PHILADELPHIA — In the nature which is the NHL draft, development is critical.
While the Arizona Coyotes—whose name changed from the Phoenix Coyotes to the Arizona Coyotes on draft day—selected Brendan Perlini, a 6'3", 205-pound left wing, with their first selection in the 2014 draft, the size and compact may be there but the experience is clearly lacking.
Selecting the 12th player chosen overall, the Coyotes went after speed, strength and a potential goal scorer and chose Perlini. While the left-handed shot is likely years away from the Arizona lineup, the selection demonstrates the nature of the NHL draft selection process.
While the NFL and NBA draft for immediate impact players, the NHL and Major League Baseball draft for development. In the case of Perlini, the Coyotes had the 18-year-old on their radar screen for a considerable period of time. Still eligible to play for the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL, Perlini will likely return to the junior level but does factor into future plans to play at the major league level.
Perlini’s selection validates the theory that skill, in the environs of the NHL draft, is the paramount consideration. In this process, teams do not draft for immediate need or to fill a certain position. Rather, the development process is key to a player's ascendancy to the NHL, and Perlini is the first to recognize the process.
“I get only one crack to make an NHL team, and I’ll be ready when the time comes,” Perlini told reporters right after his selection. “My biggest asset is speed and stick-handling ability. I like to push down the rink and drive in the slot.”
At this point, the Coyotes are in desperate need for a strong, power forward and a player who can constantly find the back of the net. In the future, Perlini may be that kind of player, but now, his resume consists of just numbers accumulated at the junior level.
With the Niagara IceDogs last season, Perlini scored 34 goals and assisted on 37 others for 71 points in 58 games. In the process, he led Niagara in goals and finished second in scoring. Perlini was also named the IceDogs’ most sportsmanlike player.
“We had eight guys on our list not to trade down and Perlini was one,” general manager Don Maloney told reporters after the first round. “He’s a big kid with speed and who can score. We’ll see how the pick plays out.”
Perlini is expected to join others drafted by Arizona in a rookie camp planned in two weeks at the Ice Den in Scottsdale.
Here, he could play alongside Max Domi, the Coyotes’ first-round pick of a year ago and a player with whom Perlini looks forward to meeting.
“I played against Max the last few seasons in the OHL, and he is a very skilled player,” Perlini said. “I don’t know him real well, but I'm sure I’ll learn from his experience.”
The first round was completed in three hours Friday night before an estimated crowd of 15,000 in the Wells Fargo Center. Rounds 2 through 7 will be held Saturday and start at 10 a.m. Eastern Time.
Just before commencement of the draft on Friday, the Coyotes announced they bought out the remainder of Mike Ribeiro’s contract.
The move can be interpreted in several ways.
First, Maloney said Ribeiro has “some issues and is getting help.” Maloney would not elaborate.
Also, the departure of the 34-year-old Ribeiro could be considered an initial step in cleaning out unproductive and unwanted players. At the same time, the Coyotes are going through a transition period in the effort to elevate into a playoff contender.
Ribeiro’s exit could also mean the Coyotes are taking at hard look at unrestricted free agents, such as Radim Vrbata, and whether a contract will be extended.
“With Mike, we decided to move in another direction,” Maloney told reporters after the draft was concluded Friday night. “We wish him well, but right now, he does not fit into our plans for the future.”
According to CapGeek.com, the buyout of the remaining three years will cost the Coyotes $1,944,444 for the next six seasons. With the move, adds Maloney, “That will also free up some cap money.”
Regarding players coming on to the market, one intriguing personality is Vincent Lecavalier, who has permission from the Flyers to talk with other teams.
Though 34 years old, Lecavalier brings experience, along with a Stanley Cup championship with Tampa Bay and, through that experience and leadership, could be in a position to elevate the skill level of younger players.
Whether the Coyotes could be interested in Lecavalier, Maloney told reporters after the first round, “We’ll look at any player who can help us.”
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.