Intentional or not, the Arizona Coyotes are making a convincing bid for the first overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. The problem is they are doing it a year (or two) too late.
At the time, Arizona Coyotes fans thought it couldn’t get any worse than the 2014-15 season.
From the losing, to Edmonton leap frogging everyone in the draft lottery for Connor McDavid, it couldn’t get much more miserable…right?
Maybe. It depends on how you look at it.
This season the Yotes are on pace for just shy of 70 points, which is a healthy amount more than they produced two years ago. They are, however, still mired in a dead heat for last place with the similarly struggling Colorado Avalanche.
The lack of a surefire, 100% franchise player at the top of the draft who can step right into the NHL isn’t much consolation to fans who are now suffering through their fifth season without a playoff appearance.
All of the bad defending, terrible zone entries and exits, and teeth-clenching stretches of time spent in their own zone isn’t worth as much this season as it would have been in 2014-15 or 2015-16.
It’s a hard truth, but one the Arizona Coyotes may have to face if they don’t improve.
By all accounts, top rated prospect Nolan Patrick will be a good NHL player.
He can both function as a playmaker and score, and he does play in his own end. In that respect he’s probably more well-rounded than Coyotes prospect Dylan Strome was, and still is even today.
At 6’3 and 195 pounds he has the size to make the NHL straight out of the draft and begin to have an impact, but how impactful he will be is up in the air.
Unfortunately, the expectations around Patrick are more akin to those surrounding former first overall pick Nathan MacKinnon than McDavid, Matthews, or Eichel.
MacKinnon is a very good player who would instantly improve the Arizona Coyotes in more ways than one, however he is not a generational talent.
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Some scouts are even suggesting Patrick “is projected more as a second-line NHL centre.”
By seemingly tanking a year (or two) too late, the Coyotes may end up with a very good piece but they will have missed out on a generational talent in McDavid and two surefire elite players.
With Patrick the Yotes would still have a few of the concerns they continue to have with Strome.
Can he contribute immediately? What’s his ceiling? Will he be able to translate his domination in juniors to the professional game?
Those are all questions they could have avoided with the other three names.
A future world where Nolan Patrick, Dylan Strome, and Christian Dvorak center the top three lines doesn’t seem so bad, however. And that’s not counting Clayton Keller, the Yotes’ best prospect, who may or may not end up playing wing in Glendale.
Provided they all pan out, the Arizona Coyotes would eventually develop one of the most potent center corps in the National Hockey League.
Whatever the case, if the losses continue to pile up fans will be left wondering what might have been.
Without the Oilers’ leapfrog, or with two less wins in 2014-15, or without a blistering month of January from backup goaltender Louis Domingue, things may look very different right now in Glendale.
There’s still time for Arizona to turn the tank around.
The underlying numbers, however, suggest the boat has already hit the iceberg, and the silver lining for a bad season isn’t quite as nice as it would have been in recent years.