Arizona Coyotes' 2016-17 season projections

Will this team finally break its playoff drought and qualify for post-season play? Will the young players come through and perform well? We'll soon find out.

Arizona Coyotes' 2016-17 season projections
Last season began with a victory against the Penguins and Sidney Crosby. What will this season bring? Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)

Arizona Coyotes rookie camp is upon us, and regular training camp is set to take place in about a week.

The competition for a NHL job will commence with fierce aggression toward the goal of playing on the Arizona Coyotes.

Questions to be answered

There are lots of questions to be asked of an unsuccessful team who is looking to make the playoffs next April, here are some of them:

  1. Will the young second year players like Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Jordan Martinook, and Louis Domingue progress in their level of play enough to get this team over the hump?
  2. Will the new arrivals such as Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak, and possibly Christian Fischer be capable of stepping into NHL slots and get the job done?
  3. Will goalie Mike Smith be able to retrieve the wonder of his 2011-12 season in net, with the help of a capable backup in Domingue?

All are bonafide questions to ask as we approach another NHL season of exciting hockey in the Valley of the Sun.

The answers are

1. Max Domi and Anthony Duclair showed they were the real thing last season, as they combined for 96 points powering an offense which needed some scoring to be in the mix in the tough Pacific Division.

Their magical connection on and off the ice must be utilized by the coaching staff as an offensive weapon at the team's disposal. When they're on the same line things happen, good things. Placing them on the power play unit is a no-brainer. They flat out make things happen. 

Martinook is hoping to progress this upcoming season. Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
Martinook is hoping to progress this upcoming season. Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

Jordan Martinook came through in his first full season with the Yotes by contributing nine goals, 15 assists. He needs to build on that, and his all around play is exceptional seeing as he also plays on the penalty kill unit.

His play is spotlighted by his tenacity to be around the puck constantly. His defensive abilities are valued by the team, and he's played well with Captain Coyote, Shane Doan.

Louis Domingue hopes to celebrate more wins with his Captain this season. Source: Ralph Freso/Getty Images North America)
Louis Domingue hopes to celebrate more wins with his Captain this season. Source: Ralph Freso/Getty Images North America)

Louis Domingue played his heart out in an emergency situation filling in for the injured starter Mike Smith when he was incapacitated by a core muscle injury in December of 2015.

Domingue's record of 15-18-5 with a 2.75 goals against average, and a .912 save percentage kept the Coyotes in the hunt for a playoff spot late into the season. He threw in two shutouts for good measure, and was a clutch player whose play was rewarded with a two-year contract.

His 15 wins set a Coyotes' record for the most wins by a rookie goalie. He has quite a bit of upside, and may battle Smitty for the starting job in between the pipes. Competition will prevail.

 In his initial season with the Coyotes, Strome should be a huge help. Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)
In his initial season with the Coyotes, Strome should be a huge help. Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)

2. Let's face it, this team has some awesome young prospects in the system. Dylan Strome is one of them. He looks to crack the team's opening night lineup on October 15, 2016 against the rough and tumble Philadelphia Flyers at Gila River Arena. Welcome to the NHL, Dylan.

He can't ask for more than that. His junior hockey career has been nothing short of stellar, and he looks to give Coyotes' fans something to cheer about this new season.

His stats are amazing. He registered 240 points in just 124 games, for a 1.94 points per game average while toiling for the OHL Erie Otters

Eliteprospects.com describes Strome:

"A competitive offensive dynamo in nature, Dylan Strome possesses the technical skills and the intangible traits that differentiate leaders from followers." 

Christian Dvorak can be an offensive dynamo the Coyotes could use.Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)
Christian Dvorak can be an offensive dynamo the Coyotes could use.Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)

Christian Dvorak is another exciting prospect whose time has come to elevate his skills to the NHL.

His 59 goals, 52 assists last season were evident that the NHL will be his next stop in his hockey career. He can play center (his preferred position) or wing, and is open to either position as long as he makes it to the NHL. 

This training camp will possess some talented hockey players all displaying their skills in hopes of playing with the big boys of the NHL. Dvorak has to be one of them.

He's just so steady, and what was noticed by this writer when watching him play at the last two rookie development camps was his tenacious nature around the puck. That attribute allows his line-mates to be better, which in turn, makes his team better.

Christian Fischer has a strong presence in front of the net. Source: Dennis Pajot/Getty Images North America)
Christian Fischer has a strong presence in front of the net. Source: Dennis Pajot/Getty Images North America)

Christian Fischer has started to show that he is near ready to make the jump to the NHL. He tallied 40 goals, and 50 assists in 66 games with the OHL Windsor Spitfires. He also played six games with the Springfield Falcons and had two goals, one assist. He appeared in five playoffs games for them and had a goal and two assists. 

A big, lanky 6' 2" 214 pound RW/C can help the Coyotes' forward line in many ways. He has a quick, accurate wrist shot which helps him light the lamp when needed. 

Mike Smith must perform this season, or it could be his last with the Coyotes. Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)
Mike Smith must perform this season, or it could be his last with the Coyotes. Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)

3. Mike Smith's career, at least with this team, will be on the block this season. For him it's put up or shut up. He's had his chances to revive the play which he was rewarded handily for his outstanding season in 2011-12.

His defense will be much improved, and perhaps as good as what he had in the record season he enjoyed when the Yotes went to the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Kings.

If he fails, the Coyotes have a backup plan. His name is Louis Domingue. 

Don't put it past GM John Chayka to expose Smith to the expansion draft next summer when the Las Vegas expansion team joins the Pacific Division, if he doesn't provide some results. 

One good season does not make a six-year $34 million contract. 

Final evaluation

This team has a chance to make the playoffs this season, and barring any unpredictable injuries they will be in the hunt. Unfortunately, the rest of the Pacific Division and Western Conference also improved their teams.

It just doesn't seem likely that the moves that GM John Chayka made in the offseason will be enough to surpass the competition required to be playing in the post-season. 

But, the future looks bright and promising for this team to progress over the next three years into a real Cup contender.

Once a new arena is constructed in the east valley, the team should have all the required ingredients to be a contender.