game remain. At 6-feet-3, he can skate like the wind and his shot is superb. G Don Maloney was convinced that he had found an elite goal scorer the likes of which the franchise had not seen since Keith Tkachuk; albeit in a different package.
Talk to those familiar with the situation, however, and they will tell you they never believed that hockey was important enough to Perlini for him to become a star. In other words, it was not all consuming. Perlini is a deep thinker with myriad interests outside of hockey. The thing that makes him such a fascinating interview and fascinating person is the thing that coaches and managers believe is the thing thing that held him back.
It took Perlini a while to crack the NHL ranks, partially due to injuries. When he finally did, it never clicked more than his second season when he had 17 goals and 30 points. Since then, he has bounced around the NHL, AHL and Swiss League. He is currently playing with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves.
He’s only 26, so he probably has a shot at one more NHL go-round, but Maloney’s fantasy never became a reality and it probably never will.
Coyotes 2015 draft: Dylan Strome, 3rd overall
If you don’t want to relive the agony of this pick, skip ahead. The top two prizes in the 2015 draft were Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. Those two worked out quite nicely. The consensus No. 3 pick — although not a consensus inside the organization — was Dylan Strome.
The Coyotes needed a No. 1 center desperately. They hadn’t had one since Jeremy Roenick. They still haven’t.
Strome was the player whom scouts tabbed in that draft slot, even though GM Don Maloney wanted to draft defenseman Ivan Provorov and coach Dave Tippett wanted to trade the pick for defenseman Dougie Hamilton.
Welp. Strome never impressed Tippett or Rick Tocchet so he never cemented a spot in the lineup and the Coyotes shipped him off to the Blackhawks with Perlini for Nick Schmaltz. He had a nice 51-point season in 2018-19 (in 58 games) for Chicago that was buoyed in great part by his linemates.
Since then? He looks like a lower middle-six center who will produce in spots but never lift a team on his shoulders or come close to becoming a No. 1 center.
Don’t get us started on the laundry list of great players whom the Coyotes could have taken instead, including Mikko Rantanen, Mitch Marner, Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor, Thomas Chabot and Sebastian Aho.
2016 draft: Clayton Keller, 7th overall
I noted above that Oliver Ekman-Larsson is probably the best first-round pick in franchise history. Right now, Clayton Keller has the best chance of challenging that supremacy, an amazing turn for a guy whose contract was once viewed around the league as immovable.
Keller took some time getting his NHL legs under him after a 65-point rookie season in which he finished third in 2018 Calder Trophy voting. Some sources close to Keller suggested that former coach Rick Tocchet knocked the confidence out of Keller. That may not be a fair assessment because Tocchet wanted more commitment to defensive play than Keller displayed in his second, third and fourth NHL seasons.
Whatever the reasons for the turn — and coach André Tourigny probably deserves some credit — Keller has exploded offensively. He had 63 points in 67 games last season and he has 19 in 18 games this season, putting him on pace to become just the second player in Coyotes franchise history (Keith Tkachuk) to top 80 points in a season.
The Coyotes foresaw this potential when they chose Keller at No. 7. Among players taken in that draft, he is now No. 5 in points (275) behind Auston Matthews, Matthew Tkachuk, Patrik Laine and Alex DeBrincat.
Keller has shed the underachieving label. He is living up to the hype.
Coyotes 2016 draft: Jakob Chychrun, 16th overall
Jakob Chychrun was supposed to be a top-five pick in the 2016 draft, but injuries scared off scouts and he began to plummet. The Coyotes saw potential in him so they leveraged cap space to trade up and select him at No. 16.
Chychrun made the roster out of camp as an 18-year-old, becoming the youngest player in Coyotes franchise history to do so.
From there, it was a steady climb to his remarkable 2020-21 season in which he led all NHL defensemen with 18 goals (41 points). At that point, Chychrun looked like a foundational piece of the franchise.
Funny what a difference a year can make. Tocchet and the Coyotes parted ways, André Tourigny took over, Chychrun struggled under the weight of more defensive responsibility and then the team and his camp decided a fresh start elsewhere would make more sense.
