Coyotes note progress in rebuild before heading into offseason

Apr 15, 2023, 10:20 AM | Updated: 10:27 am

Arizona Coyotes right wing Clayton Keller celebrates after his goal against the Anaheim Ducks durin...

Arizona Coyotes right wing Clayton Keller celebrates after his goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 8, 2023, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Coyotes have scattered for the offseason after notching a 28-40-14 record in 2022-23.

Arizona missed the NHL playoffs by 25 points, but head coach Andre Tourigny noted progress in the team’s rebuild.

“I’m extremely proud of the way the players battled,” Tourigny said. “The way they stick together and the brotherhood, we keep improving year after year.”

Asked when he thinks the team could return to the NHL postseason, Tourigny likened the team’s rebuilding effort to climbing a mountain, emphasizing the importance of taking it one station at a time.

“If you’re looking at the summit, you forget what’s at the next step,” Tourigny said. “We’re really proud of how tight and competitive we were. We made a step this year. So, there’s no way we’re accepting anything else than another step next year. We want to be better and one thing I like about our young group is that they’re so competitive.”

General manager Bill Armstrong agreed.

“If you look at most rebuilds, they get messed up because they think the rebuild is over,” Armstrong said. “… Our team has to show us that we’re there. What we want to do is let this happen naturally, let the group dictate where we’re going.”

Armstrong expects to be busy this offseason.

“I liked our group,” Armstrong said. “I think there are some pieces that have emerged for us that are exciting … I still think we need to add some pieces to bolster who we are. I think we’re going to become a better team in the offseason, I don’t think we’re going to do anything crazy, but there are some small pieces that we can add in that will make us a better organization.”

Arizona notched 21 of its 28 victories at Mullett Arena, its new, albeit temporary, home on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe.

The team’s 21-25-5 home record was an encouraging start to what’s expected to be a three-year run at the building.

“It’s small, but to have the atmosphere,” forward Christian Fischer said of the 4,600-seat venue. “It’s the first year since I’ve been here where you score a goal and you get the crowd behind you and you get momentum.”

Clayton Keller notched 45 of his career-high 86 points on home ice, including 19 of his career-high 37 goals.

The 24-year-old had a breakout season after suffering a season-ending leg injury last season.

“I think I surprised myself a little bit but I always knew I could do it,” Keller said. “Now I think it’s a matter of doing it again. I still don’t think I’m at my prime by any means. I can be a lot better in many areas in my game and continue to keep building and get better.”

Next up for the Coyotes is securing their position in the first round of the upcoming NHL Draft, which will occur via the draft lottery on May 8.

Arizona finished with the sixth-lowest point total (70) in the league this season. That leaves the Coyotes with a 7.5 percent chance of winning the draft lottery.

The Anaheim Ducks finished with the fewest points (58) and are the most likely team to win the draft lottery with an 18.5 percent chance.

The NHL Draft is set for June 28-29 in Nashville.

Connor Bedard is expected to be the pick of the team that wins the lottery.

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