With roster in place, a look at the Coyotes’ forwards for 2018-19
GLENDALE, Ariz. — With the announcement of the Arizona Coyotes’ regular-season roster on Tuesday, the answers became solidified as to who could fill the places left vacant in the lineup by injuries.
It also became official who exactly would be tasked with improving the Coyotes’ goal-scoring after they finished 30th out of 31 teams in goals scored last year (206, ahead of BUF).
Really, that onus began with general manager John Chayka several months ago. He used his time in the offseason to add Michael Grabner, Alex Galchenyuk and Vinnie Hinostroza to the forward group, though Galchenyuk — and fellow forwards Christian Dvorak and Josh Archibald — will start the season on injured reserve.
Those injuries opened the door for players like Barrett Hayton, Laurent Dauphin and Mario Kempe to prove themselves in training camp and crack the roster (though that isn’t to say that none of those players might have made the roster, injuries notwithstanding).
“You’re always as a coach hoping that certain guys rise to the challenge because of injuries,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “We’re looking at some young guys to really pick up the load. We need some energy from these guys. They’re getting a chance to play because of circumstances, and now’s the time to show it at the start of the year. That’s what we’re looking for right now is some energy from some guys.”
Aside from new players and young players, the Coyotes bring back many familiar names from last year’s lineup, like Derek Stepan, Brendan Perlini, Christian Fischer, Brad Richardson and Clayton Keller. However, Keller will start the year at center with Galchenyuk and Dvorak out (thus splitting up the Richard Panik, Stepan, Keller line from last season, at least temporarily).
Hinostroza, too, could toggle between wing and center as Tocchet has alluded to that possibility (and the same for Nick Cousins). Tocchet said during the preseason that he liked the speed Hinostroza adds to the Coyotes lineup: “I didn’t know he was that quick.”
Hinostroza joined the Coyotes after coming over with defenseman Jordan Oesterle in a trade with the Blackhawks in July. It was in Chicago that he scored seven goals and 18 assists in 50 games last year, averaging 13:49 time on ice per game. This season will mark his fourth in the NHL after he played college hockey at Notre Dame and was drafted in the sixth round in 2012.
“With my hard work, I’m going to maybe earn some more responsibility than I had in Chicago,” Hinostroza said in September. “Sometimes in Chicago I was given that and sometimes I wasn’t, but that’s just how it goes. But I’m excited to be here and really try to find my game and try to be my own player.”
In the Coyotes’ most recent preseason game, Hinostroza was on the right wing on the second line with Keller at center and Perlini on the left.
The Coyotes signed Grabner on July 1, adding a 30-year-old speedy veteran that has scored 27 goals over each of the last two seasons.
But speed and goal-scoring are not all he does.
“I think I’ve been around the league a long time to kind of know what it takes to kill penalties,” he said at the team’s media day at the start of training camp. “Obviously a lot of people look at the goals, the shorthanded goals and what not. But for me personally, the goal is to kill off the two minutes.
“It’s fun to go out there trying to kind of frustrate the top guys on the other team and you change the momentum of the game, and with all the penalties these days, it’s a big thing to win hockey games is the special teams.”
Fans will have to wait a bit longer to see Galchenyuk because of his lower-body injury keeping him week-to-week. He figures to play center once he does return, and his two goals during a preseason game against the Kings were a display of his offensive acumen and what Tocchet called a “high-level shot.”
After it became known that the Coyotes’ first-round pick from 2018 would be on their roster to start the season, it didn’t sound as though his spot would be permanent. Tocchet said “you never know” when asked if Hayton would play, and if he plays in 10 NHL games this season, it will exhaust a year of his entry-level contract, per the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement.
Still, it could be a valuable experience for the 18-year-old to start the year on the Coyotes’ roster before going back to his junior team, the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
“I think I’m able to learn a ton every day in practice with these guys,” he said Tuesday. “So, just taking it day-by-day and try to get better.”
Drafted 11th overall in 2015, Crouse has played 83 career NHL games — but only 11 of those were last year. He spent most of 2017-18 with the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners, and said he was able to play with the puck more there and gain confidence coming into this year.
He’s a 6-foot-4, 220-pound winger that was in the lineup in Arizona’s last preseason game, a good foreshadowing for what a normal Coyotes lineup could look like for the time being.
Similarly, Dylan Strome — who was picked eight spots ahead of Crouse in that same draft — spent most of the year last year in Tucson (21 NHL games played, 50 AHL games played) but has seen time in the lineup this preseason at center.