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Coyotes Dress to the 'Nines' with 2021 Draft Prospects

Arizona plays the numbers game, stocks up on plenty of young talent

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

Nine prospects.

And that's just the first wave of new talent for Bill Armstrong, who oversaw his first draft as Coyotes General Manager. 

The next wave - not to look too far ahead -- is a colossal one. The Coyotes own 11 draft picks in the 2022 draft, including a first-rounder and four second-round picks.

But back to the first crop of Coyotes.

The Coyotes selected nine players Saturday: five forwards, three defensemen and one goalie. They were one first-rounder; three second-rounders; two fourth-rounders, and fifth-, sixth- and seventh-rounders.

Armstrong struck a blockbuster deal Friday in the hours leading up to the draft to land the No. 9 overall pick. He acquired additional picks, including one of this year's second-rounders, with two trades the weekend prior to the draft.

"It was a big two weeks," Armstrong said. "We added a lot of picks. It was crazy. And to (trade up to) pick in the Top 10, there aren't many teams that are able to move up that high. It was a hell of a week. We were also able to move some contracts and free up some space, and really set the organization up for the next step." 

The nine picks were a culmination of tireless work by Armstrong's revamped scouting staff, which came together with new personnel and a new philosophy November 1, 2020.

"Right from the get-go, Bill (Armstrong) wanted a cultural change," Director of Amateur Scouting Darryl Plandowski said. "He wanted a certain type of player. We were going to pass on some kids we didn't think had the character. We wanted character and culture guys. Kudos to our scouts and the effort they put into this, but we think we did it." 

Associate Director of Amateur Scouting Ryan Jankowski echoed the it's-not-just-the-talent-but-also-the-person sentiment.

"What we wanted was value in the organization," Jankowski said. "Whether that's Dylan Guenther at (our first pick) or Sam Lipkin in the second-to-last pick of the draft, we think there's value in every player. That's what excites us about what we can bring to the Coyotes. We just try to stock the cupboards with players who are going to play hard for us and be the right type of player -- and person."

Arizona selected forward Dylan Guenther, whose shot has been described as "lethal, dangerous and deceptive," with the No. 9 overall pick. Guenther, 18, and 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, averaged two points-per-game in during a COVID-19-shortened WHL season with the Edmonton Oil Kings. He established Oil Kings' rookie records for goals (26) and assists (33) in 2018-19, when he was 16. 

The Coyotes' second pick featured a familiar (last) name: Doan.

Josh Doan, son of Coyotes legend Shane Doan, was selected No. 37 overall. Doan, 19, a 6-foot-2, 176-pound forward, scored 31 goals and 70 points in 53 games with the Chicago Steel this season, leading his team to a USHL Clark Cup championship.

"We went into the year watching Josh," Plandowski said. "And he was good. But there are always two or three guys, every year, that you watch and they get better, and better and better. We watched Josh's game get better. We watched him grow and get bigger and stronger. We watched him become a leader on his team.

"In the end, we said, 'Josh is too good to pass up.' He's going to be a big part of our culture."

Full list of 2021 Coyotes draft picks:

After Doan, the Coyotes selected four European players, starting off with forward Ilya Fedotov at No. 43 in the second round. Fedotov, a 6-foot-1, 176-pound forward out of Saratov, Russia, is said to have "breakout potential." He scored 18 goals and 38 points with Chaika Nizhny Novgorod, his Russian junior team, last season. 

The Coyotes next selected defenseman Janis Jérôme Moser, a 6-foot, 172-pound, native of Biel, Switzerland. Moser, 21, is in his final year of draft eligibility. He registered four assists in five games with Switzerland in the 2020 World Junior Championship and scored nine goals and 30 points as captain of EHC Biel in the Swiss League.

Arizona then selected its second defensemen, Emil Martinsen Lilleberg, with pick No. 107 in the fourth round. Lilleberg, 20, and 6-foot-2, 207-pounds, is a native of Sarpsborg, Norway. He represented Norway at the 2021 IIHF World Championship and captained Team Norway at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championships (Division 1A).

The Coyotes' final fourth round pick was goalie Rasmus Korhonen, a native of Tampere, Finland. Korhonen is a towering 6-foot-5. He posted a 2.18 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage in 17 games in the Finnish Elite League this past season.

Arizona wrapped up its draft by selecting forward Manix Landry, with pick No. 139 in the fifth round; defenseman Cal Thomas, with pick No. 171 in the sixth round, and forward Sam Lipkin, with pick No. 223 in the seventh round. The Coyotes selected Lipkin after acquiring Montreal's seventh round draft choice in exchange for a 2022 seventh round pick. 

"Obviously the higher up in the draft, you have to say they have a better chance," Plandowski said. "But I just watched Tampa win the Stanley Cup with about three or four guys who didn't even get drafted. We've invited guys to camp who we think are good. We've got seven or eight guys this year who are going to be really good. We're excited."

Jankowski, too, emphasized the importance of the late-round picks.

"We'll always look at what Bill did here with the second-rounders and getting the first-rounder with Dylan Guenther," Jankowski said. "But it's important for us too that he went out and got us a seventh-rounder, the second-to-last pick of the draft, so we could pick a player that we liked. It's (his) confidence in us, confidence in our staff and the belief that we're going to pick the right players."

"Dylan (Guenther) dropped for us. We were hoping to get Josh (Doan) in the second (round) -- but we were worried we wouldn't. (Ilya) Fedotov -- we had watched a lot of video on him and we were really excited with what we saw. We were scared we might not get him there in the middle of the second (round). (Janis Moser) and (Emil Lilleberg) were a little bit older players. We were scared that some teams would jump on them because of how we felt about them -- and they're also closer along (in development), a finished product. They could help any organization quicker. The goalie (Rasmus Korhonen), we were excited about. (Manix) Landry we had watched all year long. Everywhere we went, we had a guy that we thought had really good value."

The Coyotes already own 10 picks in the 2022 draft, including five in the first two rounds.

"Exciting times," Armstrong said. 

"We're stockpiled next year with picks," Jankowski said. "We're scouting (again) as soon as Tuesday, and that's going to be even more exciting because we know what's ahead of us for next year.

"We live for draft picks. The more picks on draft day - and Bill's well aware; he's lived it - the more exciting it is for us. But there's a job to do with that. The challenge is that we're going to have five picks in the first 64 next year. So, it's a great start. It's a great way to start our season. Away we go."

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