Coyotes go forward-heavy, add character and skill at NHL Draft

Jun 22, 2019, 4:01 PM
A general view of the draft floor prior to the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on...
A general view of the draft floor prior to the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

The Arizona Coyotes, going into the draft, were viewed as a team that should add a forward. General manager John Chayka said Friday he liked the forwards that were available to him in round one, but liked Swedish defenseman Victor Soderstrom even better.

“We weren’t leaving the draft without him,” Chayka told reporters at the draft. “We were going to do whatever it took to get up and get [Soderstrom].”

On the second day of the draft, the Coyotes got plenty of forwards. With eight picks in rounds two through seven of the draft in Vancouver on Saturday, Arizona took seven forwards and a defenseman. What’s more, all of those picks were after the second round, because the Coyotes traded their second-round pick to Philadelphia to move up and get Soderstrom at pick No. 11.

“There was no kind of pre-set thing that we were going to draft forwards,” Coyotes director of scouting Lindsay Hofford said.  “It was just, ‘We’re going to take the best player available,’ and we basically did that from pick one to round seven. So it’s just the way they fell on the board, and we grabbed them.”

The Coyotes’ eight picks on day two were as follows:

Round 3, Pick 76: C John Farinacci — Dexter School, MA
Round 4, Pick 98: LW Matias Maccelli — Dubuque, USHL
Round 4, Pick 107: RW Alexandr Darin — Loko-Junior Yaroslavl
Round 5, Pick 151: RW Aku Raty — Finland Jr. A, Karpat
Round 6, Pick 174: LW Danil Savunov — Russia
Round 6, Pick 176: C Anthony Romano — Sioux Falls, USHL
Round 7, Pick 200: D Axel Bergkvist — Leksands J20, Sweden
Round 7, Pick 207: C Valentin Nussbaumer — Shawinigan, QMJHL

“There was a couple times where defensemen went right ahead of us, that’s just the way it worked out,” Chayka said. “Other times, we tried to trade up to get some defensemen that we thought highly of. But, you know, now it plays out and obviously we got a lot of forwards. And it works, because we needed some forwards, but certainly we went right down the list.”

Hofford raved about their day-one pick, Soderstrom, saying that he passed the eye tests and was “a five-star guy” who also had high character and passed a series of psychological and physical tests with flying colors. The organization seems to view him as a mature kid who can drive the team’s culture. 

Similar things were said about the character of Farinacci.

“Again, he’s a very, very high-character kid,” Hofford said. “I’ve got about ten calls on him just unsolicited from people that I know, that I didn’t even know that they even knew him, just telling me what a great young man he is. He’s got a very good offensive instinct, really good stick. I think he makes people around him better and again, I think he’s another kid that has the ability to drive our culture in a positive manner.

“He’s going to Harvard next year and he’ll play in their top six. So we’re looking for big things from him, as well.”

Farinacci was taken with the 76th overall pick. The Coyotes went into the day with the 74th pick as well, but they traded that selection for picks 98, 151 and 207. It was the second trade Chayka made in the draft this year, but Arizona did not complete any deals that involve current NHL players. That, he said, may have been in part because the teams didn’t know how much cap space they’d have (the league announced the 2019-20 cap after the draft).

So with pick 98 from the trade, the Coyotes took Maccelli, a European forward who played in the United States last year. The Athletic‘s Corey Pronman had Maccelli ranked 49th overall, way ahead of where Arizona picked.

“We had him [ranked] higher,” Hofford said. “But he tailed off a little bit as some Europeans do, because they’re not used to playing the amount of games and practices as much — the season’s longer in North America. So I think he was moving on at a pretty good clip. And then the last part of the season, I think he got a little bit fatigued. That might have hurt him.

“But I’ve seen guys obviously bounce back from that. He’s going to the Finnish league next year to play pro. So he’s another guy with really high skill and really good vision, so we were really happy to get him, as well.”

The one player the Coyotes took who wasn’t a forward, Bergkvist, has some strong attributes, Hofford said, despite being taken all the way in the fifth round. He was listed at 5-foot-9 and 200 pounds, a shorter and heavier player that Hofford called an elite passer.

“When I watch him, he just excelled on the offensive blue line,” Hofford said. “So his ability to get a shot through and make plays from that area at the pro level … is really impressive. So I thought for that round, he’s got a chance to play in the National Hockey League because he does have a couple things he can hang his hat on.”

The 2019 NHL Draft was the first one for Hofford since he joined the Coyotes organization. He previously worked with the Toronto Maple Leafs and coached with both the London Knights and Lethbridge Hurricanes, among other career stops.

Hofford said he was happy with the collaboration of the group as they approached this year’s draft and they collectively watched more video and games than he ever had on any other staff he’s been on.

“It was just the amount of video that we were able to do was astounding,” he said. “So I think it really helped us in a lot of ways.”

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