Chychrun reminded everyone at 2022 media day that it was the Coyotes who approached him about the possibility of a trade first, but that hasn’t helped him in the court of public opinion. As has been stated a thousand times, Chychrun will have to play his way out of Arizona now that he is finally back in the lineup. There are concerns about his lengthy injury history, there are concerns about that subpar 2021-22 season, and there are concerns about GM Bill Armstrong’s asking price.
Of all the bizarre twists in Coyotes history, this one ranks near the top. Chychrun was supposed to be a core part of the emergence from this rebuild. Now, in the eyes of many fans, he is persona non grata. The nuanced truth is always somewhere in the middle.
2018 draft: Barrett Hayton, 5th overall
Several sources told me that had the Ottawa Senators not selected Brady Tkachuk with the No. 4 pick in the draft, the Coyotes still would have taken Barrett Hayton at No. 5. It’s a stunning revelation in light of both players’ paths since.
Tkachuk has the second-most points of any player selected in that draft. Hayton has no goals and three assists in what was supposed to be a breakout 2022-23 season.
One of the most disjointed development paths you will ever see contributed to Hayton’s disappointing start in production. So did the global pandemic, but other players have emerged from such pitfalls. Hayton has not.
Coach André Tourigny has been steadfast in his defense of Hayton, but we are approaching the point of no more excuses. The bottom line is that Hayton has not looked the part of a top-six center or a top-five draft pick. Analysts may have been right when they suggested that John Chayka was reaching with this pick at No. 5.
If he develops into a No. 3 center, there is still great value in that role, but so much more was expected from Hayton, especially after that memorable performance for Canada at the World Junior Championship, and after the way he finished the 2021-22 season. The Coyotes would really like to see that potential realized soon.
Coyotes 2021 draft: Dylan Guenther, 9th overall
Dylan Guenther feels like gravy. The Coyotes weren’t even supposed to have a 2021 first-round pick as a result of league sanctions for illegally testing draft-eligible prospects at the scouting combine under GM John Chayka. Instead, they shipped Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland to the Vancouver Canucks for this pick and veterans Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel.
They used it to select Guenther, who somewhat surprisingly made the roster this season and sits tied for eighth in points among NHL rookies with nine (five on the power play).
It’s pointless to assess Guenther right now. He is 19, he has played 16 NHL games and he doesn’t have the players around him who may come in the next few years. What he have heard, and what we have seen is that Guenther is a shooter, blessed with an elite shot and elite aim. If he can produce at a high rate, he will become one of just a handful of elite scorers in franchise history.
I still think he would be better served playing an entire season in the AHL, but the money-serving CHL-NHL agreement does not always allow players to pursue the path that is in their best interest so Guenther will grow as he can in a limited role that will likely see him play for Canada at the World Junior Championship and log maybe half a season’s worth of NHL games.
Missed the cut
Blake Wheeler: Wheeler never played a game here, he never wanted to, and there wasn’t any hype surrounding the pick because few understood at the time why the Coyotes chose him at No. 5 in 2004. They do now.
Danny Briére: Briére wasn’t even the team’s first, first-round pick in 1996. Defenseman Dan Focht was. With such a veteran-laden league, Briére, at No. 24, was a project.
Martin Hanzal: In retrospect, Hanzal probably should have been more hyped than he was at No. 17 in 2005. He was the perfect matchup center for the big pivotmen who roamed the Pacific Division such as Ryan Getzlaf and Anže Kopitar. He is one of the best first-round picks in franchise history.
Victor Söderström: Few understood why John Chayka pushed for Söderström at No. 11 in 2019. Those complaints have only grown louder as the smallish Swede languishes in the AHL for a franchise that really values size on the blue line.
Conor Geekie: Some draft analysts believe that Geekie was a reach at No. 11 in 2022. The Coyotes don’t think so. They traded the No. 27 pick and two second-rounders (No. 34 and No. 45) to move up and get him eight spots after taking Cooley. Time will tell.
Brandon Gormley: A big, mobile offensive defenseman. That’s what the Coyotes were supposedly getting with the No. 13 pick in 2010 out of Moncton in the QMJHL. Woof.
Top photo of Logan Cooley via Getty Images