This upcoming Arizona Coyotes season might be the most anticipated in the franchise’s history since maybe the 2019-20 season. The team’s young core is slowly being placed together, and the rookies are starting to make their way into the lineup. There are a lot of possibilities that could happen with the team over this next season, so I decided to put together some (bold) predictions for this upcoming 2023-24 season.
Logan Cooley Wins the Calder Trophy
This is one of the boldest takes because Connor Bedard is playing his first season in the NHL, but I predict Logan Cooley will win the Calder Trophy as the best rookie of the season. The 19-year-old is coming off a 60-point season in 39 games with the University of Minnesota and a 14-point performance at the World Juniors for Team USA.
Comparing the two rookies on skill is hard, but while Bedard might have the edge, fans have to look at the players who will be surrounding the youngsters. The Chicago Blackhawks will most likely have Taylor Hall and Lukas Reichel on a line with Bedard. Meanwhile, the Coyotes will have players like Matias Maccelli, Clayton Keller, Dylan Guenther, and Jason Zucker surrounding the 2022 third-overall pick, which will help him produce more. This is due in part because these players are more offensively skilled, which will give Cooley more scoring opportunities rather than Bedard, who doesn’t have as skilled players surrounding him. While he doesn’t have the insane stats that Bedard put up in his respective league, Cooley is a future star for the Coyotes and will challenge for the title of Rookie of the Year this upcoming season.
Clayton Keller Breaks Coyotes’ Franchise Record in Points and Assists
I’m a big believer in Keller, and I do believe he has all of the tools to become one of the best players in the NHL. Since head coach Andre Tourigny took over the team, Keller’s offensive output has increased to the point where he scored 86 points in 82 games played last season, which tied Keith Tkachuk for the most points in a season for the Coyotes (excluding the old Winnipeg Jets).
I think Keller takes a step forward and breaks that record easily. I also predict that Keller will be the first Coyote ever to reach 100 points. Additionally, I think the young forward breaks one more record, which is Ray Whitney’s single-season assists record; Whitney had 53 in 2011-12, while Keller had 49 last season. With new offensive help coming in like Guenther, Zucker, and Cooley, and having a healthy Nick Schmaltz on his line, Keller can easily break those two records.
Coyotes Have a Better Home Record Than Last Season
Mullett magic was incredible last season. The Coyotes went 21-15-5 at Mullett Arena, which also involved beating some outstanding teams in the 4,000-seat arena, like the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the eventual Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights. Maybe it was the electric energy inside the ASU-owned venue or the fact players lived close to their home barn for the first time since moving away from Phoenix, but the Coyotes were almost unstoppable at Mullett. I foresee them bettering that record this upcoming season and getting around 25-30 home wins to further show that the arena is no joke to the visitors.
Matt Dumba Has His Best Season Since 2017-18
Matt Dumba has been offensively snake-bitten ever since 2017-18, when he scored 50 points. He has struggled to score more than 27 points and is coming off his worst season since his rookie season with 14 points. For the first time in his career, he’ll be putting on a jersey belonging to a team other than the Minnesota Wild, which could rejuvenate his career.
Tourigny has been known to resurrect players’ careers like Shayne Gostisbehere, Nick Ritchie and Barett Hayton. Dumba could explode offensively while being a good defensive defenseman, especially paired with someone like J.J. Moser. I don’t think he’ll hit 50 points, but I do believe he could hit 30-plus points, which would be better than anything he’s put up in the past five seasons.
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The Coyotes Buy at the Deadline
Before everyone starts bombarding the comment section, I’m not saying the Coyotes go all-in at the trade deadline. I think it will be a similar trade deadline that the Buffalo Sabres had last season. The Sabres traded for Jordan Greenway, a young forward under contract for the next two seasons. The team also didn’t trade any big pieces away as they made a push for the playoffs. I think that’s very similar to what the Coyotes will do. They’ll probably pick up a piece that makes them better, doesn’t cost much, and is/could be locked down for a few seasons.
I could see a player like Kevin Labanc or Jack Roslovic, who are decent depth pieces that might need a change of scenery and won’t cost the Coyotes too much to get, looking like attractive pickups to the team. I also don’t think they sell off both Dumba and Zucker, as I think they will need the two for a potential playoff push.
Josh Doan Leads the Tucson Roadrunners in Points
The Scottsdale native split time between the Tuscon Roadrunners and Arizona State University last season and had a positive year overall. Josh Doan scored 38 points as captain of the Sun Devils and then signed an entry-level contract with the Coyotes, reporting to the Roadrunners and scoring six points in 14 games played with the American Hockey League (AHL) team. He also scored one point in three playoff games.
