After a season to forget and a draft to remember, the Coyotes look to do much of the same this fall; lose often and pick high this summer. But not all is lost as an entertainment product, as there will be some reasons to keep watching the team. These are five players that are poised to take a leap next season.
Janis Jérôme Moser – Defense
2021-22 Stats: 4G-11A-15Pts in 43GP
J.J. Moser was a bit of an anomaly, bursting onto the scene in his draft season with the Coyotes. In fact, Moser has scored the most points and played the most NHL games of any Coyotes 2nd-round pick since Christian Fischer was drafted in 2015.
Moser only lasted until December with the AHL affiliate Roadrunners in Tucson before a depleted Arizona blueline required his services. Still, he managed to rack up an impressive five goals and 12 points in just 18 games in the AHL. Seizing the opportunity of a call-up, J.J. Moser shone for the Coyotes as a shockingly reliable defense option on the depth chart, averaging a whopping 18:42 TOI last season.
His game wasn’t free of errors, but he earned the trust of coach Tourigny, and next season he will be looking to build off that trust. There’s no shortage or rumors surrounding the Coyotes’ blueline next season. Between Jakob Chychrun’s speculated trade requests or the eventual selling off of appreciating asset Shayne Gostisbehere, Moser will have ample opportunity to make a leap to imprint his name on the upper half of the depth chart this year.
Barrett Hayton – Center
Drafted by ARI 1st Round (5th overall) in 2018
2021-22 Stats: 10G-14A-24Pts in 24GP
Barrett Hayton’s 2021-22 campaign wasn’t exactly what the fans and maybe even the Coyotes management were hoping for from the 5th overall pick in 2018. Even taking into consideration Hayton suffering a broken hand that sidelined him most of January and February, his stats weren’t popping any eyes. That being said, growth was made—that’s all you can hope for in a season where the team is actively not trying to compete. Not all players are created equally, and not every player drafted high needs to come out and score 20 goals in their rookie season to be worth drafting. The 22-year-old has been through his share of setbacks and pitfalls, but the 2022-23 season holds a lot of promise.
For one, the lack of center depth means Hayton has every opportunity to turn a clean slate season into his best yet. Nick Schmaltz and Travis Boyd seem to be the only two centers who could kick him back to the bottom six, and they ended the year on the top line together with Clayton Keller. Hayton has the 2C job at arms reach, with only Jack McBain and Nathan Smith contesting him, which I don’t see happening.
Another point that should benefit Barrett Hayton is that 2021-22 was his first full NHL season, one spent as a regular on the Coyotes’ 1st PK team, going up against the elite scorers of the NHL every night. In his bottom-six role, killing penalties, taking hard matchups and big faceoffs, Hayton got to work on the finer points of his game that make him a complete player. 2022-23 feels like the season where the horses will be let out of the barn, and we will see what this kid can do on all ends of the ice.
Lawson Crouse – Winger
Drafted by FLA 1st Round (11th overall) in 2015
2021-22 Stats: 20G-14A-34Pts in 65GP
Crouse had a massive year in all regards – proposing to his girlfriend on a trip to Paris, signing a big 5-year, $21.5 million contract, and his on-ice production saw a new high scoring 20 goals and 14 assists playing in a top-six role with Arizona most of the year. The crazy part is that I think next year will get even better.
Lawson Crouse is a driven and hard-nosed player, comfortably playing the power forward role in Arizona. Crouse needs to repeat or improve last year’s production to show the team he’s worth the extension he signed. Looking around the league, the consensus is that his new deal is an overpay; frankly, it would be to most teams. For Arizona, this deal is to retain and reward a locker room and community leader who has been through the team’s hard times, is dedicated to sticking out a rebuild, and wants to be leading the way when the team is ready to compete.
His dedication to the team and the momentum built off last season and this offseason, gives me great confidence in a repeat performance by Crouse.
Jakob Chychrun – Defense
Drafted by ARI 1st Round (16th overall) in 2016
2021-22 Stats: 7G-14A-21 Pts in 47GP
Chychrun’s name has been all over the news this summer, some in trade rumors and some in questioning his high price tag GM Bill Armstrong has advertised to inquiring teams. Chychrun did have a low year last year compared to his 2020-21 season, which garnered some fringe-Norris vote buzz, but this shouldn’t hurt his value too much. However, if he wants a trade, nobody will want him or pay the price for him; if he lays another egg next season, Jakob will have his destiny in his own hands.
Either way, you slice it, my feeling is Chychrun is destined for another team, but GM Armstrong will not budge on his asking price, as reported multiple times by PHNX reporter Craig Morgan.
Chychrun was once the beloved son of this franchise, winning over fans with his high-end ability and never-say-die work ethic that brought him back from multiple injuries months before expected. Lately, the feeling is that he’s made his true colors show, in stark contrast to Crouse’s. Fans of this team want players who want to be here, so here’s hoping Chychrun can drum up enough interest to punch his ticket out of here by Draft Day 2023.
Nick Bjugstad – Center
Drafted by FLA 1st Round (19th overall) in 2010
2021-22 Stats: 7G-6A-13Pts in 57GP
For Nick Bjugstad, it’s pretty simple. He is just another on the long list of Coyotes redemption stories. Like the Gostisbehere’s, Ladd’s and Eriksson’s before him, Bjugstad is a player who thinks he can still hang in this league and needs a team who will let him prove that. He certainly fits the profile of GM Armstrong’s prototypical big-body forward and will get ample time on this team next season. The best outcome for Bjugstad is that he gets dealt to a contender at the deadline after showing he’s still got game.
His best seasons are certainly behind him, but the 6’ 6” Minnesotan can still make a splash offensively and chip in on special teams. He will more than likely be given all the opportunities by coach Tourigny this season to show what he can do in a low-key Arizona market. I can see Arizona extending him if he doesn’t garner much interest, but Bjugstad is likely aiming to at least get one more run to the cup before he calls it quits.