Max Domi and Anthony Duclair were part of the most hyped rookie class in Coyotes history. It’s hard enough to live up to the hype; it’s quite another thing to exceed expectations.
Domi, Duclair and Jordan Martinook spearheaded a rookie class that led the NHL in goals (51) and points (134). Coupled with the unexpected play of goaltender Louis Domingue and the development of defenseman Klas Dahlbeck, Arizona’s rookie class delivered much-needed doses of energy and hope to a team that managed just 56 points the previous season.
As the team’s first-round pick in 2013 (No. 12 overall), Domi was aware of the enormous expectations he faced in his first year.
“You definitely hear about that and read about that stuff, but it doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “All of that stuff was going on before I had played a game in the NHL. I was just trying to get here.”
“For me, as a hockey player, it’s just to control what goes on inside that glass and every time I’m on the ice, control how you dictate your play and practice and how you get better.”
With the Coyotes’ season now over, here’s a snapshot look at the five key rookies’ performances.
Position: Left wing
Notable achievements: Domi set a new Coyotes rookie record for assists in a season with 34. His 12 multi-point games are also a Coyotes rookie record. With 52 points, Domi finished two points shy of tying Peter Mueller’s Coyotes rookie record for points in a season.
Our favorite moment: Domi’s hand-eye coordination was already legendary after he scored a ridiculous alley-oop-to-himself goal while with London of the OHL. In his fourth game of the NHL season, Domi victimized the Minnesota Wild and former teammate Devan Dubnyk. After Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon batted the puck in the air, Domi settled it to the ice with his stick. As he went toward the net, full speed, Spurgeon knocked it away but Domi got it back and roofed it over Dubnyk, whose reaction screamed: “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Area of offseason focus: Domi led the team in turnovers this season with 41. Some turnovers are bound to come from a player who has the puck a lot and is expected to make plays, but Domi finished a minus-13 in this department, per TSN stats, giving him the second worst turnover margin on the team to defenseman Nicklas Grossmann’s minus-18. Domi can improve his puck management and decision-making with the puck.
Quote: “I learned a lot and tried to continue to get better every day. When you do that, you give yourself a bit of a pat on the back and say ‘hey, I’ve done everything I can’ and next year just do the same thing and hope for a couple bounces here or there.”
Position: Right wing
Notable achievements: With 20 goals, Duclair finished two goals short of Peter Mueller’s Coyotes rookie record for goals (22). Duclair’s shooting percentage (19) was the third-highest in the NHL of any player who topped the 20-goal barrier.
Our favorite moment: In just his third NHL game, Duclair recorded a hat trick in a 4-0 win in Anaheim. The Ducks aren’t looking forward to the rest of Duclair’s career. In five games against the Pacific Division rivals this season, Duclair had six goals.
Area of offseason focus: In his own words: “I’m more of an offensive player but I have to grow my game to make sure I’m playing a 200-foot game so I can help the team to the best of my abilities.”
Quote: “It definitely caught me by surprise to get 20 goals and to get a hat trick was a cool moment. To do it so early in my career was pretty special.”
Position: Left wing
Notable achievements: Martinook was named the team’s hardest working player by the fans after an unexpected leap to the NHL level this season. As a critical part of the penalty-killing unit, Martinook was one of three NHL rookies to record multiple shorthanded points this season with a goal and an assist. Martinook led the team in shorthanded time on ice (209:28).
Our favorite moment: Midway through training camp, coach Dave Tippett was asked how Martinook had managed to surprise everyone and work his way into a roster spot. Tippett chided reporters, telling them it may have been a surprise to them, but it wasn’t to the coaches after watching Martinook excel in all the details of the game Tippett stresses.
Area of offseason focus: Martinook set a goal of scoring 10 goals this season and fell one short. He generated 109 shots, which was 10th on the team but to take the next step he must work on his finishing skills and that 8.3 shooting percentage.
Quote: “I don’t want this season to end. It’s almost to the point where I wish we could go right into training camp next year, because it’s been so much fun.”
Goals against average: 2.75
Save percentage: .912
Notable achievements: When Mike Smith had abdominal surgery and Anders Lindback suffered a torn Achilles tendon, Domingue was pressed into every-day action and logged more minutes than any goalie in the NHL from Dec. 17 to March 11. He was named the NHL’s rookie of the month in January with a 2.20 goals against average, a .925 save percentage and a 6-3-2 record. He became the first rookie in franchise history to win three straight games with a 26-save shutout of Nashville that month.
Our favorite moment: It wasn’t exactly textbook goaltending, but Domingue’s across-the-crease, diving save on Henrik Sedin was memorable.
Area of offseason focus: Goalie coach Jon Elkin said there aren’t any significant holes in Domingue’s game so the challenge is to maintain his consistency into next season, especially because he will have to adapt to being a backup who sits for long stretches in between games.
Quote: “My goal this season was to prove I could be a regular, consistent NHL player and I think I did that.”
Notable achievements: Set career highs for games played (71), goals, assists and points.
Our favorite moment: Dahlbeck scored his second goal of the season on Oct. 26 in Toronto. Taking a cross-slot feed from Kyle Chipchura, Dahlbeck extended his season-high point streak to three games with a bomb from the left circle.
Area of offseason focus: Dahlbeck is a good defender in his own zone without the puck. He finishes checks and closes out his man consistently, he has an active stick in passing and shooting lanes and he skates well so he can recover space. He must work on his puck game. He tends to take the first passing option and doesn’t seem comfortable with the puck on his stick. If he is to become a top-four defenseman, that will have to change.
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