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What the Coyotes will bring to Utah in 2024-25 and beyond

As we know, the Arizona Coyotes’ journey in the 48th state has come to a close. It’s been more than a month since commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL announced that the franchise would be relocated to Utah under new owner Ryan Smith, who bought the team in a $1.2-billion deal brokered by the league. What was a devastating event for hockey fans in the desert has now become a new chapter filled with excitement for fans in Utah who have been anxiously waiting for NHL hockey. 

“We expressed our interest publicly with the NHL,” Ryan Smith told The Associated Press. “It’s probably been two years where we’ve said, ‘Hey, look, we really believe Utah can be an incredible hockey town.’ You look at all the demographics, we were just talking about the Olympics and you think about the Olympics coming back. It all kind of made sense.”

The past has not been kind to this franchise. The Coyotes have never won the draft lottery or have drafted second overall; they have never won a Stanley Cup. The furthest they have advanced in the playoffs ever was the Western Conference Final in 2012 where they were sent home by the Los Angeles Kings in five games. They have been bottom feeders in the league for more than a few years now.

Success and the Coyotes have not meshed well over the years but this is a fresh start in Utah with the players on the roster now. The history remains in Arizona so maybe the struggles and issues they have faced will stay as well.

Hockey fans in Utah are extremely lucky. They won’t have to go through as many of those “dark days” Coyotes fans lived through watching their team rebuild for many seasons. They are skipping most of the struggles that come with a new team and are receiving the Coyotes just as they are about to emerge into a competitive group. While it may not happen next season or the season after that, this team has made multiple strides over the years in terms of drafting and player development to pave the way for this group to be taken seriously. 

With that being said, for the new fans of this team and hockey fans in Utah, let’s take a look at what exactly you are getting with the former Arizona Coyotes.

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Former Coyotes forward Lawson Crouse has reached 20 goals each of the past three seasons. (Getty Images)

Key roster Coyotes  

It’s only right to start off with the most important part of an organization, the players who make it happen on the ice. There are more than a few key players on this roster on whom you should keep your eyes focused.

F Clayton Keller: The 25-year-old winger was drafted seventh overall in 2016 by the Coyotes and has 418 points through 520 games played. He is the face of the franchise, the player whom fans in Arizona have been proud to call their best player for the last number of years, the player who has been selected to represent the Coyotes at the All-Star game for the past three years in a row.

When you think about this current group, Keller is the first name that pops into people’s minds. He is seventh all-time in points, and eighth all-time in goals and assists in franchise history. Offensively he can do it all, he’s an extremely skilled forward and he’s been this group’s engine offensively for the past seven years. 

F Lawson Crouse: Crouse was also drafted in the first round, but a year earlier than Keller. The Florida Panthers selected him 11th overall but he never played a game for them. Crouse has been in this locker room for over eight years and although this group does not have a captain, you can classify him as someone who could be the captain; someone who brings in that leadership presence.

Crouse isn’t the flashy, highlight-reel type of player that Keller is. He is a player that plays the game the “right way”. He’s a big reliable forward standing at 6-feet-4 who has an incredible work ethic on both sides of the puck. He’s a hard forechecker who’s willing to leave it all on the ice. 

F Nick Schmaltz: Schmaltz is another one of this group’s skillful forwards. When he is on, he is on and you will notice him all over the ice, but the concern with Schmaltz is consistency. When he isn’t feeling it, it’s noticeable. The 28-year-old center was drafted 20th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2014.

He spent just under three seasons with the Blackhawks before he was shipped to Arizona. He and Keller have combined to form this team’s dynamic duo. The chemistry these two forwards have together has allowed them to connect and produce a lot of offense for this team. 

Those are the three players that wear an “A” on their chest, your alternate captains. The three longest-tenured Coyotes on this current roster who have played through a lot of the lows this group has gone through on and off the ice in recent years, and who will lead this team out of the rebuild and toward the playoffs.

G Connor Ingram: It wasn’t until this year that Ingram established himself as the Coyotes’ starting goaltender, but the way he performed this season was good enough for him to continue as their starter in Utah come October. Ingram was drafted 88th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2016 but he never played a game for them. It wasn’t until 2021 after he came back from the NHL’s player assistance program that he made his debut with the Nashville Predators.

He only ended up playing two more games for the Predators before Arizona claimed him off waivers in 2022. It’s remarkable the kind of opportunity Ingram has created for himself, going from waivers to starting goaltender. Ingram tied for the most shutouts of any goaltender this season with six and was named the winner of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. He was a huge part of the Coyotes’ ability to improve on their record from the 2022-23 season and will continue to play a key role for this team as they progress.  

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Coyotes center Logan Cooley celebrates a goal with teammate Dylan Guenther at Mullett Arena on Feb. 14.
(Getty Images)

Young guns

The injection of youth has played a big part in the development of this team and these three players make up a big chunk of that.

F Dylan Guenther: Guenther has quickly emerged as an important part of this team during his short time in the NHL, giving this group another threat offensively. Guenther was drafted ninth overall by the Coyotes in 2021 and he’s already proven to be a natural goal scorer, a lethal sniper, scoring 24 goals in 78 games played. He not only provides a wicked shot but he can also be trusted in the defensive zone.

Guenther possesses all of the tools that can make him an elite forward in the near future. He has already been phenomenal to watch, and he’s nowhere near the level he can reach. This is one of the players everyone is talking about when they say the future is bright. 

