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<p>(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)</p>
(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Arizona Coyotes Season Preview

As the NHL offseason comes toward its end, let's take a look at where the Arizona Coyotes stand now. Before we get there, how did the Coyotes perform last season? The Yotes finished 7th place in the Central Division last season with a 28-40-14 record, totaling to 70 points as expected with what their roster was compiled of. What was not expected; was their home record at Mullett Arena, which ranked among the best home-ice records in the NHL this past season (21-15-5). Referred to as the “Mullett Magic,” the 5,000-seat capacity arena was a unique atmosphere that many opposing teams had trouble winning in. After hearing how the Yotes' past season went, what moves were needed to be made in the summer? 

Acquire better-skilled forwards to fill out the bottom-six forward lines

Not only did the Coyotes' forward core lack skill, speed, and talent, but they also struggled to score goals. Arizona ranked near the bottom of goals per game (GF/P), averaging 2.74 GF/P. With this being said, GM Bill Armstrong went out and brought in veteran forwards Jason Zucker, Alexander Kerfoot, and former Coyote, Nick Bjugstad. All three forwards bring in 200-foot games, allowing the Coyotes to utilize them anywhere in the lineup. Zucker, age 31 and entering year 14 in the league, can provide 40-60 points when healthy and much-needed veteran leadership. Kerfoot–spending the last four seasons in Toronto, is a reliable two-way player, with scoring capabilities ranging from 30-50 points. Bjugstad, a fan favorite from last season, could do anything asked of head coach Andre Tourigny. Providing a physical toughness and presence that aided the Coyotes' success. 

Improve the defense overall

Arizona’s defensemen struggled as a whole; allowing 3.60 goals against per game (GA/P), ranking 8th last in this statistic. Outside of Jusso Valimaki (claimed off waivers), J.J. Moser, and Troy Stecher, the Coyotes had no support for goalie Karel Vejmelka in the net. So, Arizona added two free-agent signings in Matt Dumba and Travis Dermott, as well as, acquiring Sean Durzi from the LA Kings. Dumba–age 29, entering year 11, provides a solid two-way game for the Coyotes backend. However, the first-round selection of the Minnesota Wild back in 2012 has struggled to stay healthy, playing only one full 82-game season in his career. Dermott has played his career between two Canadian teams in the NHL. In his last two seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, he was in a depth position role. This puts pressure on the Coyotes' first-round pick from years ago, Victor Soderstrom, who hasn’t lived up to his full potential yet. Durzi–traded to Arizona in June, supplies a dying need for an offensive defenseman. Arizona traded their 2024 second-round pick for the 24-year-old who tallied 38 points last season for the Kings. Although, like most young offensive defensemen, struggling defensively has occurred with Durzi. With one year under contract, expect a productive season from Durzi.

Sign Logan Cooley to his entry-level contract (ELC)

Originally, Cooley posted on his social media that he would be going back to the University of Minnesota to play another season of college ice hockey. After being named a Hobey Baker Award finalist (awarded to the best player in college hockey) last season, it seemed Cooley wanted redemption on the award and a national championship. The Gophers lost to the Quinnipiac Bobcats in the national championship final in overtime. But, that would all change on July 27, 2023. Cooley changed his mind and signed his entry-level deal with the Coyotes. 

Cooley–the 19-year-old and third overall selection in the 2022 NHL Draft, had this to say about changing his mind to go pro, “I want to play at the highest level I can, I want to be pushed everyday, I want to play with the best.” 

The 5’10” playmaking center could see himself playing with Coyotes top forwards: Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, and Dylan Guenther. This signing for Arizona is a massive improvement for their forward core.

Seeing what the Arizona Coyotes have done to upgrade their roster, where could they end up this upcoming season? As mentioned above; Arizona finished last season with a 28-40-14 record. Since their roster has been noticeably improved, the Coyotes could have anywhere from 30-40 wins this season. With another point-per-game season from Clayton Keller, the Arizona Coyotes will finish with a record of 38-32-12. 

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