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Given their anemic ability to put the puck in the net last season, the Phoenix Coyotes firmly addressed the issue of scoring.
In the recently completed NHL draft, Phoenix went after offense with their early picks and set a tone for the future direction of this franchise.
Simple and direct, the Coyotes need to light the red lamp.
The question now facing the franchise is the time window. Young players develop later than sooner, but the Coyotes remain in desperate need of offensive power.
Once the Glendale City Council approved an arena lease agreement with IceArizona last week, the long and arduous path to stability was realized. For the past four years, the issues of ownership, location, promotion, free agency among players and creating a viable fanbase all remained outstanding.
Now that IceArizona signed an agreement with the city of Glendale to manage Jobing.com Arena and is on the verge of acquiring the Coyotes from the NHL, the checkbook appears to be open.
In the first step to improve the offense, the Coyotes signed veteran center Mike Ribeiro to a four-year, reported $23 million deal. In quick succession, they re-signed forwards Kyle Chipchura and Lauri Korpikoski, and will likely sign Mikkel Boedker—a restricted free agent. They inked defensemen Chris Summers and Michael Stone to new deals as well.
Yet, future treasures may lay in the recent NHL draft.
In selecting Max Domi fresh off an OHL title with the London Knights and Laurent Dauphin from Chicoutimi of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League as their one-two selections, Phoenix took a leap of faith. Scoring is a clear priority, and general manager Don Maloney trusts he did not miscalculate.
Domi, Dauphin and 34 other hopefuls are in the middle of Prospect Development Camp this week at the Ice Den in Scottsdale. Those who make the cut at this level will be invited to the NHL camp in September.
“Right now, we have a good foundation of defensemen, and we felt it was time to upgrade our skill level on offense,” said coach Dave Tippett, who attended the opening session of the three day event on Tuesday afternoon. “This is also symbolic because it’s a direction where we need to go.”
True, both Domi, selected 12th overall on the first round, and Dauphin, picked with the 39th selection in the second round, are a pair of 18-year-olds and likely in need of professional development. The Coyotes’ organization is aware of the process, but Domi, in particular, wants to immediately lace up his skates at Jobing.com Arena.
“I’m here to work hard and show them what I can do,” said Domi. “I’m excited and pumped up, it’s awesome. Right now, I just want to improve on all aspects of the game.”
Of the two, Domi may have a more direct route to the NHL.
Son of former enforcer Tie Domi, who finished his NHL career with the third-most penalty minutes amassed, Max is considered more proficient around the net. In helping the Knights to their recent OHL crown, Domi pumped in 39 goals and assisted on 48 others for 87 scoring points in 64 games.
“From just what I saw (Tuesday), he is a highly skilled player,” Tippett said of Domi. “Yes, he’s very different from his father, and we’ll see how he goes through this week, and the regular training camp.”
Initially, Dauphin needs to simply bulk up and gain strength.
Listed on the Prospects Development Camp roster at 6', 165 pounds, Dauphin looks more like 145. Viewed as a natural goal scorer, the native of Repentigny, Quebec picked up 25 goals and assisted on 32 for 57 points in 62 games last season.
To draft Dauphin, the Coyotes traded two lower picks for the New Jersey Devils' selection in the second round. That was the 39th pick, and Phoenix used the selection to obtain Dauphin.
Size and strength are priorities Dauphin will take back to Chicoutimi and confirm he will play next season at the junior level.
“I need to get stronger and improved physically,” he said after the Tuesday on-ice session. “I just want to learn from the players around me and improve season to season.”
If Domi brings a skill level and production, the Coyotes also have other offensive prospects in camp. The outstanding question is whether several will get an important look in the up-coming training camp in September.
Two 100-point scorers, Justin Feser (44-62, 106 for Tri-City) and Josh Currie (49-55, 104 for Prince Edward Island), are in camp this week and should get Tippett and Maloney‘s attention.
Four former-No. 1 picks are also skating this week and include defenseman Brandon Gormley, goalie Mark Visentin (both in 2010), defenseman Connor Murphy (2011) and right wing Henrik Samuelsson (2012).
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.