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Player poll from TSN has Arizona Coyotes making playoffs

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

What better crowd to ask about the landscape of the NHL than the players themselves?

An anonymous poll of 33 players by TSN at this year’s Player Media Tour found that the Arizona Coyotes will continue the run they had down the stretch last year and make their way into the playoffs in 2018-19.

It would be an improbable turnaround, given that the Coyotes finished last in the Pacific Division — and Western Conference — last season with 70 points and a 29-41-12 record. But they were 20-14-7 after the start of the new year, showing that the potential for success down the road is high.

“I feel like they’ve done some really good things the past couple years,” one Western player said. “Plus, everyone likes their coach [Rick Tocchet].”

“I think Arizona’s going to be better than people think,” a Pacific Division rival said. “They gave us a lot of trouble last year, and quite honestly, I think they’re just a better team than people give them credit for.”

The story notes that last season was the first time in NHL history that the last-place team in each conference went on to make the playoffs in the following season, with the Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils both advancing to the postseason in 2018. The anonymous poll not only said Arizona would rebound, but the Buffalo Sabres would, too, marking what would be a repeat of the first-time phenomenon.

Newcomers on the Coyotes’ roster at the team’s media day on Thursday last week mentioned that Arizona wasn’t an easy place to play late last season. They built on their progress in the second half of the season by adding to the roster in the offseason, namely trading for forward Alex Galchenyuk and signing wing Michael Grabner.

Arizona will hope to see the next steps from young players including Clayton Keller, who was a Calder Trophy finalist in 2017-18. The TSN story also makes note of Antti Raanta, the Coyotes’ starting netminder who put up the best save percentage in the league (.930) among goalies who played as many games or more than he did (47).

Fans will get their first look at the 2018-19 Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 4 when they open their season on the road against the Dallas Stars. The team’s home opener is on Oct. 6 against the Anaheim Ducks, with puck drop slated for 6 p.m.

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