I think Doan needed some time to adjust to the AHL, and he’ll improve tremendously in his first pro season. He’s had an incredible rookie camp, scoring seven points in three games. Considering Michael Carcone might end up with the Coyotes this season, Doan has a good shot at being the top scorer for the Roadrunners.
One of Tourigny/Bill Armstrong Gets Nominated for an NHL Award
Both general manager (GM) Bill Armstrong and Tourigny have done fantastic jobs in their respective departments, so much so that Armstrong even admitted in a media day interview that the team is getting to the good parts of the rebuild.
Let’s talk about Armstrong first. He’s been able to acquire some of the best prospects in the league, like Cooley and Guenther, as well as acquire players the franchise has been able to revive. A famous example is when the GM added Gostisbehere from the Philadelphia Flyers, along with a second- and seventh-round pick for future considerations. The Coyotes were able to flip the defenseman a couple of years later for a third-round pick. Armstrong was also able to steal the draft pick the team used to draft Guenther, as well as offload Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s pricey and lengthy contract all in one trade. He’s also added some solid NHL talent, like Jusso Valimaki and Connor Ingram.
Tourigny has quickly become one of the most underrated coaches in the league. He’s been able to help the careers of many once-promising NHL players like Nick Bjugstad, Ritchie, and Travis Boyd. The Coyotes’ coach has also been able to turn around some of the young players on the team, like Hayton. Most importantly, Tourigny has been able to get the best out of his players, like Keller exploding and becoming a near 100-point producer. He’s a coach his players like playing for and has helped the Coyotes be better than what anyone expected them to be.
If the Coyotes even get an above .500 record, Armstrong and Tourigny should be nominated for GM/Coach of the Year. They’ve helped the Coyotes have a strong and stable rebuild for arguably the first time in franchise history. The duo might be one of the strongest coach-GM tandems in the whole league, and if my next prediction comes true, they absolutely belong on the ballots in the summer.
The Coyotes and the Roadrunners Make the Playoffs
I’m doubling down on the boldness here. I think for the first time in history, the Coyotes and the Roadrunners make the playoffs during the same year.
Let’s break down the Coyotes’ season first. They have all the tools to make a push for one of the wild card spots out west. Their forward lines are deep, especially with the young additions of Cooley and Guenther and the new veteran presence of Zucker and Kerfoot. Their blue line once again has taken a step in the right direction with the offseason acquisitions of Dumba and Sean Durzi. Finally, their goaltending has proven they can be a strong tandem over the past season.
The Coyotes are well-coached and have proven they can take down powerful teams with players like Zack Kassian and Patrick Nemeth. What could they do with this new lineup with better players? The Central Division looks somewhat open as well. The Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, and Wild will most likely clinch the top three spots, with the Seattle Kraken probably taking the first wild card spot via the Pacific Division.
It’s then a question of who takes that last spot. The Nashville Predators will compete for it, but who else besides the Coyotes? The Calgary Flames and the Jets might trade off some core pieces, and the St. Louis Blues don’t look like a world-beater this season. Out of the five probable teams to get the final playoff spot in the west, the Coyotes might be the most stable (which, trust me, is weird to say) and could wind up in the playoffs for the first time since 2020.
The Roadrunners made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth a season ago. The San Jose Barracuda actually had one more win than them, but the Roadrunners had fewer losses and more OT losses, putting them in the final playoff spot in the Pacific Division. The team actually fared well in their three-game series against the Coachella Valley Firebirds but eventually lost in the last game of the series.
Now, they’ll have even more reinforcements coming in to help them secure a higher seed. Doan will be with the team all season (unless called up to the NHL), Jan Jenik has re-signed, Michael Kesselring will be with the team all season, and Ivan Prosvetov will have one more year to prove himself as a viable option in net. The Roadrunners also might get Connor Geekie and Maveric Lamoureux when their junior seasons are over. It’s very possible the Roadrunners will not just challenge for a playoff spot, but a top one.
Do I think all of these predictions will come true? No, absolutely not. However, I do believe these are all probable. The way the Coyotes have been building themselves up since Armstrong’s arrival three seasons ago has been impressive, and now the fruits of success are finally growing for the fans. They’ll have the chance to watch highly touted prospects like Cooley and Guenther tear up the league, while fans down south will watch more youth take their first steps to the road of being everyday NHL players. It’s going to be a fun season for Coyotes fans, and if the predictions mentioned above come true, it will be a season to remember.