When the Arizona Coyotes traded for star forward Taylor Hall, they may have received a hidden treasure. Hall has been a member of a team that has won the draft lottery in five of the last nine years between the New Jersey Devils and Edmonton Oilers. Now whether that luck will prevail again will not be known until the outcome of the play-in series between the Coyotes and the Nashville Predators. What’s at stake? Alexis Lafreniere, that’s who.
Alexis Lafreniere on the Arizona Coyotes
The only way this could happen is if the Coyotes lose to the Predators – a distinct possibility. They then would become one of the eight eliminated teams eligible to win the draft lottery. But, didn’t the Coyotes trade away their first-round draft pick to the Devils in exchange for Hall? That they did, but there was some fine print. General manager John Chayka made the exception on that draft pick to exclude a lottery pick. His thinking was that if the Coyotes completely fell apart he would at least have a shot at a lottery choice level player.
His hunch was spot on. We all know Chayka isn’t clairvoyant… at least not yet. He couldn’t have predicted (nor could anyone else) that a pandemic would cease the 2019-20 season causing this scenario to even exist.
Alexis Lafreniere is a talent with excellent NHL ready ability. All the teams now with a possible chance of drafting him are salivating at the prospect. He won the CHL player of the year award twice and is in the good company of one Sidney Crosby for that honour. Lafreniere has tallied 1.92 points-per-game over his last two season in the QMJHL.
Corey Pronman of The Athletic stated that Lafreniere attacks the net, has some physicality in his game and gets a lot of goals in the dirty areas. Now what team including the Coyotes, wouldn’t want those skills on their team?
Last Word’s own Ben Kerr describes Lafreniere as an incredible skater, with great balance, even better speed, and terrific agility. He adds that Lafreniere’s hands, play-driving, and offence are all terrific, ultimately saying, “Lafreniere is also a natural goal scorer… [he] is a prodigious talent with everything NHL teams are looking for.”
Coyotes Need Lafreniere’s Scoring Skills
The Coyotes finished a dismal 23rd in the NHL in scoring just 2.71 goals per game this season. Adding a skilled playmaker who also knows how to turn on the red light could ignite this team’s capabilities on offence.
Another important factor to consider is that, if the team is awarded the first overall selection and chooses Lafreniere, will Taylor Hall stay in Arizona? He has stated he wants to be on a winner. Adding a player of Lafreniere talent doesn’t guarantee that, but it certainly helps. The Coyotes are weak on left-wing with just Hall and Lawson Crouse filling that position and others playing it out of position.
The Coyotes may not keep Carl Soderberg, who usually lines up on the second line with Nick Schmaltz and Phil Kessel. Lafreniere could do nicely on that line and it may even get Kessel’s scoring going again. In any case, there would be no problem fitting in a player of Lafreniere’s skill level on the forward line.
Coyotes Draft History
The closest the team has come to having the first overall pick was in 2015 when they selected Dylan Strome at third overall. Kyle Turris also went third in the 2007 Draft. Having the first overall selection will not only allow the Coyotes to elevate the team’s success possibilities, but it will also likely increase attendance.
With a new owner in Alex Meruelo and new CEO in Xavier Gutierrez planning a possible new arena in the east valley, a player of Lafreniere’s stature can certainly bring more fans through the turnstiles. He could really turn the franchise around in many ways.
Of course, lots has to fall in place for the team to draft Lafreniere. While losing in the play-in series may be painful, if they received the gift (come on Taylor work your magic) of adding the first overall draft pick that will subside most of that pain. The eight teams will have an equal 12.5 percent chance of their ping-pong ball hitting paydirt.
While possessing a 12.5 percent chance of getting a player who can help turn around your franchise sounds poor, it’s the best chance this team has had in a long time. Can all of you Coyotes’ fans just picture Lafreniere on the ice wearing a Coyotes’ jersey?
He’s quite a talent.