Words By: Sarah Shipman
The inexperienced, but talented Arizona Coyotes were the talk of the NHL last October, as their strong start finally brought hope to the Southwest. However, that euphoria quickly faded away, as the Coyotes drifted from playoff contention.
Despite having a bright future, team ownership decided to make a change at the management level. Out went Don Maloney after nine seasons at the helm, and in came John Chayka as new Coyotes general manager.
This hire shocked the NHL world, as a 27-year old and his band of analytics experts were given the difficult task of putting the Coyotes back into the playoffs after a four-year drought. Chayka strongly believes in this blend of young and old talent can come together and battle for a playoff berth in a tough division.
Here are three key players for the Arizona Coyotes going into the 2016 season:
D Alex Goligoski
The first trade of Chayka’s tenure in the desert brought veteran defenseman Alex Goligoski into the fold to become another presence on the backline. His offensive production is much needed help to a struggling power play that finished 22nd in scoring efficiency last season. Goligoski experience will help to make better decisions from the point position, as he can judge whether to take a shot or hit a teammate streaking towards the net with a sharp pass. Plus, he can mentor the Coyotes top defensemen, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, during tough stretches in the regular season. You can expect Goligoski to have the second highest time-on-ice total behind Larsson this season.=
F Max Domi
Max Domi had an outstanding rookie season that saw him finish second in team scoring with 18 goals and 54 points. No question that Domi is a key piece to the Coyotes resurgence, but their playoff chances will be dampened if a sophomore slump awaits him in 2016. The 19-year old fully expects a different approach to defending him on the ice this season, and it will key for Domi to make the right adjustments and become a more effective two-way player. Coyote head coach Dave Tippett expects Domi to become the team’s top penalty-killer and hopes his natural instincts around the net allows him to become one of the league’s top playmakers. Domi is a very good back-checker because his skating speed creates turnovers in the neutral zone, which gives the Coyotes better scoring opportunities near the goal. It’s time for Domi to become the heir apparent to Shane Doan’s throne as the face of the franchise, and he does this by having another outstanding season.
C Anthony Duclair
Anthony Duclair is another cornerstone piece in the bright future of the Coyotes, as he has improved the team’s overall speed and ability to put the puck into the net. Duclair has an uncanny knack to know when to start a rush into the opponent’s zone and challenge their defense and when to reset the offense from behind his own net. The Coyotes desperately need goal scorers, and Duclair has shown the skills that make him a natural goal-scorer. In his rookie campaign, The Duke netted 20 goals, and Tippett hopes that number can reach 30 or the Coyotes will have a hard time contending for a playoff berth this season.