In preparing for the NHL draft on June 27, Phoenix Coyotes general manager Don Maloney faces the age-old dilemma.
In fact it seems that Maloney and the other 29 GMs throughout the NHL ponder a similar predicament: drafting for talent versus need.
Because team officials are dealing with a rather significant time window, the answer may not be that difficult.
The issue here, and perhaps in all drafts, remains player development. There is no magic formula, no tried-and-true test pattern to determine a player's progression to the NHL level.
At best, players tend to be anywhere from three to five years on average away from skating at the major league level, and some may be on a faster track and greater acceleration.
“Because we’re dealing with players who are 17, 18, maybe 19 years old, you go for the best talent,” Maloney told reporters after an open house for Coyotes’ fans was held on June 5. “You’re looking at least to a three- to four-year development period. If there is a present need factor, that normally does not enter into the immediate selection process.”
Maloney concedes a player, from time to time, may surface and counter the need argument. In the case of the Coyotes, the team could be looking at Max Domi, the club’s No. 1 selection—and 12th overall—from last year’s draft.
At 19 years old, Domi may be ready to play at the NHL level, and that’s because he was one of the last subtractions in last year’s training camp.
Though Domi did not survive the final cut last fall, he returned to the OHL and led his London Knights in scoring with 93 points (34 goals, 59 assists) in 61 games.
In nine playoff games, he scored four goals and assisted on six others. For his four-year junior career, Domi tallied 94 goals in 187 games, added 135 assists for 229 scoring points.
For the opening round of the draft, which is June 27 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, the Coyotes will pick twelfth again.
Along with the Domi selection, these last two picks represent the highest selections for Phoenix since it drafted defenseman Brandon Gormley at 13 as part of two first-round picks in 2010.
At No. 27 that year, the Coyotes selected goalie Mark Visentin, who has a solid chance to make the club this fall. Visentin could back up Mike Smith since current backup goalie Thomas Greiss becomes a free agent on July 1, and the Coyotes have yet to make decision on a contract offer.
Since their draft selections in 2010, the Coyotes have five former first-round picks with a reasonable chance to make the club. In addition to Domi, these include Gormley and Visentin (2010 draft), defenseman Connor Murphy (2011 draft) and forward Henrik Samuelsson (2012 draft).
The key to building the franchise, notes Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett, is to gain and develop creditable players in the system.
“It’s vital that we build depth,” Tippett told reporters after an open house for Coyotes’ fans was held on June 5. “We like to play a hard game throughout our lineup. We are looking for players who are willing to commit to a hard style.”
Tippett went on to explain a "hard style" is to employ an aggressive checking style, develop strong play by defensemen in front of their goalie and maintain smart and intelligent puck movement.
A New Name
With the opening round of the draft set for 7 p.m. ET Friday, the Coyotes will officially change their name to the Arizona Coyotes at that hour.
The colors—Sedona Red and Sandstone—will not change, and the familiar coyote on the front of the sweater remains the face of the franchise.
The only change—and it is slight—is the shoulder patch. In the past the letters "PHX" were visible, and now the letters "AZ" replace the abbreviation for Phoenix.
At the same time, the Coyotes announced they will hold a draft-viewing party at Jobing.com Arena, their home rink, and the draft will be televised from the video board at center ice. That’s when the name officially changes to the Arizona Coyotes and new Arizona Coyotes merchandise will be available.
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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