GLENDALE, Ariz. — Coyotes fans got a taste of the future last season when Max Domi finished third among NHL rookies with 52 points, Anthony Duclair scored 20 goals, Jordan Martinook embodied coach Dave Tippett’s definition of work ethic and goalie Louis Domingue carried the team during Mike Smith’s three-month absence after surgery.
The Coyotes dove headlong in that future with rookies Jakob Chychrun, Anthony DeAngelo, Christian Dvorak, Lawson Crouse and Brendan Perlini all earning significant roles this season. While general manager John Chayka acknowledged “this is the core of the group that’s going be here a long time,” there are several intriguing pieces still on their way for the Coyotes.
Here are five Coyotes prospects that could be impact players in the not-too-distant future.
F Clayton Keller: Keller set up the game-tying goal and finished as Team USA’s leading producer with 11 points in seven games as the Americans won the World Junior Championship with a 5-4 shootout victory over Canada last week in Montreal. He can play any forward position; he was drafted as a center but he played the wing for Team USA.
“He’s such a dynamic player; an electric player,” Coyotes Director of Amateur Scouting Tim Bernhardt said. “When he gets the puck, people get on the edge of their seats.”
Keller, 18, is only a freshman at Boston University where he has seven goals and 16 points in 11 games, but he has admitted he does not plan to spend all four years at BU.
“I won’t be surprised if Clayton is a one-and-done player,” Bernhardt said.
C Dylan Strome: Strome’s inability to earn a spot on the Coyotes’ roster this season was a disappointment to some, but Tippett still believes Strome is going to be a very good NHL player once he adds some strength, particularly in his legs, to allow him to engage in and win board and puck battles.
Strome tied for the Team Canada lead in points (10) at the World Junior Championship and has six goals and 19 points in eight games with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League (juniors).
“When he’s playing with his peers, strength is not an issue for Dylan,” Bernhardt said. “Skating will never be an asset for Dylan. His assets are his hands and his head and his size, but you either have to be fast or strong to play in the NHL and he’s neither so he needs to gets stronger and he will. He’s a 19-year-old. He has a lot of physical maturing to do.”
RHD Kyle Wood: Wood was a bit of a forgotten man in the deal that sent Mikkel Boedker to Colorado at the 2016 trade deadline for Alex Tanguay, but he has blossomed while running the power play with Tucson of the American Hockey League. He leads the Roadrunners with 30 points (eight goals) in 29 games and has six power-play goals.
At 6-5, 235, Wood has enviable size but he’s also a right-handed shot who can handle the puck, making him an even more intriguing prospect.
“He’s obviously a big kid but one of the things our scouts liked about him is that he was willing to move pucks under pressure,” said Coyotes associate coach Jim Playfair, who coaches the defense. “He’s calm and makes a good first pass; he doesn’t seem to get rattled easily.”
RW Christian Fischer: The 6-2, 210-pound Fischer packs a physical presence into an already mature body, making him a tantalizing power-forward prospect. Fischer has heated up recently with Tucson He had a seven-game point streak (seven goals, 14 points) recently and has 19 points (10 goals) in his last 12 games. Overall, he is third in points on the team with 26 (13 goals) in 27 games.
“With the strength and power of the guys here, it’s pretty hard to get to the net in pro game,” said Fischer, who admitted to an adjustment period before his recent streak. “You’ve got to be strong on pucks, but then the speed, too, is also a step up as you keep moving up, but I think I have proven I can withstand this level of hockey. Every game, I’m making a difference whether it’s getting a point or blocking shots. I’m starting to find a rhythm.”
G Adin Hill: There are myriad reasons why the goaltending position is the hardest to project, including systems, styles and perhaps poor evaluation tools, but Hill is undoubtedly viewed as the Coyotes’ goalie of the future and he has had a promising first year in pros. Hill was 11th in AHL save percentage at .917 and third among AHL rookies.
At 6-foot-4, 198 pounds, Hill has length and athleticism, but at age 20, he needs another year or two of seasoning.
“Like a lot of big guys, he’s got to keep working on his feet with pivots and change of direction,” Coyotes goalie coach Jon Elkin said. “I love his passion for the game. You see some guys where hockey is what they are and that’s who he is. He’s pretty determined kid with a lot of confidence, a little chip and a little jam to him, which is good.”