The Need for a Defenseman: 2023 Draft Options for Coyotes

The 2023 NHL Draft is slowly approaching, which raises many questions. Many of those questions can be directed at none other than the Arizona Coyotes. Currently, the Coyotes hold the number six pick along with Ottawa’s first-rounder, which sits at 12.

The possibilities are endless with what they could do, but they could be looking to shore up their blueline.

There haven’t been many elite defensemen since Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who currently leads all defensemen in franchise history for points. Despite this year’s draft not being high on defensemen, there are a couple of names that stick out.

Could the Coyotes use one of their first-round picks on a defenseman? If so, who?

Despite Weak Pool, Coyotes Have Options

David Reinbacher, RD, EHC Kloten (NL)

The overall consensus is David Reinbacher will be the first defenseman taken off the board on June 28th in Nashville. The Swiss defenseman has been projected by many to go as early as sixth overall to the Arizona Coyotes.

This may come as a surprise since this draft has been tagged for the elite forwards up top and not so much on the defensive side. There is an argument to make that he could go as early as six to the Coyotes. Considering he might be the only defenseman in this draft with first-pairing potential, it’s a valid argument.

Reinbacher has a very unique game; he has great size standing at 6-foot-2. Not only does he have good size, but he also has quality all-around abilities that have propelled his game. The only real drawback is his skating and acceleration. Although, that can be fixed with good coaching.

Reinbacher hasn’t necessarily been labeled as ‘elite’ or ‘flashy,’ but he has all the tools and fundamentals you want in a defenseman. Now taking him at six could be reaching a bit, but he has all the intangibles you want to see. Especially when you consider the lack of defenseman depth the Coyotes have, they could really use a player like Reinbacher.

The Coyotes would be more than happy to add Reinbacher to an already deep prospect pool, significantly adding to their blue line. Perhaps drafting him at six would be a reach, but they also have to pick 12 they could use on him if he’s available.

Axel Sandin Pellikka, RD, Skelleftea AIK (SHL)

Axel Sandin Pellikka is another intriguing prospect, similar to Reinbacher. In terms of the defenseman in this draft, Pellikka’s skating is a thing of beauty. Along with his skating, he is also more active in the offensive zone than Reinbacher; he can put up points frequently.

He had a great offensive year with the Skelleftea AIK U20 team scoring 16 goals along with 20 assists in 31 games. For a defenseman, this is quite the feat; he definitely has an offensive part to his game that stands out.

The only real downside to his game is his frame. Standing in at just 5-foot-11, this could result in him falling during draft day. Although, he has been ranked everywhere from 12-20, this would also be right around where the Coyotes would be selecting with the Ottawa Senators’ pick.

This could lead to the Swedish defenseman falling into the Coyote’s lap. But, dating back to the 2021 draft, Bill Armstrong and company have had their eyes set on forwards. Could one of Reinbacher or Pellikka change that?

Pellikka has undoubtedly made his case to be a high-draft selection. His play across all leagues has been strong, which should lead to him being picked in the first half of the first round.

 Lukas Dragicevic, RD, Tri-City Americans (WHL)

The top-ranked North American defensive prospect for the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, Lukas Dragicevic. He has all the attributes teams are looking for in a modern-day defenceman. The Canadian has some of the best offensive skill sets for a defenseman this draft, but there are some flaws to go along with the positives.

One flaw that stands out that could steer some general managers away is his defensive game. There’s no denying his ability on the offensive side, but on the flip side, there could be some problems.

He can also be seen as a high-risk, high-reward type of player, which could cause issues at the NHL level. He’ll have to shore up some of those issues until he can make that jump.

The Coyotes drafted Artyom Duda during last year’s draft, and there is no guarantee he will be a top-four defenseman. Adding Dragicevic to the bunch would make for a more well-rounded group of defensemen in the pipeline. The Coyotes will surely want to add a defenseman with picks six and 12; despite not knowing who, these three players should certainly be on their radar.

The Verdict?

The Coyotes will be looking at these three prospects during the 2023 NHL draft, no doubt; the only question is if they’ll take them. Reinbacher and Pellikka should go in the top-15, but a guy like Dragicevic could fall in the second half of the first round.

Should we see the Coyotes shock the NHL world and take one of them at six? We won’t know until then. With lots of uncertainty surrounding the Coyotes, off and on the ice. This draft could shape the future of the team moving forward.

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