NHL Draft grades: Experts give Arizona Coyotes a ‘B+’ for 2021 class

Jul 26, 2021, 8:50 PM | Updated: Jul 27, 2021, 1:29 am
(Twitter photo / @ArizonaCoyotes)...
(Twitter photo / @ArizonaCoyotes)
(Twitter photo / @ArizonaCoyotes)

Experts weighed in on the Arizona Coyotes 2021 draft class after the team made nine selections over the two days.

The team received multiple A grades, while the team’s lowest grade was a C+.

Below is a full list of the 2021 Coyotes draft class:

Rd 1 No. 9 Dylan Guenther (F)
Rd 2 No. 37 Josh Doan (F)
Rd 2 No. 43 Ilya Fedotov (F)
Rd 2 No. 60 Janis Jérôme Moser (D)
Rd 4 No. 107 Emil Martinsen Lilleberg (D)
Rd 4 No. 122 Rasmus Korhonen (G)
Rd 5 No. 139 Manix Landry (F)
Rd 6 No. 171 Cal Thomas (D)
Rd 7 No. 223 Sam Lipkin (F)

GM Bill Armstrong is trying to rebuild the team through the draft, trading captain and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson to the Vancouver Canucks on Friday, as well as forward Conor Garland, for the 9th overall pick in the draft that was used to select Dylan Guenther.

The Coyotes were forced to forfeit their first round pick in the 2021 draft (11th overall) due to violating the NHL’s combine testing policy.

The team in the trade also received a 2022 second-round pick, a 2023 seventh-round selection as well as forwards Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson and Antoine Roussel.

Here’s what NHL experts around the country had to say about how the Coyotes did with draft day trades and selections.

Adam Herman,

Grade: A

Reasoning: Dylan Guenther resembles much of what a modern team wants in a north-south winger. He’s a powerful skater. He’s not one to dice through layers of defenders or make exceptional lateral pivots, and in that sense he’s fairly average, but when he’s at his top gear in a vertical route, he’s intimidating. His presence feels much greater than his 6-foot-1, 181-pound frame would suggest.

The 2021 draft is littered with players who either have raw skill but no identity or defined traits but low upside. For that reason, Guenther is a breath of fresh air. He’s hardly a renaissance man on the ice, but he has a few major gifts and knows how to implement them effectively. He will need an intelligent center on his line, but he is a safe bet to turn into a top-six winger who scores 20-25 goals and provides defensive effort and forechecking output.

Arizona isn’t getting a steal here or anything, but Guenther was clearly the best player available, and they Coyotes will be content to grab him.

ESPN Staff,

Ranking: 4th

Analysis: The Coyotes started the day without a first-round pick, having had to forfeit it (No. 11) because they violated the NHL’s scouting combine testing rules. Then the Canucks sent the ninth overall pick to Arizona in the trade that sent Oliver Ekman-Larsson to Vancouver, and now we can officially include Guenther as part of the bounty Arizona received in that deal. He was projected by many to go as high as No. 3 overall to the Ducks. He drops here to the Coyotes, who get the kind of goal scorer their prospect pipeline lacks. His shot is great, but his ability to find spaces to get that shot off is equally impressive.

Corey Pronman,

Grade: B+

Reasoning: I’m a huge Dylan Guenther fan. He was my No. 2 ranked prospect, so I obviously think Arizona did well getting him at No. 9, and acknowledge I’m off from the industry in that regard. Josh Doan at No. 37 was rich for me. I don’t think he would have lasted much longer and know several scouts who are huge fans of his, but I’m not over the moon about him. With Ilya Fedotov, I get the talent bet. He hasn’t had a big season, which worries me, but he has a ton of upside. Guenther gets them a high grade and they likely pull one more real NHL player from this class with a lot of guys having chances to play.

Josh Wegman,

Grade: B+

Reasoning: The rebuilding Yotes got out from under a bad long-term deal and re-entered the first round of the draft, where they took Dylan Guenther – who many considered a top-three talent – ninth overall.

Greg Wyshynski,

Grade: A

Reasoning: The winner of this trade is pretty clear. It’s the general manager who doesn’t have Oliver Ekman-Larsson on his salary cap in 2026-27 with a cap hit of over $7.2 million. That team will not be the Coyotes, thanks to another shrewd piece of business from GM Bill Armstrong this offseason.

The Coyotes wanted to move Ekman-Larsson’s contract last offseason, and he was willing to waive his no-movement clause for either the Canucks or the Boston Bruins. A trade never materialized, and the defenseman had yet another underwhelming season, with 24 points in 46 games, playing at a slightly below replacement level, especially on the defensive end. As his average ice time dropped by over two minutes per game, the writing on the wall was clear as day that they’d revisit a move this offseason.

The Coyotes now have seven second-round picks over the next two drafts. Work your magic, Mr. Armstrong.

Garland’s name has been in the trade ether for the past year, with the Coyotes offering strong denials that he was available. Welp, here we are. Garland was a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. He’s a solid, top-six forward who could have been part of the eventual solution in Arizona. But as a way to help facilitate a trade that got the Ekman-Larsson contract off their salary cap and gave them the ninth overall pick in this draft, he served the Coyotes well.

Josh Bell,

Grade: C+

Reasoning: Best Selection: Dylan Guenther (9th)

The Coyotes made a big splash ahead of the draft with the Oliver Ekman-Larsson trade and adding the No. 9 pick after losing theirs as punishment for NHL scouting combine violations. They added the best player available in Guenther at that spot, who immediately becomes the best forward in their system. They then grabbed the son of a Coyote legend, Shane Doan, in Josh Doan, a breakout overager from the Chicago Steel. They ended up betting big on re-entries, taking two more. Taking swings on Ilya Fedotov and Manix Landry look promising.

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NHL Draft grades: Experts give Arizona Coyotes a ‘B+’ for 2021 class