Arizona Coyotes, Conor Geekie, Dylan Guenther, Michael Kesselring, Victor Soderstrom

Coyotes Who Can Secure Opening Night Roster Spots in 2023-24

With one-half of the conference finals complete, the 2022-23 season draws closer to an end. While the Florida Panthers await their Stanley Cup Final opponent, we will take an in-depth dive into the Arizona Coyotes‘ offseason and make an all-too-early prediction on some roster spots ahead of the 2023-24 season. As the team, players, and fan base await word on a potential new arena site in the Valley, we preview what promises to be a rather quiet offseason for general manager Bill Armstrong, as well as some possible prospects/young guns who could make the opening night roster.

Bill Armstrong Arizona Coyotes GM
Bill Armstrong, Arizona Coyotes GM (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With the recent announcement of top prospect Logan Cooley returning to the University of Minnesota for his sophomore season, the Coyotes have other notable names who are ready to make the jump and/or cement a permanent spot in the league. Add in the uncertainty in the Valley after the citizens of Tempe rejected the Coyotes’ arena/entertainment district proposal, and you end up with a murky situation that may influence some players’ decisions going forward.

Who Will Land a Permanent Roster Spot?

The Coyotes enter year three of their rebuild looking to build off what was rather a pleasant surprise in year two, which included some notable wins, new career highs, and some “Mullett Magic”. With the expectation of a younger roster heading into the 2023-24 season, here are five names you should expect to see as full-time Coyotes next season:

  • Victor Söderström: The 22-year-old defenseman who finished the season on the Coyotes roster will look to build off what was a rather strong showing in 30 games, recording nine assists. With a rather weak defensive pipeline, expect him to land a permanent spot on the team’s blue line. Originally the 11th overall selection in the 2019 NHL Draft, the organization is hoping the young Swede is ready to live up to the hype.
  • Dylan Guenther: When you think of Coyotes’ top prospects, Cooley is the first name that comes to mind. While that won’t be until at the earliest the 2024-25 season, attention turns to the red-hot Dylan Guenther. Originally on the opening roster at the beginning of the 2022-23 season, he ended up playing 33 games, recording six goals and nine assists before being sent back down to the Western Hockey League (WHL). Upon his return to juniors, he picked up where he left off, recording 29 points in 20 games on 13 goals and 16 assists during the regular season, while adding 28 points in 19 playoff games, resulting in a Memorial Cup berth. He will undoubtedly enter the 2023-24 campaign as a Calder Trophy favorite.

Related: Coyotes’ Road to the Future Begins in Tucson

  • Michael Kesselring: Acquired in a trade on March 2, the Coyotes picked up another young defenseman to shore up their pipeline in Michael Kesselring. He went on to play nine games with the Coyotes, recording three points before finishing the season with the Tucson Roadrunners, registering seven points in 10 games. Like Söderström, expect the Coyotes’ defensive pairings to have a few young guns on it come opening night.
  • Conor Geekie: A long shot to some next season, don’t sleep on Conor Geekie. The Winnipeg ICE forward is coming off a 77-point season where he recorded 35 goals and 42 assists in 66 games. While another year in juniors would be the best in terms of development, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see the 19-year-old impress in camp and crack the opening night roster. But for how many games?
Conor Geekie Arizona Coyotes 2022 Draft
Conor Geekie, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

  • Josh Doan: The dark horse candidate in most people’s opinion. The son of former Coyotes great Shane Doan is out to write his own path in the NHL. Having wrapped up his sophomore season this past spring with Arizona State University, many were shocked to see Josh Doan sign his entry-level contract and make the jump to professional hockey so quickly. In 14 regular season games with the Roadrunners, he notched three goals and three assists. Considered a bigger long shot compared to Geekie, Doan would benefit from a full season in the American Hockey League (AHL) but could impress coaches during camp. With a chance to become the first-ever Arizona-born player to play for the Sun Devils, Roadrunners, and Coyotes, expect Doan to make his name known ahead of opening night.

Other Names to Keep Tabs On

There’s no denying that the Coyotes will be younger next season. But what about those veterans and middle-of-the-pack players who are currently either unrestricted free agents (UFAs) or restricted free agents (RFAs) this offseason? Depending on if they re-up in the desert this summer, here are three other players that should earn a roster spot if they re-sign this offseason with the Coyotes:

  • Ivan Prosvetov: The 24-year-old Russian netminder heads into the summer with a lot of uncertainty. Currently an RFA, the Coyotes goaltender hasn’t fully panned out as hoped. He spent the last quarter of the season on the roster, starting seven games, registering a 3.98 goals-against average along with a .880 save percentage. Despite the lackluster numbers, Ivan Prosvetov showed a lot of promise this year when given a shot, and with Armstrong still yet to make a decision on next season’s goaltending tandem, don’t be surprised if the Coyotes bring him back on a one-year deal as the backup to Karel Vejmelka.
Ivan Prosvetov Arizona Coyotes
Ivan Prosvetov, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

  • Michael Carcone: Roadrunners assistant captain Michael Carcone was on a mission this past season in the AHL. He notched 31 goals and 54 assists for 85 points in 65 games, was named to the AHL All-Star Game, and led all players in points. Fans clamored all season to see him earn a permanent spot with the team and yet, he only appeared in nine games. Currently set to be a UFA at the beginning of free agency, Armstrong and company should seriously consider signing him to a deal.

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  • Jan Jeník: Last season was not the year Jeník had hoped for. An injury kept him out for most of the season, limiting him to only 30 games, while still managing to put up a respectable 23 points. He’s also appeared in 17 career NHL games, registering four goals and one assist. He’s currently an RFA, leaving Armstrong with some leverage in terms of contract negotiations this summer.

Does Uncertainty in the Valley Affect Decisions?

It’s definitely worth noting the Coyotes’ current situation will weigh heavily on players’ decisions this offseason, especially when it comes to signing a long-term deal in the Valley. The team has its fair share of young talent in the pipeline that may choose to go elsewhere if there’s not an announcement in the next month on a new arena deal. This will affect business moves for Armstrong and his team.

Logan Cooley Arizona Coyotes 2022 Draft
Logan Cooley, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

What’s not worth denying is the Coyotes are fighting to remain in Arizona and build a championship-caliber club for years to come. The future of this team in the desert is, as of now, a mystery beyond next season. Optimism remains high nevertheless. While they await word, they will continue to carry on as usual, including planning for the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft, where they will add to their core with the sixth and 12th overall selections.

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