Welcome to the latest series here at Last Word on Hockey. Each day, we will take a look at a new team and examine three of their potential breakout or bounce-back players. What are these? These are players that have the chance to make a serious difference with their teams. Whether that’s as someone who finally finds their place in the NHL, or as someone who had previously been good but has struggled as of recently. Each day we will be looking at a different team! However, today we will take a look at the potential 2020-21 Arizona Coyotes key players.
2020-21 Arizona Coyotes Candidates
Hayton, 20 was the Coyotes fifth overall selection in the 2018 NHL Draft. He’s only accumulated one goal, and three assists in 20 games. He also played in five games with the AHL Tucson Roadrunners, where he tallied one goal and four assists. Hayton has the potential to be a starting centre with the team. He showed that potential in the World Juniors where he captained Team Canada to a gold medal. He scored six goals and six assists in just 12 games.
Currently, Hayton has been loaned to the Finnish Liiga Champions Hockey League to get some playing time after he completed his required quarantine. In his first game, he teamed up with another young prospect, Matias Maccelli for a pretty scoring play. Maccelli was the Coyotes 98th overall selection in the 2019 draft. He has played well with five goals and seven assists in 12 games.
Hayton has had some challenges in getting and staying in the NHL and this next season will be a barometer as to his future with the team. He has always displayed excellent two-way play and playmaking abilities the team can certainly use. The organization loaning him to play in Finland is an example of their commitment to developing him into a regular NHL player. Frankly, after being selected fifth overall, this next season is vital that Hayton starts showing some results at the NHL level.
It would do the 2020-21 Arizona Coyotes well to have this exciting, young player on their starting lineup when the season resumes. He is definitely a player of the future for the Desert Dogs.
Christian Dvorak has to be considered as a bounce-back candidate here. During the 2018-19 season, he suffered a debilitating pectoral injury which shortened his season to just 20 games. Once he returned this past season he made up for lost time by registering 18 goals and 20 assists in 70 games. Dvorak signed a lucrative six-year $26.7 million dollar contract in August of 2018. The 6′-0″, 195-pound centre was the 58th overall selection of the Coyotes in the 2014 NHL draft. He is just 24 years old and has shown he can compete in the NHL.
Whether Dvorak can be considered a first-line centre or not, one thing is certain. He is a fierce competitor who seems almost emotionless on the ice even when he scores a big goal. He brings his lunchpail to work and is an excellent playmaker. If Dvorak can continue his improved play, he will be a plus to the weak Arizona offence. Six of his goals this last season were on the power play. He certainly fits in well on that unit. If Dvorak can stay healthy, he is a valuable player for the team going forward.
Lawson Crouse, a 6′-4″, 220 pounds forward who has averaged almost three hits per game has progressed well with the team. This past season he tallied 15 goals and 10 assists in 66 games. He also improved his shooting percentage to a respectable 13.8 percent. It would do him well if his linemates put the puck on his stick more often. He is due for a real breakout season; and if his progression continues he will use his physical attributes to accomplish just that. Crouse signed a three-year $4.6 million deal in July of 2019.
He has been tried on various lines and with new the additions of Tyler Pitlick, John Hayden, and Johan Larsson, the fourth line looks to have improved. What could be of real interest is if head coach Rick Tocchet decides to put both Hayden and Crouse on the same line to shut down their opponents.
Reason for Optimism
If these three players can stay on course and continue to improve, the 2020-21 Arizona Coyotes will do fine. Look for Hayton to perhaps break the 12-goal mark and Dvorak to exceed 50 points. Crouse has shown he is more than a big body and has the potential to be on the game scorecard with frequency. For the Coyotes to progress to the postseason once again, these three vital players will need to perform to the best of their abilities.