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However NHL Draft Lottery plays out, Chayka sees good options for Coyotes

(Matt Layman/Arizona Sports)

Coyotes president of hockey operations and general manager John Chayka isn’t bringing any talismans, trinkets or good-luck charms to the NHL Draft Lottery in Toronto on Saturday.

Coyotes COO and general counsel Ahron Cohen is going the other direction. He’ll rub his baby’s head for good luck before he departs, and he’ll wear his lucky Coyotes socks in the sequestered room at the Ritz-Carlton Toronto.

“I’m pulling out all the stops,” said Cohen, laughing.

The draft lottery will begin at 4:30 p.m. Arizona time on Saturday. Picks 15 through four will be announced before the Vegas Golden Knights-San Jose Sharks game that begins at 5 p.m. on NBCSN. The top three picks will be announced during the second intermission of that game on NBC.

Like every other team in the lottery, the Coyotes would love to land the top overall pick and the chance to draft Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. If they don’t – and luck hasn’t been on Valley sports teams’ side when it comes to draft lotteries – Chayka sees a lot of promise in the 2018 NHL Draft, to be held at American Airlines Center in Dallas from June 22-23.

“I think it’s a good draft; I think it’s a deep draft,” Chayka said. “I just came back from Russia watching the U18 World Championship. It was a good tournament with a lot of good players and I was impressed.

“You don’t have that big No. 1 center that is going No. 1 or No. 2 but there are still some good centers and obviously there is a generational type defenseman, some other good defensemen that should go in the first round and some high-end, skilled wingers that will go in the top five. We’re going to get a very good player.”

Chayka thinks there are several NHL-ready players in this draft.

“I think it’s higher than most years,” he said. “It could get up into the higher single digits. The average age in the league I think was 23.5 this year so these guys when they get drafted, they’re not far off. It’s becoming a younger and younger league. A lot of guys will have a chance.”

The Coyotes finished with the third-worst record in the NHL ahead of the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators. With the top three picks in play for all 15 non-playoff teams, Arizona could pick anywhere from first to sixth. The Coyotes have an 11.5 percent chance of picking first; an 11.3 percent chance of picking second; an 11.1 percent chance of picking third; a 13.2 percent chance of picking fourth; a 37.7 percent chance of picking fifth; and a 15.2 percent chance of picking sixth.

If the Coyotes pick anywhere from No. 2 to No. 6, Chayka said the strategy doesn’t change much.

“From two to six, what really separates players is marginal and there is a lot that goes into that evaluation,” he said. “We’re still collecting information. We’re still doing our research and we’re still forming analysis of individual players before we get into who’s available and moving up or down or that kind of stuff.

“Our approach right now is to not get too locked in to anything. It’s still early. We just watched the U18s and there are some players playing in the World Championship so we’ll get some more information there, too.”

Last year at the NHL Draft in Chicago, the Coyotes traded the No. 7 overall pick along with defenseman Anthony DeAngelo to the New York Rangers for center Derek Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta. If that sort of deal presents itself again, Chayka said he would be crazy not to consider it, but he is not holding his breath.

“I’m not against anything but it depends where we are picking,” he said. “I find it far-fetched to believe that I would trade two top-10 picks in back-to-back years, but you never say never.

“It was tough to go through that draft and not take your pick, but when that deal became available, at that point that was too necessary for us to pass up. Almost anything is for sale and if someone is going to pay us a higher value than what we perceive the value of that pick to be then you’ve got to listen.”

If the Coyotes do hold into their pick, the philosophy will be similar to past years.

“You have to go best player available but that includes placing a premium on premium positions and that includes your responsibility as a manager,” Chayka said. “You’re managing a team so you’ve still got to build your pipeline.

“You always consider everything involved but by and large, you win with talent and you’ve got to take the most talented player that fits your culture and philosophy of how you’re trying to build a team. When we drafted Clayton Keller, the general perception was we had to take a defenseman. I had those conversations which led to us trading up to get Jakob Chychrun, but I think taking a defenseman would have been a mistake to pass up taking a Clayton Keller. We took the best player and then we got lucky or were able to maneuver so that we also got a high-end defenseman. You obviously can’t do that every year.”

Dahlin of Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League and right wing Andrei Svechnikov of the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts are the No. 1 ranked players among international and North American skaters, respectively, in the NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s final rankings for the 2018 NHL Draft.

Among North American skaters, Boston University left wing Brady Tkachuk, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) right wing Filip Zadina, London Knights (OHL) defenseman Evan Bouchard, Michigan University defenseman Quinn Hughes, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL) defenseman Noah Dobson and forward Oliver Wahlstrom of the U.S. National Development Team all bear watching. Swedish defenseman Adam Boqvist (Brynas’ junior), Russian right wing Vitali Kravtsov (Chelyabinsk), Czech right wing Martin Kaut (Pardubice) and Swedish defenseman Adam Ginning (Linkoping) are the other top international skaters.

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