The Arizona Coyotes wanted one of the top two picks in this year’s NHL Draft, as that would have landed them either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.
The consensus top two choices in the entire draft, each would have been a franchise-changing talent. But luck was not on the Coyotes’ side in the lottery, with them landing the third choice.
“The draft really starts with our pick,” Coyotes GM Don Maloney told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday. “Even I can’t screw up the first two picks. The intrigue will start with number three and we’ve already been approached by a number of teams about trading down, trading the pick outright.”
Would the Coyotes, who finished with just 56 points this past season, really part with a top-three choice? Though it will not be McDavid or Eichel, they’re still likely to land a quality player.
“It would have to be something really, really special, and I don’t know what that means yet,” Maloney said when asked if he’d really consider parting with the pick. “But where we’re at, we have to say, ‘OK, we’re going to listen to everything.’
“But I really feel good about it. There’s four, five players there we really like.”
The group Maloney is referencing probably includes center Dylan Strome, who many see the team choosing when they are on the clock.
“He’s a terrific prospect, and we all know how hard it is to find centers,” Maloney said of Strome, who won the Ontario Hockey league scoring title with 129 points in 2014-15. “Even his DNA, his brother’s just emerging as a top-level player. He’s driven; all he does is win at every level he’s played at.
“But, there’s also a couple defensemen there that are terrific looking prospects, and we all know you start building a championship from the back end, the goaltending, the blue line, the center position.”
That could mean Boston College star Noah Hanifin or Russian-born Ivan Provorov, both of whom Maloney mentioned, could be the selection. Then there’s also Mitchell Marner, a center who was second to Strome in the OHL scoring race with 126 points.
“Long story short, there are lots of good choices for us and lots of intrigue,” Maloney said. “But I also think we have to be open-minded. If someone really wants to overpay and give us what we would consider excellent value for that third (pick), at least we have to listen.”
So while a trade may be an option, one isn’t necessarily on the table ready to be signed off on.
“That’s the nature of the beast,” Maloney said. “I would say right now I’m not even at the dating stage with another team. It’s more of the ‘hello, how are you, do we like each other?’
“Then the next few weeks we’re dating, and then the draft, we’ll see if we really like each other.”