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Arizona Coyotes forfeit draft picks over combine scouting violations

General view outside of Gila River Arena before the NHL game between the Arizona Coyotes and the Detroit Red Wings on October 12, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The National Hockey League announced Wednesday the Arizona Coyotes would be forfeiting draft picks as punishment for violating the league’s combine scouting policy.

Arizona will forfeit its second-round pick this season and a first-round pick next season. It could not forfeit a first-round pick this year because the Coyotes already traded that pick to the New Jersey Devils for Taylor Hall. The Coyotes also don’t have a third-round pick this year because they traded it for Carl Soderberg, meaning Arizona will not select until the fourth-round in this year’s draft unless it acquires more picks.

The punishment was given in accordance with Article 6.3 of the NHL Constitution, a statement from the league said. That article gives commissioner Gary Bettman authority to dole out discipline “if he determines … that any person … has either violated the Constitution, the By-Laws, or any other governing rule or regulation of the league, or has been or is guilty of conduct … detrimental to the league or the game of hockey.”

It had been speculated previously that punishment of some sort would be given to the Coyotes, who were reported in January to be under investigation for improper scouting procedures.

The NHL prohibits teams from working out prospects prior to the league’s scouting combine. In Februrary, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported there were “at least 20 incidents” of the Coyotes fitness testing draft-eligible players. At the time, The Athletic’s Craig Morgan reported that the Coyotes didn’t believe they violated the rule, and that a source said the Coyotes merely conducted permitted meetings with prospects and asked that the players “show up for the interviews in a T-shirt and shorts so that team staff could ‘eyeball’ their bodies.”

But the statement from the NHL tells a different story:

“At the outset of the hearing, the club acknowledged that it had violated the policy by conducting physical testing on 2020 draft-eligible players prior to the combine.”

It’s worth noting that the Coyotes’ general manager and president of hockey operations from when this all happened, John Chayka, is no longer with the organization. He departed last month over a dispute unrelated to these violations.

The Coyotes issued a statement in response to the punishment.

“We were advised today of the NHL’s ruling regarding the allegations of physical fitness testing of draft prospects and respect the league’s ruling,” the statement said. “Under new leadership, we have added thorough internal controls and compliance measures to prevent this type of occurrence from happening again in the future. We will have no further comment.”

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