The kids are alright.
The Arizona Coyotes expected to lean heavily on a group of young players, and two games into the season that has been a recipe for success.
Sure, it has helped greatly that goaltender Mike Smith has stopped 67 of the 69 shots he’s faced in victories over the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins, but a look at the team’s point total gives a glimpse of what some of the team’s younger players are capable of.
Ten different Coyotes have registered at least one point, with six of them — Tobias Rieder, Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Jordan Martinook, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Connor Murphy — 24 years old or younger.
The 22-year-old Rieder, in particular, has been impressive with two goals and one assist to his credit.
“Well he really worked hard this summer,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday. “It’s a great sign when a young player recognizes areas where he has to improve and really works at them, and that was his goal this summer.
“He knew he had a lot of opportunities to score last year but didn’t finish as many opportunities as he would have liked, and this year came in with the mindset he’s going to improve that and he worked hard over the summer and it’s great to see him rewarded for that.”
Tippett said as a coach it’s great to see young players rewarded for their hard work, because “that just motivates them even more to find other things in their game that they can improve,” he said, noting that leads to developing a really good player.
That’s the idea, anyway, and while plenty will change over the course of the season, at least in the early going it seems as though the Coyotes have a solid group of young players who will continue to get better. That was the idea going in after the franchise finished with the second-worst point total in the NHL last year.
“The youth, there’s lots of enthusiasm there, lots of smiling, lots of giddy up,” Tippett said. “But there’s a couple things, if you look at our young guys they all have high skill and they play the game very fast. And that, I think, makes everybody else recognize that we’ve got to play quicker.”
One player Tippett singled out is Max Domi, a 2013 first-round pick who made his much-anticipated debut this season. The center who NHL great Jaromir Jagr said is “(bleeping) unbelievable” has tallied one goal and one assist while putting four shots on goal. Tippett said Domi is a perfect example of the team’s youth movement.
“He’s an explosive player out there; he gets the puck and he goes,” the coach said. “And that can be contagious.
“Our young guys have done a real nice job for us early on, giving some energy, but I like the way some our veterans are playing and that includes Smitty.”