To be a Coyotes fan has also meant for many years now to be a fan of the draft. As GM Bill Armstrong assembles a colossal swarth of draft picks for his scouting team to dine upon next summer, the Coyotes are on another collision course for the basement of the NHL standings.
2023 however could be a massive year for Arizona, as this draft class is headlined by multiple potential franchise players. Let’s outline some of the bigger names for Coyotes fans to keep tabs on heading into this season.
Connor Bedard – Center – Regina Pats (WHL)
Height: 5’ 10” Weight: 185 lbs
This kid needs no introduction, he’s been penciled in as the #1 pick for the 2023 draft since he was 14. Bedard most recently became the youngest WHL player in history to score 50 goals in his mind-bending 51-goal, 100-point sophomore season with the Pats, and could even surpass that mark this year. In an article like this, he makes it incredibly boring to talk about him – he’s simply elite in every category. Connor could stand to put a couple more pounds on and grow a few more inches, but he is the next One.
If Arizona can finally end the drought of awful lottery luck and secure the #1 pick this year, the rebuild will get an insane boost. An A1 top end center prospect like Bedard has never been seen before in the desert, and would give the Coyotes the best shot they’ve ever had at building a championship team.
Matvei Michkov – Right Wing – SKA (KHL)
Height: 5’ 10” Weight: 159 lbs
Michkov, like his Canadian counterpart Connor, is a franchise talent. Offensively he is elite – some say he could be even better than Bedard in that respect. His size, also like the slightly-bigger Bedard, is a little concerning for the NHL, but he’s still only 17 and has time to grow. Michkov is cerebral and can almost predict what a defense is going to do, making his offensive zone lethality one of his biggest assets.
It’s hard to say with everything going on in Russia what will come of Michkov when draft day comes, plus Michkov is already signed with SKA through 2025-26, which is concerning on its surface. Arizona has the propensity to stay away from prospects like this in fear they will never come over at all – I honestly believe this damages a chance of Arizona drafting Michkov if they were to pick #2 overall.
Adam Fantilli – Center – University of Michigan (NCAA)
Height: 6’ 2” Weight: 187 lbs.
Fantilli is a very exciting prospect, but even more so for Coyotes fans. For one, he’s the consensus #3 pick, and the Coyotes have a tendency to never pick higher than 3rd. But draft luck aside, Fantilli is a player I can see Arizona reaching for at pick #2, taking at pick #3, or possibly getting lucky enough to grab at #4, depending on how the lottery shakes out. Arizona has wanted a player like this for ages and Fantilli makes the most sense in terms of a team fit.
Adam Fantilli is the prototype prospect for GM Bill Armstrong. Fantilli may not be as high end skills-wise as Bedard or Michkov, but has a big frame, has high-end skating ability, and is skilled at the center position. He’s not afraid to fight for pucks and use his size, but also has the ability with the puck to make dazzling passes and set up his teammates. His last season with Chicago (USHL) saw him net 37 goals and assist in 54 games, where he was a huge part of an already loaded Steel team. This year he’s taking his talents to Ann Arbor to play for another big program at the University of Michigan.
Zach Benson – Left Wing – Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
Height: 5’ 10” Weight: 159 lbs
A teammate of Coyotes 2022 1st round pick Conor Geekie, Benson is poised for another big year in the WHL. Last season, he enjoyed a point-per-game scoring pace, as well as being a force in the WHL playoff picture for the Ice. Benson is very much an offense-first scoring winger that’s deadly on the powerplay. Benson could stand to improve upon his skating, but will look to this season to improve on his game and cement himself as a top 5 prospect.
If the Coyotes fall out of the top end talent pool at the draft, Benson wouldn’t be an awful consolation prize. Chemistry with Geekie isn’t nothing, and a top end offensive talent could pair nicely with the likes of Geunther and Cooley, the more high-end skilled prospects in the Coyotes pipeline.
Dalibor Dvorsky – Center – AIK (Allsvenskan)
Height: 6’ 1” Weight: 201 lbs
To give you an example of 2023’s draft class strength, Dvorsky could more or less have been a top pick last year. Although Dvorsky isn’t held in as high regard, he is poised for an interesting season that could separate him from the rest of the tweener 1st round prospects.
One thing going for Dvorsky is his time playing against men as a 16 year old. His size and experience in a pro system will give him a leg up this year, returning to Allsvenskan for his second year. His shooting is good, but Dvorsky’s value lies in his puck possession and playmaking ability, he can slow down a game in the offensive zone and extend plays, as well as patiently regulate traffic under duress. If Dvorsky can work on his offense in high-danger areas, it could really propel his value.
If Arizona is picking Dvorsky, they were either too good this year, or Dvorsky was. Either way, he would be a welcome addition to the prospect pool – just not the franchise-altering player they’re hoping for in this class.