C Logan Cooley: When the Coyotes drafted Cooley third overall in 2022, the hope was that the Coyotes had found their next elite superstar; the future of this organization. Multiple scouting analysts have said that when it’s all said and done, Cooley will most likely be the best player to come out of the 2022 draft. He is tied with Dylan Strome and Kyle Turris for the highest-drafted Coyote of all time.

You will quickly notice the innate talent Cooley has and what he can do with the puck on his stick. His hockey sense and athleticism put together are like magic. The things Cooley can do, and the plays he can create are mind-blowing. There is room for Cooley to grow as an NHL player and we saw that in the beginning of the season, but the way he continued to improve as his rookie season progressed is proof that it’s just a matter of time before he could see him become a problem in this league and a weapon for Utah. 

Nick Schmaltz and Clayton Keller have been this team’s closest thing to an elite duo but the way Cooley and Guenther have clicked in half a season was just mind blowing. Watch for these two players to be paired with each other for a long time, and watch for them to do some serious damage as they continue to get better and build on that ridiculous chemistry they showed this season. 

F Matias Maccelli: For the first time on this list we have a forward who wasn’t drafted in the first round but has exceeded expectations exponentially considering his draft position. Maccelli was drafted in the fourth round by the Coyotes in 2019. It’s not often that a fourth-round draft pick becomes a regular on an NHL roster let alone become a top-six forward. Well, Maccelli has done just that and has proven himself as an NHL player who can produce offensively.

Through 169 career games played Maccelli has collected 112 points. As a fourth-round pick who is not the biggest or strongest guy, he has been pretty impressive. He also finished fourth in Calder voting last season. Macceli is a playmaker, he’s great at creating space, drawing guys toward him and sifting pucks through tight areas or through multiple opponents. He’s got a motor on him and a great set of hands which makes it a whole lot easier for him to set up teammates, especially on the power play.

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Josh Doan. (Photo by PHNX Sports’ Danielle Cortez)

Intriguing prospect pool 

While the Coyotes haven’t been successful on the ice in recent years, there is an area in which they have been successful. They have found success in drafting and building for the future. There are five highly touted prospects this organization possesses who have the possibility of pushing for a roster spot at training camp. 

F Josh Doan: The son of Coyotes legend Shane Doan was drafted 37th overall in 2021 and has already put up five goals and nine points through 11 games played in the NHL. He also led the Tucson Roadrunners in the AHL this year in points with 46.

 D Victor Söderström: Drafted 11th overall, he has played 49 NHL games but has spent the better part of three years in the AHL with the Roadrunners.

 F Aku Räty: Taken in the fifth round (151 overall), he made his NHL debut in the last game of the season. He was second in points on the Roadrunners this season with 44.

 F Conor Geekie: Drafted 11th overall, he had 99 points through 55 games played this year in the WHL. He also represented Canada at the World Junior Championship this season.

D Maveric Lamoureux: Drafted 29th overall, he played with the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the QMJHL this year. He had 33 points through 39 games played as well as a plus-21 before suffering an injury. 

There are two more prospects who will look to crack the NHL one day but aren’t eligible to do so just yet as they are still under contract in the KHL. Keep the names Dmitri Simashev and Daniil But in the back of your mind. They were both taken in the first round in 2023, Simashev at sixth overall and But at 12th overall.

These are the two Russian players the Coyotes shocked the hockey world with when they decided to select them during last year’s draft. No one expected those two to be drafted as high as they were so it will be interesting to see if they live up to what hockey operations saw in them. 

Behind The Scenes 

Along with the roster, two more pieces would be joining the players in the Beehive State. Those two pieces would be coach André Tourigny and GM Bill Armstrong

Tourigny has been coaching since 2002; that’s 22 years of experience. He spent many years coaching junior hockey in the QMJHL as well as the OHL. He got his first coaching gig in the NHL as an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche and later on, was an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators. In 2021, Tourigny was named coach of the Coyotes and he’s spent the past three seasons with the club. 

Coaching a team during a rebuild is tough and sometimes a lot of the heat is directed toward the head coach even if it isn’t warranted. The positive signs for Tourigny are that he has control of the locker room. These players want to play for him and want to win with him and it’s a huge reason why he remains head coach.

The other positive sign is that there has been growth with him behind the bench. During his first season as head coach, the Coyotes finished with 57 points. The next season they finished with 70 points, and this past season they finished with 77 points. The improvement is there and that’s about as much as you can ask for from a rebuilding team. 

Armstrong is the man pulling all the strings. He is the man behind all those draft picks, all those interesting prospects fans are excited to see, the man that is inching this organization step by step back to being competitive. The roster you see on paper today is courtesy of Armstrong. He was the director of amateur scouting as well as an assistant general manager with the St.Louis Blues for a number of years before becoming the general manager of the Coyotes in 2020.

He took over before the bubble year and the Coyotes missed the playoffs finishing with 54 points in the West Division. Since then he has made significant progress, both on the draft board and on the makeup of the roster as it sits right now. It seems as if his rebuilding plans are working because he is doing it the right way. He’s not taking shortcuts and he’s putting the right people in the right places in order to get this team on a path to being a playoff contender in the near future. 

To the fans in Utah, there is so much to look forward to with this group which made it that much harder for hockey fans in the desert to say goodbye. The pieces are being put together one season at a time and the future couldn’t be brighter. Get ready for the former Arizona Coyotes because great times are ahead.

Follow Raz Devraj on X/Twitter

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