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Coyotes ranked as NHL’s fifth most improved team this offseason

The extension of Oliver Ekman-Larsson and additions of Alex Galchenyuk and Michael Grabner earned the Arizona Coyotes a highly rated offseason. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File) (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz) (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

While still a few months away from the start of the 2018-19 NHL season, it is not too early to grade how the Arizona Coyotes have improved through free agency.

NBC Sports ranked the Coyotes with the fifth best offseason so far this summer.

The signing of a long-term contract by cornerstone defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and additions of center Alex Galchenyuk and winger Michael Grabner were the main reasons why the Coyotes were ranked as the fifth most improved team so far in the NHL.

Arizona is hoping to build off a strong finish to the 2017-18 season, which ended with a 17-10-2 record over its last 29 games. 

Winger Clayton Keller finished third in the Calder Trophy voting for rookie of the year, and the development of 22-year-old winger Brendan Perlini – who were the top two goal scorers for the Coyotes in 2017-18 – gives the club reason for optimism.

In fact, all of the top four goal scorers for the Coyotes last season were 22-years-old or younger.

Center Christian Dvorak and winger Christian Fischer both finished tied for third with 15 goals apiece.

The Coyotes are hoping to end a six-season playoff drought. The last time the team reached the playoffs was in 2012 when they lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Finals.

By landing one of the league’s best players in center John Tavares, the Toronto Maple Leafs were ranked as the most improved team.

The Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues and Kings were the other four teams ranked alongside the Coyotes.