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Arizona Coyotes Top-10 Prospects (1-5)

July 24, 2018, 12:13 PM ET [34 Comments]
Adam French
Due to my 30 game cut off, a major player in the prospect business will remain on this list. The Strome remains! Which artificially boosts what is a mixed bag of a prospect pool. The Coyotes have some very nice pieces, as well as some very solid young players already on their club.

1. Dylan Strome – Centreman, 6’3 201lbs, 21 Years Old, 3rd Overall 2015, Tucson Roadrunners in the AHL

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While it may be a tad distressing to see Marner and Hanifin already having two NHL seasons under their belts while Strome remained largely in the AHL, Strome will be a Coyote next season and likely a good one. Strome was one of the best players in the AHL last season after a sputtering start in the NHL where he was given little trust by newly hired Tochett. He managed only 1 goal in 11 games before being sent to the AHL. He lit it up and was eventually re-called for the stretch and had 8 points in his final 10 games. Clearly he had his confidence back and will probably be a serious contender for the Calder this year as an “older” candidate.

Strome’s junior accolades are numerous and well known. He was a dominant force. He has won a Memorial Cup MVP, a CHL Top Scorer Award and lead Team Canada in points in two tournaments. Nobody has ever denied his skills or amazing playmaking, the issue has always been whether his skating can hold up in the NHL. Whether he can dominate and dictate a game enough to overcome it like Thornton or Spezza, or whether he can improve his skating like Tavares. It looks like he spent a lot of time working on his skating in the AHL and he noticeably improved his starting speed. Watching him at the start of the year to his call up it was night and day.

Next year Strome will likely slot behind Stepan in the number two role. That should help give him favourable matchups.

Potential : Top Line Playmaking Centre

2. Barrett Hayton – Centreman, 6’1 190lbs, 18 Years Old, 5th Overall 2018, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the OHL

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Hayton infamously destroyed everyone’s draft boards this past June. The Coyotes went off the board at number 5 and picked who they think is the best centre in the draft. Hayton’s best asset is probably his brain. He’s a very smart young man both on and off the ice. He was the OHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year. His understanding and reading of plays and players is very strong.

He is a very talented skater. A hard working player that never takes a shift off. He is a strong special team’s player. His defensive ability to go along with signs of good vision and a tendency to put the puck on the net should have the Coyotes knowing they are at the very least getting an NHL level player.

Next season Hayton potentially could find himself playing second fiddle again in the Soo as Morgan Frost will either have to make the Flyers fulltime or be forced to play a final season in the OHL. With Couturier-Patrick-Lehtera-Laughton already on the squad, it’s hard to see Frost making it just quite yet. Everybody is expecting a huge season from Hayton, let’s hope he fulfills that.

Potential : Top-6 Two-Way Centre

3. Nicholas Merkley – Right Winger, 5’10 194lbs, 21 Years Old, 30th Overall 2015, Tucson Roadrunners in the AHL

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Merkley went from an extremely promising prospect to a reclamation project to an extremely promising prospect in just three years. It’s been a bit of a bumpy road to say the least. He won the WHL Rookie of the Year as a 16 year old with 58 points in 66 games (17p in 14gp in the playoffs). Merkley was then drafted after scoring 90 points in 72 games (highest scoring WHL draft eligible player), leading the WHL playoffs in assists (22) and finishing on the Memorial Cup All-Star Team. Everything was coming up Millhouse. Then he had an injury riddled season where he just scored 48 points in 43 games and followed that disappointment with a mediocre Draft++ year with just 63 points in 63 games. That year should have some context added. It wasn’t about terrible linemates or a bad team, the Rockets were a very deep squad.

This past season Merkley formed a deadly partnership with Dylan Strome. From all accounts they were the best tandem in the league. His game has evolved from constantly trying to make plays to having an all-around offensive game. Likely due to having to adjust to Strome’s playmaking ability. His 18 goals in 38 games were on pace for the highest goal totals he would have scored in any league he has played in since Bantam AAA.

Merkley has had a few injury riddled seasons and I think his future will depend on health. Obviously he’s not like Gaborik, more like a Ryan Murray. A guy who gets banged up consistently and it just stalls any progress he has made. It will be fascinating to see if he makes the NHL full time next season and if they keep him paired with Strome. Could be a lethal combo for years to come as his smarts and speed mesh well with Strome’s more plodding puck control style.

Potential : Second Line Playmaking Winger

4. Pierre-Olivier Joseph – Left Defenseman, 6’2 161lbs, 19 Years Old, 23rd Overall 2017, Charlottetown Islanders in the QMJHL

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Joseph is known as a high character team first player. A reputation he has earned over the years with both his on and off ice behavior. The Captain of the Islanders personifies the “Jack of All Trades and Master of None” trope we see often. He’s a quality skater, but with no elite tendencies. He’s a solid puck mover, but won’t dazzle or make high end plays. He has a hard and low shot, but isn’t usually the triggerman. This past season was very promising for Joseph. He ended up playing over 30 minutes a game and anchored the Islanders defense. He ended up finishing second on his squad in scoring as the Islanders were not a very strong offensive squad.

I think Joseph is a very viable prospect; my only issue is that like Brandon Gormley (oddly enough) his lack of an “elite” feature might just sink him. There’s no such thing as a “perfect” player, but most NHL players have at least one quality that sets them apart. Even if it’s something silly like Antoine Vermette who might be the best face-off man in NHL history, but doesn’t bring a ton else to the table (these days).

Joseph has never won any award at any level, he has never represented Canada in tournaments, yet he’s still a quality prospect. A very rare situation. There’s a good chance he will change that though as he was invited to the U20 camp and given his age and his brother being a quality member previously, he will probably be given a shot.

Potential : 4-5 Two-Way Defenseman

5. Jan Jenik – Centreman, 6’1 176lbs, 17 Years Old, 65th Overall 2018, HC Benatky nad Jizerou in the Czech Extraliiga-2

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The youngest player in the 2018 draft and a personal favourite of mine from the U18’s, I might be highly biased on this pick for number 5. At the U18 tournament I was really captivated by his play. Jenik really impressed me despite not scoring a single goal. The zero goals thing is also not really his fault. He had a lot of good scoring chances and fired a lot of rubber at the net. He was a bit unlucky and also generated two goals off of high quality rebounds. He ended the tournament with 6 assists in 7 games. He was dynamic as the Czech Republic’s first line centre and showed a lot of poise and patience with the puck. He was really good finding lanes and impressive when behind the opponents net. Very shifty and very good at identifying open players. I was also surprised at how physical he was. Especially because he was probably the lightest guy on the ice most games. He was named a Top-3 Player on his team. This is also not the first time he has excelled internationally. He was a force for the Silver Medal Czech’s at the Ivan Hlinka this year. Scoring 6 goals in 5 games.
Next season Jenik will play in the main Czech Extraliiga unless he makes the move to the Flint Firebirds in the OHL. He was taken 6th Overall in the 2018 CHL Import Draft, but with the massive tire fire surrounding Flint’s team, he might choose to forgo that pleasure. I really like him as a prospect and am curious to see him develop…hopefully in Flint so I can see him play live when he visits Ottawa.

Potential : Second Line Centre

Thanks to the two people who read this.
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