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Coyotes camp tiers: Which players are locks to make 2023-24 roster, which are not?

Craig Morgan Avatar
September 19, 2023
Unless something goes terribly wrong in training camp, rookie center Logan Cooley will make the Coyotes roster.

MELBOURNE, Australia — Despite the long flight to Australia, the daily events focused on marketing the NHL Global Series, and the fun events that the team has planned, it’s important to remember that the Coyotes are staging an actual training camp here in Victoria’s capital city.

“I think that we have a lot of work in front of us because we have better pieces and we have more talent, but that doesn’t guarantee anything,” coach André Tourigny said. “There’s other teams in the league we studied and they got worse in the same situation as us so we want to make sure we don’t get into that situation — [that] we get better and we don’t take anything for granted. 

“We were confident in what we did but one thing I know about culture: If you don’t cultivate your culture, you lose it.”

That’s the benefit of Melbourne. For the most part, the NHL roster is here without all of the other roster hopefuls who take up drill time and game time, force the juggling of lines and pairs, and prevent the sort of bonding that occurs when a whittled team forms.

Day 2 of training camp at the O’Brien Icehouse on Tuesday was the first real practice after a light skate on Monday; one that came just five hours after the team’s arrival in Australia. Some familiar faces were back together this week including the Clayton Keller-Barrett Hayton-Nick Schmaltz line and the Lawson Crouse-Nick Bjugstad-Matias Maccelli line. Don’t etch anything in stone, however. It’s too early. There is plenty to sort out, whether it’s line combinations, defense pairs, a fair allocation of playing time for the two goalies, or special teams units.

There may even be a roster spot or two available, depending on performance and health. Few players are guaranteed spots on NHL rosters; especially players on the fringes. With that in mind, here are our camp tiers for the Coyotes opening-night roster.

Jack McBain’s size, strength and steady improvement make him a lock for the Coyotes roster at the center position. (Getty Images)

Coyotes roster locks

Forwards: Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, Barrett Hayton, Nick Bjugstad, Lawson Crouse, Matias Maccelli, Jack McBain, Jason Zucker, Alex Kerfoot.

Defensemen: Matt Dumba, JJ Moser, Juuso Välimäki, Sean Durzi.

Goalies: Karel Vejmelka, Connor Ingram.

Near locks

Forwards: Logan Cooley, Travis Boyd, Liam O’Brien.

Defensemen: Josh Brown, Troy Stecher.

Dylan Guenther performed well when he returned to the WHL midway through last season. Can he carry that confidence and performance into Coyotes training camp? (Getty Images)

Coyotes with something to prove

Forward: Dylan Guenther, Michael Carcone.

Defensemen: Victor Söderström, Travis Dermott.

Notes: Guenther was OK in first NHL season when he logged 33 games. He had six goals and 15 points, but just nine of those points came at even strength. Guenther has to prove that he can be productive at 5-on-5, he has to prove that his physical strength has improved over last season, and he has to prove that he has the all-around awareness to log significant minutes. If not, he might be better served, at age 20, by spending some time in the AHL in Tucson.

The Coyotes re-signed Carcone to a two-year deal this summer, but consistency and defensive awareness will be keys to his staying power; particularly with his likely role as a depth player in this lineup.

Söderström is still trying to cement an NHL roster spot four years after the Coyotes made him the 11th overall pick in the draft. At 22, proving time has come at a position where development timelines typically take a little longer. Söderström is in the final year of his entry-level deal and will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season. While he has shown an ability to make a good first pass and run a power play at the offensive blue line, his skating is not overwhelming, his defensive zone play needs work and he has thus far lacked that dynamic element that you like to see from a player of his style and stature.

Dermott must prove that he has put his health issues behind him and is ready, at the very least, to be an extra defenseman whom the Coyotes can call upon in need.

Josh Doan was spectacular at the Rookie Faceoff in Las Vegas, but Tucson may still be the best place for his development. (Getty Images)


Forwards: Conor Geekie, Ryan Dzingel, Josh Doan.

Defensemen: Maksymilian Szuber, Vladislav Kolyachonok, Michael Kesselring, Maveric Lamoureux, Jérémy Langlois, Olli Juolevi.

Goalies: Ivan Prosvetov

It has been fashionable to think that Geekie in particular could make this team. He had three goals and six points at the recently concluded Rookie Showcase. That’s a good sign, but Geekie needs far more development in his consistency and his all-around game before he is ready to make the sizeable leap from the WHL to the NHL.

The same is true for Lamoureux, who needs to grow into his body and learn how to use it responsibly, and Langlois, who simply needs more development time as a top offensive option to gain confidence and reps.

Szuber, Kolyachonok and Kesselring could all see NHL games this season. So could Doan, who led all Coyotes rookies with four goals and seven points at the Rookie Faceoff in Las Vegas. The best place for all of these players is likely still in Tucson where they can log heavier minutes in all situations.

Dzingel and Juolevi need either a standout, can’t-pass-on-this guy kind of camp, or an injury to one of the players ahead of them in order to have a chance. 

Top photo of Logan Cooley via Leah Merrall, PHNX Sports

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