The Arizona Coyotes were awarded the seventh overall pick at the NHL Draft Lottery for the 2016 Entry Draft and the team should remain in that position.
Yes, drafting first overall usually means you’re getting a very good player, and yes, the player projected to go first overall in 2016 is a kid from Arizona. However, the Coyotes are in a good position on the ice and in the draft.
The Coyotes will be entering the second year of a rebuild that, judging from last season, is ahead of schedule. The team was able to lay the foundation of a solid young core in place and despite missing the playoffs, they stayed in contention for longer than most had predicted.
The Coyotes have one of, if not the highest rated prospect pools in the NHL and fans got a glimpse of that prospect pool last season. The young rookies that made their debuts led the way as the Coyotes improved 22 points in the standings from the 2014-15 season to the 2015-16 season.
For lack of a better term, the Coyotes are loaded with top level prospects. Acquiring the first overall pick to use on Auston Matthews would do more harm than good to the plan that the Coyotes are currently following. That’s not to say that Matthews isn’t going to be a good player, he absolutely has the skill set to be an incredible player, but the resources that it would take to pry that first pick from Toronto’s grasp would just be too much.
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Toronto has all the leverage, they hold the pick, they know the marketing reasons behind why the Coyotes would want Matthews and they are in the midst of a rebuild themselves. In terms of on ice play, Matthews would be a huge addition to the Maple Leafs, more so than the Coyotes. The Coyotes drafted their centerman of the future in the previous draft in Dylan Strome.
The idea of trading Oliver Ekman-Larsson for the pick is one that just doesn’t make sense for the Coyotes. Right now, defense is a big need for Arizona and Ekman-Larsson is an elite defenseman. Trading away an elite defenseman when the defensive position is a need, would be taking a step backwards.
Sitting at seventh in a deep draft, the Coyotes are in a good position to draft a highly talented defenseman which would strengthen an area of need for the team.
Drafting the hometown kid would be a great story, but right now, forwards are not a need and giving up the resources that are about to come to fruition for an exciting future that fans have seen on the horizon are just not worth it.
Aside from what the Coyotes needs are, there’s something to be said about having an Arizona born and raised hockey player playing in the giant hockey market that is Toronto. Matthews is going to be all over the hockey media and his story of playing hockey because of the Coyotes is a great one that will be told and told again as he starts his NHL career in Canada. Think of it as marketing for youth hockey and the importance of the Coyotes in Arizona.
Right now, the hockey landscape of Arizona is drastically changing. The Coyotes are on very stable ground behind the leadership of IceArizona, Arizona is now home to an AHL team and Arizona State University has a Division I hockey program. This all coincides with an Arizona born hockey player being coveted by one of the biggest hockey markets in North America.