NHL teams build their teams in many different ways. Some construct their clubs via free agency while others do it through trades. However, the main way teams create a roster is through the NHL Draft. Most years have maybe one or two players make the roster, but some years the general manager gets it right and gets a cornerstone or two for the franchise. The Last Word on Hockey is doing the best draft class for each team with the exception of the Seattle Kraken. Today we look at the Arizona Coyotes best draft class.
Arizona Coyotes Best Draft Class: 2015
2015 NHL Draft
We selected the 2015 draft as the best for the Arizona Coyotes. While there were other drafts even going back to the Winnipeg Jets era, 2015 shined as the most attractive. With six players drafted that season who have all made it to the NHL, the choice was pretty simple. We will go over each drafted player from 2015 to give you an overview of each player’s involvement with the franchise.
Dylan Strome, 1st Round, Third Overall
It seemed to be a ‘no-brainer’ to go after a talented good sized (6′-3″, 200 pounds) centre, right? Well, not actually. It’s not quite understandable looking back in retrospect (as in an armchair GM role) as to why then general manager Don Maloney passed on Mitch Marner who went right after Strome. Of course, we all know how successful Marner has been. Try 355 games, 103 goals, 255 assists for 358 total points. Compared to what Strome has put up with 204 games, 45 goals, 77 assists for 122 points. Of course, Strome took more time to break into the NHL than Marner.
It remains a mystery why Strome was chosen so high, or better yet why he has not shown the skill level of other third overall selections. With the Chicago Blackhawks improved lineup on the forward lines, Strome is likely to be traded again. For a third overall selection, he has been quite a disappointment.
Nicholas Merkley, 1st Round, 30th Overall
Merkley has had injury issues and has only played 32 NHL games. He was traded from the Coyotes to the New Jersey Devils in the Taylor Hall deal. Merkley has worked mostly in the AHL, gathering 128 games with 34 goals and 63 assists. He still may turn out to be a good NHL player, but thus far that hasn’t happened. He was traded again recently to the San Jose Sharks, so we’ll see how he does there.
Christian Fischer, 2nd Round, 32nd Overall
Fischer has mostly been a role player on the third or fourth line. In 355 games he has collected 38 goals, 36 assists for just 74 points. While he may only average 0.28 points per game, he is more of a defensive specialist and penalty killer. He is also not afraid to use his large frame (6′-2″, 214 pounds) to intimidate opponents and make their life a living hell in the corners. So, he plays a role and he has stuck with the Coyotes for five seasons.
Kyle Capobianco, 3rd Round, 63rd Overall
Capobianco is another player with potential who is still in the Coyotes’ system trying to become a regular with the NHL club. He has been playing well in the AHL affiliate Tucson Roadrunners for the last four years. He’s had 155 games with 21 goals, 91 assists to his credit. He has only participated in 14 NHL games with one goal. Now that the Yotes are going through a rebuild, Capobianco may get his chance to get called up to the NHL and stay there. His play will dictate that outcome.
Adin Hill, 3rd Round, 76th Overall
Hill worked his way up from the AHL and turned into a fairly decent backup goaltender. He has participated in 49 NHL games with a 19-21-4 record. His save percentage is .909 and his goals-against-average stands at 2.79. He was recently traded it the San Jose Sharks for another goalie Josef Korenar who has little NHL experience. The Coyotes did receive a second-round 2022 pick to help with their rebuild. Hill then signed a two-year $2.175 million AAV contract with the Sharks. He should get some decent playing time in San Jose.
Conor Garland, 5th Round, 123rd Overall
Garland too laboured in the AHL for quite some time before hitting it rich in the NHL. He played the last three seasons in Arizona gathering 47 goals, 49 assists in 164 games. Garland was a fan favourite due to his hussle and all around exciting playing skills. He was always around the puck and helped the Coyotes’ offence immensely. Unfortunately, he was the victim of the rebuild conducted by general manager Bill Armstrong. He along with Oliver Ekman-Larsson were sent off to the Vancouver Canucks in a major trade. Garland came out smelling like roses with a five-year deal and average $4.95 million AAV. So, the Coyotes groomed him in their system only to trade him in hopes of a rebuild bringing them better results. That will be determined in the future.
Other Draft Classes – Honourable Mentions
There were other draft years considered in this analysis. For instance, going way back to the 1981 draft where the then Winnipeg Jets (eventually the Coyotes) drafted Dale Hawerchuk first overall. He played an amazing 1,188 games with 518 goals, 891 assists in his NHL career. He also averaged 1.19 points a game. But, that was it for that draft. Then there was the 1986 draft where Teppo Numminen was selected 29th overall. He toiled for both the Jets and the Coyotes getting 108 goals, 426 assists in 1,098 games. But, yet again, he was the only highlight of that year’s draft.
Another great player drafted by the Jets was Teemu Selanne. While he never played in Arizona, his career in Winnipeg is notable. He had 231 games there, with 147 goals, 159 assists good for 1.32 points per game. It ceases to amaze many hockey fans what Winnipeg was thinking when they traded him to the Anaheim Ducks in February of 1996. Selanne went on to tally 457 goals, 531 assists in 966 games in Anaheim. If only they had kept him, he could have been a huge offensive weapon for the soon to become Phoenix Coyotes.
Keith Tkachuk, 1990, 19th Overall
In 1990, the Jets drafted Tkachuk 19th overall. He went on to play 640 games, with 323 goals, 300 assists. Tkachuk was one tough cookie gathering 1,508 minutes in the penalty box. He was what became known as a ‘power forward’ in the NHL. He averaged 0.97 points a game and had 52 goals with the Coyotes in the 1996-97 inaugural season. Keith also had 41 even strength goals that year to lead the NHL. It was tempting to make this the best Coyotes draft year.
Shane Doan, 1995, 7th Overall
Mr. Coyote is indeed one of, if not the best draft choice of the franchise. Again, that was it for that year. Doan has all kinds of scoring records while in a Coyotes’ uniform. In 1,540 games he added 402 goals, 570 assists. He also has been penalized with 1,353 minutes in the sin-bin. Still, he was the captain of the team, and came close to getting a Cup during the best season in Arizona during the 2011-12 season. The Coyotes got eliminated in the Western Conference Final by the Los Angeles Kings. Doan never got that glory to raise the Cup, but is working in the front office of the team now… with that enviable smile.
Blake Wheeler, 2004, 5th Overall
Wheeler never played a game for the Coyotes, as they could never come to contract terms with him. He pretty much nixed the idea of playing in the desert. And, like Selanne the Coyotes could have used his talents. He has had 981 games with 279 goals, 582 assists. That was another one who got away.
Keith Yandle, 2005, 105th Overall
Yandle was with the Coyotes for nine seasons, 558 games with 65 goals, 246 assists. He is the consummate power play quarterback and has had a long 15-year NHL career. He had to be included in this list.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, 2009, 6th Overall
Ekman-Larsson played his entire 11-year career with the Coyotes… that is until he was recently traded to the Canucks. GM Bill Armstrong swung the deal to be relieved of a burdensome, lengthy contract not due to expire until 2026-27. Needless to say, it took a while to accomplish getting that contract off the Arizona books, but now they can concentrate on rebuilding. For whatever reason, OEL just wasn’t playing well and a change in scenery may help.