Coyotes complete unique 2020 NHL Draft as Friday’s free agency looms
Arizona Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong will likely not find himself in a more unique position running a draft than he did on Wednesday, and that’s not just because of the all-virtual format in the middle of a pandemic.
Armstrong replaced John Chayka less than a month ago, and with that came Armstrong and a portion of his newly hired staff in Arizona agreeing to not take part because of the intel they accumulated in other front offices across the league.
That left the 2020 NHL Draft primarily in the hands of new associate director of scouting Ryan Jankowski, who Armstrong complimented afterward to reporters on Wednesday.
“I think what was taken away from (it) was not only did he put a good list together but he formed good relationships with the staff and brought them all together as one,” he said over Zoom.
It also was an odd one for Armstrong and the Coyotes because they didn’t have a pick in the first three rounds, ending the process with five selections made after they traded for an extra seventh-round pick.
“There was a small victory today seeing when the draft was done and some of the players on the board and how smooth it went for us and we were able to acquire an extra pick,” Armstrong said.
There are obvious challenges with picking exclusively in the later rounds.
“A lot of times they’re a very raw kid,” Armstrong said. “Scouts can kind of see the glass half-full, half-empty.”
The top selection was 18-year-old defenseman Mitchell Miller in the fourth round. Miller, a two-way defenseman who will compete with Team USA in an upcoming world juniors tournament, has skill Armstrong likes.
“One of the things that you like about him is the puck is always on his stick,” he said.
Miller is set to attend at North Dakota University, a program Armstrong spoke highly of as a “hockey school.”
This particular offseason has an added challenge of the turnaround to free agency, which begins Friday.
Armstrong said the team had a “mutual parting” with unrestricted free agent Taylor Hall, who seemed unlikely to return to Arizona given the direction the franchise appears to be headed in.
As far as the latest on Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the team captain that set Friday as a “trade me to Boston or Vancouver or don’t trade me at all” deadline, Armstrong elaborated on what the process has been thus far and what it’ll be going forward.
“I kinda inherited the situation to some degree,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of control of his agent setting deadlines and these things.
“I had a great conversation with Oliver. I kinda reiterated this: ‘You’re a great player. Right at this point, we’re gonna explore what’s on the table with the two teams. Whatever happens, we’ll hopefully back up for another phone call and we’ll deal with it at that point and time but let’s just see how things play out.’
“I reassured him about my belief in him, not only as a person but also as a player. He’s a great