‘Yotes Draft Notes: D prospects, coaching search, roster balance
CHICAGO — John Chayka didn’t execute more trades for existing NHL players on Day 2 of the NHL Draft on Saturday at United Center, but the Coyotes GM was still dealing.
When the draft was four picks into the day, Chayka traded the 35th overall selection to Philadelphia for Nos. 44, 75 and 108. Early in the third round, he flipped the 78th pick to Edmonton for Nos. 82 and 126.
The logic was simple.
“There’s no sure thing here with these amateur players,” said Tim Bernhardt, Coyotes director of amateur scouting. “The more opportunities you have to get players, the better chance you have to get players.”
The Coyotes’ final draft haul was five defensemen and four forwards, at least two of which are centers, with No. 69 overall pick Mackenzie Entwistle also a possibility. Two of the defensemen, No. 44 pick Filip Westerlund and No. 82 pick Cameron Crotty, are right-handed defensemen.
“We were trying to stockpile premier positions,” Chayka said. “Not all of them are going to hit but we got a lot of picks so we’re playing the odds, and when they do hit, you want them to be in the right positions.”
Chayka offered a glimpse of how the first trade of the day went down after a phone conversation with Flyers GM Ron Hextall, who selected Guelph Storm winger Isaac Ratcliffe with the 35th pick he acquired from the Coyotes.
“We had Ratcliffe at the same spot, pretty much so I just put it out there to Hexy that this is an overpayment but if you want the guy, we’ll do it and he agreed to it,” Chayka said. “That’s how it went down.”
SIZE A BONUS
Seven of the Coyotes’ nine selections were 6-foot or taller, and four of the top five picks are 6-2 or taller. Defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph (No. 23 pick) is 6-2; Entwistle is 6-2, center Nate Schnarr (No. 75) is 6-3; and Crotty is 6-2.
“We got a lot of size, which isn’t what we’re looking to do, necessarily,” Chayka said. “We want good players, smart players, competitive players, but if the size is there that’s great and it ended up being that way.”
Four of the five Coyotes picks at the 2016 NHL Draft were defenseman; five of the nine were this season. Last year, it was an area of focus; this year, it was not.
“There was no plan at all,” Bernhardt said. “We put them in groups and if that was the best player at that time or the player we felt most comfortable with at that time [we took them].”
Plan or not, Chayka likes the fact that the cupboard is being stocked at such an important position.
“They’re so hard to predict,” he said. “Some take forever to develop; some happen right away. I’m curious myself to see who rises early, who rises late and who falls off.
“You saw Travis Hamonic get traded today (from the Islanders to the Flames) for a first and two second-round picks. They’re premium positions.”
Two positions the Coyotes did not address at the Draft were left wing, where they have a glut of current players, and goaltender. After acquiring Antti Raanta from the Rangers on Friday, Flyers draft pick Merrick Madsen last week and signing Minnesota-Duluth free agent Hunter Miska, the Coyotes feel they have sufficient organizational depth to complement Raanta, backup Louis Domingue and top prospect Adin Hill (Tucson, AHL).
LEFT WING LOGJAM
The Coyotes have seven NHL left wings if you count Tobias Rieder. Max Domi, Clayton Keller, Brendan Perlini, Jordan Martinook, Lawson Crouse and Jamie McGinn are the others. In contrast, the Coyotes right wing position is thin, with only prospect Christian Fischer (likely to make the roster next season), Rieder (who shifted to the right side late last season) and restricted free agent Anthony Duclair, although free agent Radim Vrbata is still an option.
Chayka said the plan would ideally be to add another right wing, but it’s also possible that one or more of the left wings could shift sides.
“There are teams that have had success just by having a lot of good players,” Chayka said. “Good players make plays and they’re able to adapt and adjust.”
McGinn, Keller and Martinook have all played right wing.
Chayka said he would begin the process of identifying and finding a new coach on Monday after Dave Tippett parted ways with the team on Thursday, but he has set no deadline by which he’d like to have a coach in place.
“I’d like to sit down with [assistant GM Steve Sullivan] and our staff,” Chayka said. “We’d like to put together a profile of exactly what we’re looking for; the attributes of the coach we’re looking for before we start seeking out people. Sometimes, you write it down and it’s different than maybe the people you think you might like.
“We’ll have a small group of names, a real small group at this stage, and then just try and be efficient moving forward.”
Chayka said youth is not an overriding prerequisite.
“I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, but with our younger players, we do want a communicator; somebody that does engage and have that relational type of approach to coaching.”
Interesting take here on No. 69 overall pick, Mackenzie Entwistle.