Hopes of the Arizona Coyotes reaching the playoffs are all but over, with the next big event for the team to turn their attention being the 2019 draft.
The Arizona Coyotes need to win their final two games of the season to have any hopes of tipping into the playoffs, but will now be more likely to hope for a lottery pick victory.
Regardless of where the Coyotes eventually select in the first round, it is often the later rounds in recent years that the team have managed to uncover some hidden gems.
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In the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, one player that stands out as a potential mid-round steal is Blake Murray of the Sudbury Wolves.
Murray is in his second season in the OHL with the Wolves and has an impressive 30 goals and 20 assists (50 total points) in 66 regular season games.
The young centre also has three goals and a further assist in four OHL playoff games this season.
The Uxbridge, Ontario native improved his goalscoring record from his rookie season – where he earned 21 goals and 44 total points in 57 regular season appearances.
For the Arizona Coyotes, Murray’s stats should jump out immediately – especially since he is currently only ranked as the 111th best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting.
The most common topics that conversations involving the Coyotes mention are their stacked defence and severe lack of consistent goalscoring across the past couple of seasons.
The team’s push for the playoffs has largely come due to the stellar showing of the team’s blueline, penalty killing unit and goaltender Darcy Kuemper.
Adding players capable of topping 20+ goals in a season would help progress the Coyotes into a consistent playoff contender.
Murray, who stands at 6-foot-3, 185lbs, is still only 17 years old and doesn’t turn 18 until July this year, meaning that he still has plenty more time to continue his development with a Sudbury team currently trending upwards.
Landing a young, seemingly underrated player at such a young age in the middle of the draft (between the third and fifth round) could pay off huge dividends in the long run for a team that is beginning to see promising results from their own development system.
The biggest concern of those that have watched Murray since his rookie season in the OHL is his consistency.
Caitlin Berry, Managing Editor of The OHL Collective, has watched Murray regularly over the past two seasons and views him as a player that has something to offer.
She commented: “He’s not a flashy player. But he plays an effective game and possesses a very desirable combination of size and skill, and talent-wise could be right up there in the conversation alongside other high-ranked OHL prospects like [Arthur] Kaliyev and [Ryan] Suzuki.”
“His shot is undoubtedly the best part of his toolkit, with a quick release and excellent accuracy, and he’s a very strong skater with great hands. He can use his size to his advantage and take over games at times.”
She added: “He has fallen on draft rankings due to consistency issues, even shift to shift, making him frustrating to watch sometimes as he can go quiet for long stretches.”
“We also just haven’t seen the increase in production that we expected from Murray after his standout rookie season, and he perhaps needs to work on his physicality and intensity as a 6’3 kid.”
She concluded: “But his potential as a goal-scoring power forward is huge if he can manage to put all the pieces together consistently. And swinging on potential is always a good idea with a mid-round pick.”
If Murray is able to better utilise his size and continue to make strides with his goalscoring, risking even a third-round pick on him could be one of the smartest decisions the Arizona Coyotes make in this year’s draft.
Adding players that can be moulded and coached under the close eye of the Coyotes, developing his game further in juniors before making a step up to Tucson in a couple of seasons, is a move that general manager John Chayka must do.
While he is still a project, his ability to score regularly, long before he even turns 18, shows great promise for a player that is not getting as much attention as other draft-eligibles this season.
What do you think though Coyotes fans? Would Blake Murray be worth taking a gamble on in the middle of the draft? What other area does the team need to address in the draft? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!