The Coyotes submitted their regular season roster for the 2019-20 campaign on Tuesday afternoon; the 21-player list consisting of 12 forwards, six defensemen and three goaltenders.
The roster, ordered numerically, is as follows:
Forwards (12) - Nick Schmaltz, Clayton Keller, Vinnie Hinostroza, Brad Richardson, Christian Dvorak, Derek Stepan, Barrett Hayton, Carl Soderberg, Michael Grabner, Lawson Crouse, Phil Kessel, Conor Garland
Defensemen (6) - Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jakob Chychrun, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, Jordan Oesterle
Goaltenders (3) - Eric Comrie, Antti Raanta, Darcy Kuemper
President of Hockey Operations and General Manager John Chayka confirmed that the Coyotes' leadership group will remain the same as it did last season; Oliver Ekman-Larsson will serve as team captain, with Niklas Hjalmarsson and Derek Stepan serving as the two alternates.
Free of drastic offseason turnover to its player personnel, Arizona's initial roster consists of 17 names that were regulars on the 2018-19 squad. There are two highly notable additions in Phil Kessel and Carl Soderberg , each of whom were acquired over the summer.
Kessel, a proven and elite scorer, brings a resume decorated with high levels of production adding up to 357-career NHL goals while coming off an 82-point season, the second-highest single season total of his 13-year career.
Soderberg, a dependable asset in the face-off circle and in front of the net, scored a career-high 23 goals last year, and much like Kessel, finished his season with the second-highest point total of his career (49).
Of course, another noteworthy name is that of Barrett Hayton, the fifth-overall selection from the 2018 NHL Draft, who in his third junior season last year put up 66 points (26G, 40A) in just 39 games with the OHL's Soo Greyhounds.
The 19-year-old appeared in a team-high five preseason games, where he recorded a goal and two assists. He has impressed in camp, and is in line to make his NHL debut if and when he cracks the Coyotes' lineup.
"Barrett's had a good camp for us and that's why we're keeping him around," head coach Rick Tocchet said. "He's gotten better every day, he's a great kid. We're conscience of his development, and we're making sure we do the right thing with him. He's done a nice job for us."
Fellow first-round draft pick Victor Soderstrom, selected 11th-overall this summer, will be headed back to Sweden, loaned to Brynas IF of the Swedish Elite League, where he'll continue his development.
The 18-year old defenseman played in three preseason games, scoring one goal as he provided a taste of his offensive prowess on the blue line.
"Victor made it tough on the coaches, tough on us to not keep him here," said Chayka. "Quite frankly, he came in and, by merit, he was one of our better defensemen. Early on he was finding his way, but we thought with his last two exhibition games he played extremely well, and against lineups that consisted of a lot of NHL players."
Placing him in the best possible path for development was of utmost importance to Chayka and his hockey operations staff, who have great confidence in sending the promising defenseman back to Europe.
"Sweden's reputation for developing young defensemen is well-known," Chayka added. "I don't think that's a secret or a fluke, they do a good job with their development system, and Victor's a product of that."
Goaltender Eric Comrie , acquired on waivers Tuesday morning, is on the team while Antti Raanta gets back to speed.
"It's a crowded place right now, but I've never had a coach tell me that he's had too many good goalies," Chayka said of the current goaltending depth chart. "We're bringing Eric in to get a good look at him, Antti hasn't played a lot of games in the last 10-11 months, so as he's getting up to speed and back to where we know he can get to, it just gives us another option."
Forward Christian Fischer , not included in Tuesday's submitted roster, is expected to be recalled by the Coyotes on Wednesday and travel with the team to Anaheim for Thursday's regular season opener.
Defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin , another familiar name not on the initial roster, will begin the year in the American Hockey League with the Tucson Roadrunners, where he'll reap the benefits that come with an abundance playing time.
"We feel like it's an opportunity for Ilya to go down and get some reps," Chayka said. "He hasn't played a lot of hockey in the last year, so this is a chance for him to reboot. He'll get a lot of opportunities and a lot of ice time, play a lot of minutes in a lot of situations. He's still a big part of our team and our future, but this is an opportunity for him to play and get back to the level we know he can get to."
When asked if this was the best roster he's fielded in his tenure as Coyotes GM, Chayka expressed an honest, composed air of confidence.
"Yes. Top to bottom, through the middle of the ice, premium positions, I can say confidently this is the best roster," he said. "Now, they're going to go out and play, and the results are what matter. We'll see how many points we can get in the standings, but certainly the expectation is to progress and be better."
And that promise, that potential is not only rooted in the names performing on the ice, but those leading both on the bench and behind the scenes.
"Not only is this the best roster, but we've got stability in our coaching staff, they've been here for a number of years now," he added. "We think our young players are ready to take a step, and our veteran players are motivated and ready for a big season. We truly believe that this is a good group."
*Photos courtesy: Norm Hall / Getty Images