1. Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz are the franchise, and they are locked up long-term
The secret is out; Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz are stars in this league. Keller was on track for the best season of his young career (28 goals, 35 assists, and 63 points in 67 games) before a leg fracture ended his season. Watch the video, it was not pretty.
Prior to the injury, Keller played in his second All-Star game and shined on the big stage, logging a goal and two assists. All season long, Keller played at an elite level on a team void of any real scoring talent sans Schmaltz.
In now his seventh season with the team, Keller has taken a leadership role finally donning the ‘A’. Keller is the favorite to become the next captain, is the MVP of the team, and a player who leads by example. He is entering the third year of his 8 year/ $57.2 million contract.
Nick Schmaltz has had an up and down career as an Arizona Coyote. Upon being acquired by the team from Chicago in 2018 for Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini, Schmaltz scored 14 points in 17 games and was immediately locked up to a 7 year/ $40.9 million contract. The Coyotes finally had the number one center that they haven’t had since the days of Jeremy Roenick.
Since signing the contract Schmaltz has fought injuries and inconsistency under then head coach Rick Tocchet. This past season, Schmaltz fought through his usual injuries, but became a force to be reckoned with when paired with Keller under new coach André Tourigny. Schmaltz went 23-36-59 in 63 games played. Almost a point per game player.
Both Keller and Schmaltz excelled in the rebuild and have set the stage for the years to come. Having a legit number one center, and a super star right wing gives the Coyotes two of the biggest pieces to build around.
The team may be in a massive rebuild, but there are pieces currently in place to construct a not only competitive roster, but a team that could take a shot at going deep into the playoffs sooner rather than later. Being stuck in a perpetual rebuild sucks, and it seems at times that the team is never going to do anything to reward its die-hard fans. There is a lot to like about the direction that this team is in and many reasons to be hopeful rather than stuck in the same narrative- “here we go again, hockey the hard way sucks”.
This team is on the rise. Be excited, see a game next season (if you can get seats), and cross your fingers that GM Bill Armstrong’s picks pan out.
We are close to something special.