The 2018 Arizona Coyotes come into the season with fans excited but the league not entirely sure what to make of them. The Arizona Coyotes were marked as a potential breakout team last year. However, when starting goalie Antti Raanta went down the backups couldn’t step up. This set the Coyotes off on the wrong foot and made it impossible for them to catch up.
This season, however, the Coyotes are a team once again poised to make a return. Let’s look at why the 2018 Arizona Coyotes are a team to keep your eye on.
2018 Arizona Coyotes Have Potential
The Entry Level Contract Players
Obviously, nothing is guaranteed in the NHL. Today’s game is so close in so many aspects that it’s easy for one thing to throw or save an entire season. However, it has become more of a trend to see teams have success while deploying younger players. The 2018 Arizona Coyotes have lots of that.
The Coyotes currently have ten players on their roster who are on an Entry Level Contract. Lots of these players will be expected to contribute in a big way as well. Players such as Clayton Keller, Dylan Strome, and Jakob Chychrun will be expected to step up and lead the way. The Coyotes have tons of young talent that would suggest they should be a fun explosive team to watch.
With all these young players the Coyotes should have no shortage of speed to compete with the best of the league up and down the ice. As the game gets faster it is clear that the Coyotes are going with that trend. Keller will be looking to build off of his 65 point rookie season and has the potential to do so. Strome will look to finally stick and contribute on an NHL roster after success at every other level of hockey. Overall, the 2018 Arizona Coyotes have the young talent to surprise.
The Non-ELC Players
Like every good team, you need your fair share of good older players as well. This is something the Coyotes have done a good job at acquiring. Players like Derek Stepan, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Antti Raanta. The Coyotes have traded for all of those above players and also many more on their roster.
Guys like Jason Demers, Richard Panik, and Niklas Hjalmarsson all brought in to help this young team. These guys not only provide experience but skill too. All of these players are good NHL players in some capacity or another and it makes it promising for the 2018 Arizona Coyotes.
So the Coyotes have a good mix of older and younger players. How do they look? Let’s take a dive into that.
The forward core is likely the weakest part of this Coyotes team. However, that is largely due to the fact that it will rely on unproven rookies. The team has players like Keller, Stepan, and Alex Galchenyuk that will very likely be in the top 6. They also then have tons of pieces that can move up the lineup as they see fit.
This four-line attack could show a lot like the Vegas Golden Knights had last season, which proved difficult to keep up with the depth of all four lines. Overall, this team doesn’t have the big power up front, but the depth it has may very well do a good job replacing that.
The Defense core of the 2018 Arizona Coyotes may be the one of the most underrated in the league. The big piece is obviously All-Star Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. With him on the top pair is Jason Demers. Demers has never had a great eye test however his underlying numbers are always strong. He and Ekman-Larsson make up a first pair that may not be special but can definitely stay afloat.
On the second pair, the Coyotes have another Fancy Stat player in Hjarlmarsson. Hjalmarsson was very underrated on the Chicago Blackhawks as he was a key piece on that blueline behind Duncan Keith. When healthy, Chychrun should be able to play alongside him. Chychurn saw some development through last season after an injury and rough start. He ended with high 40’s in both Corsi and expected goals. Meaning his season was below average, but improvements seen near the end of the year are promising.
The Coyotes also have defensive depth like Alex Goligoski. When healthy, this D-core can go against most lines in the league. This should help the Coyotes forwards by not putting so much pressure to score. The D-core will never match the elite defenses of the league. However, it is solid enough to help propel a team further up the standings than they have been in a long time.
This could be the ultimate game changer for the 2018 Arizona Coyotes. Last offseason, one of the biggest moves the Coyotes made was bringing in goalie Antti Raanta. Raanta battled through injuries early in the season which ultimately hurt them, but when he came back he was better than ever.
It’s important to keep in mind here that this was a relatively small sample size. However, last year Raanta was atop the league for a number of goalie stats. Looking at Corsica.hockey, we can see that he was top class last season.
For goalies that played 2000+ Minutes of 5v5 last season, Raanta ranked 6th overall in dSv% and 8th overall in Goals Saved Above Average with a 0.66 and 7.06. There is a great breakdown of what both of these Stats mean here. However, the basics are that dSv% is the difference between your expected save percentage and actual save percentage based on Corsica’s highly complicated formula. GSAA weights shot location, difficulty, and shooter to determine how many goals each goalie saved above average. Each of these stats helps to show more clearly which goalies performed well rather than just raw save percentage or GAA.
Raanta was also 4th in High Danger percentage with an 82.87%. This is a good thing because it means his stats were not influenced by low difficulty stops. The important thing to remember here is that 47 games are not enough to prove that Raanta is definitely a top 10 goalie. That said he certainly has the possibility to be one. If Raanta is near as good as he was last season the Coyotes will be bound to see a point boost with a full season of him in net. He will be the ultimate factor in how this team fares.
Overall, there is much to be excited about for fans of the Arizona Coyotes this season. The team is by no means a playoff lock. However, making the playoffs is a possible goal and does not seem near as crazy as it would have in the past few years.
A combination of exciting rookies, good veterans, and solid goaltending should be enough to see this team improve this season. At the time of writing they have failed to score a goal in 6 periods of hockey, however, this is a very young team and offence that will need to find their way. With some time and good health, Coyotes fans have lots to be excited about both this year and in the future.
Embed from Getty Images