Arizona Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong: It takes time, patience to grow a tree

Jul 2, 2022, 11:00 AM
The Arizona Coyotes salutes the crowd after a win against the Nashville Predators at Gila River Are...
The Arizona Coyotes salutes the crowd after a win against the Nashville Predators at Gila River Arena on April 29, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Arizona Coyotes have a monumental week ahead after finishing last in the Central Division in 2021-22.

The NHL Draft begins Thursday evening and the Coyotes own nine picks, seven of which are in the opening two rounds.

Arizona will select third overall, and general manager Bill Armstrong told reporters his staff is ready.

“You get excited because you’re gonna walk out with some really good players on both days,” Armstrong said Friday. “The preparation leading into it, it’s been outstanding from our group. We’ve been on it right since the start of the last summer. And it’s just continued to kind of push forward. We’re gonna get a good player at No. 3. ”

A key element of Armstrong’s remarks Friday involved the timeline, and that the organization knows it has to be patient to build and sustain a winning team.

Armstrong likened their situation to planting a tree, one that regardless of nutrients and sunlight needs time to grow.

That’s why he said the franchise can draft players who may not be ready to go next season, the year following or even two years down the line.

The general manager feels that the amount of picks at his disposal gives the Coyotes the chance to be patient.

“We’re not afraid because we have so many picks, it’s an advantage for us to look at a player and say, ‘Okay, this guy’s a project, he’s gonna come to development camp and fall down more times than you care to remember. But in five years from now, this guy is going to be a player,'” Armstrong said.

Armstrong called this the first year of the rebuild after last offseason’s tear down. The Coyotes dealt Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Conor Garland and Darcy Kuemper in a slew of trades last summer.

He said that the timeline to make the playoffs after the start of a rebuild is usually 5-6 years and it can take longer to develop a championship-caliber team.

“When you come watch us in the next few years, you’re gonna see some young talented players and some hope in our organization,” Armstrong said. “Then when you kind of get over that hump in the fourth and fifth year, you get a chance to make the playoffs if you’ve got the right combination there.”

Armstrong said the most important trait he’s looking for in prospects is “hockey sense.” He wants someone who can play in big moments.

The team will also factor size, speed and skill, with Armstrong noting they will take their top player available as opposed to drafting for positional need.

Arizona took forward Dylan Guenther with the No. 9 pick last year.

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Arizona Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong: It takes time, patience to grow a tree