Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2023 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, Kyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! Today we bring you the Arizona Coyotes options in the 2023 NHL Draft..
When you look at the 2023 NHL Draft, you are immediately drawn to the elite players up top. Some names include Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, and many more. Although the Coyotes will likely miss out on these players, there will still be plenty of talent six. Some names that have popped up at six are David Reinbacher, Ryan Leonard, and Zach Benson.
Knowing the Coyotes will now have picks six and 12, we can hone in and look at which prospects could be available at said picks.
Coyotes’ Have Draft Capital to Propel Rebuild
6th Overall Selection
Matvei Michkov, RW, HK Sochi (KHL)
With the conclusion of the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery, the Coyotes will now be picking at the number six overall draft pick. Now this won’t get us Connor Bedard, this won’t get us Adam Fantilli, but it could land us Russian star Matvei Michkov. Michkov sits in one of the most interesting spots in recent draft history.
Due to his contract, Michkov has in the KHL ( Kontinental Hockey League ); he will be coming over from Russia at the very earliest for the 2025-26 season. Arguably the second-best player in this draft talent-wise, Michkov shows elite abilities across the ice. Michkov is a great skater, a rocket of a shot, and has some serious playmaking ability.
Now why would the Coyotes take him if he were available? Even with his contract and playing overseas in Russia, he is too good to pass up on. Besides, behind Bedard, he has one of the most NHL-ready shots in this deep draft. During the 2022 NHL Draft, the Coyotes prioritized their needs at centre, drafting Logan Cooley and Conor Geekie. Certainly, adding Michkov to that bunch would make it a scary offense on the ice.
Kyle Pereria has some more insight on Michkov. “Based on only his style and not a projection of his impact, there are two players that come to mind when watching Matvei Michkov. Ironically, they are both Russian. The first is Evgeni Malkin. Malkin can score goals in a variety of ways, possesses high-end stickhandling and creativity, and can be a solid playmaker. Michkov does not have the size or physical edge that Malkin does, however.”
In the event that Michkov falls into the Coyotes’ scouting department, taking him would be a no-brainer, despite the risks involved.
Zach Benson, LW/RW, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
Next up, we have Zach Benson. Benson, 18, played for the Winnipeg Ice of the WHL (Western Hockey League) this past season. During his time, he recorded 36 goals for 98 points. The Coyotes aren’t the deepest on the wings, with Dylan Guenther and Matias Maccelli looking promising; they don’t have many other big names. Adding Benson to that list would make for a strong offence.
Benson has been ranked as high as fourth by Smaht Scouting. Other rankings place him fifth (DobberProspects), sixth (Recruit Scouting, SportsNet, FCHockey, EliteProspects), seventh (Bob McKenzie), ninth (The Hockey News, Craig Button), and 10th (McKeen’s Hockey).
Benson is an all-around smart player. Selecting him at six would also mean a duo of Conor Geekie, and Benson would take the NHL stage together. Benson also has become one of the best skaters in this class. His edges are excellent, and he is looking to play a big part of his game once he makes the NHL. Benson progressively got better this year at his transitional game. This is something that could separate him from other players.
Benson could be a great fit for the Coyotes; his work ethic could complement the likes of Clayton Keller and others.
David Reinbacher, RD, EHC Kloten (NL)
Much like Michkov, Reinbacher is a very compelling prospect. With this year’s draft being forward-heavy, not too many defensemen have cracked the top 10, except Reinbacher. The 6-foot-2 and 187-pound defender currently plays for EHC Kloten, where he has spent parts of the last two seasons. So far this season, he has recorded three goals and 19 assists for 22 points in 46 games.
With the Jakob Chychrun trade leaving the Coyotes extremely thin at defensemen, picking one with one of their top two picks makes sense. Would picking Reinacher make sense for the Coyotes at six, though? Reinbacher has the potential to be a top defenseman pairing in the NHL. As previously mentioned, the Coyotes don’t have many defensemen that could reach the potential of Reinbacher.
J.J. Moser looks to be promising, but will he be a top pairing in the NHL? Reinbacher has posses some excellent speed for his height. While defending the rush, Reinbacher can use his frame and technique to have a solid two-way game.
While we won’t know what will happen until the draft in Nashville, Reinbacher is someone to keep an eye out for.
Ryan Leonard, C/LW, USA U18 (NTDP)
The US National Team Development Program has been producing some high talent as of late, and Ryan Leonard is another name in that conversation. With the Coyotes drafting Logan Cooley third overall last year, they have some experience picking those players. Despise playing on a loaded team with Will Smith and Gabe Perreault, Leonard still put on a show.
During this past year, he put up 51 goals and 94 points. This past year he displayed some elite shooting skills; something he has done his entire hockey career. What makes Leonard such an intriguing prospect? His ability to grind for the puck and do the dirty work for his linemates. This would compliment a guy like Logan Cooley, who is much more of a playmaker.
Bill Armstrong has made it a priority to target size. We saw this last year when they drafted Maveric Lamoureux, who sits at 6-foot-7. Leonard has good height standing at 5-foot-11. This could be a deciding factor when choosing between two players.
Kyle Pereira had this comparison on the American forward, “Based only on style, and not projecting a players traits or how well a player will perform, Leonard plays a style similar to that of J.T. Miller. While Leonard does have better effort on film with the NTDP in his own end, it’s the offensive playing styles and hybrid scoring/power forward style that compares favorably. Another good comparison would be Oliver Bjorkstrand, who is also a solid goal-scorer and high motor player.”
Leonard should most certainly be on the Coyotes’ radar.
12th Overall Selection
Oliver Moore, C, USA U18 (NTDP)
The 2023 NHL Draft offers a wide selection of talent, even at the 12th spot. Oliver Moore is a name that has been brought up around the 11-15 spots. Like Leonard, Moore played on a stacked US National Team Development Program this past year. Although he was the “odd man out,” This was primarily because of the dominance of the first line, which consisted of Leonard, Smith, and Perreault.
Nonetheless, Moore has some very good intangibles that could translate to the NHL. When you watch Moore’s game, his speed is the first thing you notice. When he turns the jets on, rarely does anyone catch up to him. That helped him rack up 31 goals for 75 points in just 63 games. Moore can also carry the puck through the neutral zone and generate effective offensive zone entries.
Depending on who the Coyotes draft with their other first-round selection. A two-center punch of Logan Cooley and Oliver Moore would make for a bright future. Moore is committed to the University of Minnesota, where he’ll play his freshman year next season.
Matthew Wood, LW, University of Connecticut (NCAA)
Wood, who was born February 6th, 2005, in Lethbridge, Alberta, is a forward playing out of the University of Connecticut. Wood has good size standing at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds. This past year at Connecticut, he excelled having 11 goals for 34 points in 35 games as a freshman. His height is something that could attract general managers, especially Bill Armstrong.
Meanwhile, his shot is high-end. Wood has a cannon of a shot with incredible power. It comes off his stick smoothly and efficiently. As his game has many strengths, his skating is very lackluster, which sometimes leaves him scrambling to catch up or missing out on breakaway opportunities as the defenders can catch up.
Here’s what Kyle Pereira said about Woods’s potential compariso, “Matthew Wood plays a very similar style to Tage Thompson. Thompson is a shoot-first player, with a powerful shot. His stickhandling and creativity has led him to become one of the most exciting and talked about players in the NHL.”
Axel Sandin Pellikka, RD, Skellefteå AIK (SHL)
The 2023 NHL draft doesn’t offer many high-end defensemen in the first round, although Sandin Pelikka’s name has been brought up quite frequently. He has spent the majority of his season playing in the J20 SuperElit league with Skelleftea. In 31 J20 games, he scored 16 goals and 20 assists for 36 points, a strong stat line for a defender. Additionally, he played 22 games in the SHL, with two goals and three assists for five points.
As mentioned above, Reinbacher has been labeled the premier defenseman in the draft, although some could argue Pellikka has a higher ceiling. One of Pellika’s biggest strengths is his skating. When it comes to his first few steps or acceleration, he is explosive. This makes it that much easier for any defenseman to excel in the NHL.
If the Coyotes take a forward with the sixth overall selection, they surely will have Pellikka as a top target. Pellikka also plays a very similar game to that of Tyson Barrie. Both are offensive defensemen that can move the puck and pop up on the stat sheet every now and then.
The Coyotes have a chance to select one of the two most promising defensemen in the 2023 NHL draft, whether it be Pellikka or Reinbacher.
Gabe Perreault, RW, USA U18 (NTDP)
Perreault has not been getting the attention he deserves for what he did this year. While playing for the US National Team Development Program this year, he notched a record-breaking 132 points in just 63 games. This broke the USNTDP record for the most in a single season. That puts him ahead of some very good players, including Auston Matthews, Clayton Keller, and Jack Hughes.
Adding this level of talent to an already bolstered prospect pool would certainly make for some exciting times. With this type of production, you may ask why isn’t he within the top five in this entire draft. That is mainly due to his skating. He doesn’t have the acceleration and speed of some other players in this draft.
Although, this can be worked on as he is already committed to the University of Boston College. His teammates Ryan Leonard and Will Smith are also committed to the Eagles. The Coyotes could benefit from having an elite goal-scorer as Perreault is a threat when he has the puck on his stick.
We will see what Perreault’s fate is during the 2023 NHL Draft in Nashville.
2023 NHL Draft Has Options for Coyotes
This draft could shape up to be one of the most pivotal in the Bill Armstrong era. Of course, last year was very important, but this year seems to be the year where you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel. The Coyotes have liked size with past drafts, drafting Geekie, Lamoureux, and Guenther, who all stand above 6-foot.
The Coyotes are in good hands with Bill Armstrong; we’ll just have to see what happens when the Coyotes are on the clock.
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