GLENDALE – Less than a week before the NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo, the Coyotes added an eighth pick to their mix on Monday when they made a trade with the San Jose Sharks.
As part of the deal, Arizona acquired a fourth-round pick - the 120th overall selection - in this weekend’s draft in Buffalo. That gives the Coyotes six picks within the first four rounds.
“Our scouting staff feels strongly that it’s a deep draft even beyond the first round,” Coyotes General Manager John Chayka said. “There are a lot of what we believe are top-six potential forwards and top-four potential defensemen, and that’s what we’re looking to acquire.”
For the second year in a row, Arizona owns two picks in the first round of the draft; No. 7 overall and No. 20 overall. The Coyotes have selected a forward with their first pick in each of the past four drafts. So, will Chayka and his staff opt for a defenseman first this time around?
“It’s difficult enough to predict who is going to be a good player in the future and try to predict future performance,” Chayka said. “Once you start then convoluting that process by picking by position I think it becomes even more difficult. I think there’s recognition on our behalf that the defensive position needs to improve. We need to get better in that sense. But there’s also different levers that you can pull to try and improve that area of your team, so I wouldn’t say that we have to draft a defenseman (first). I think it would be a preference, but then as you make your list and you go through the process, you have to pick the best player that becomes available.”
Rumors are circulating that the Coyotes are desperately trying to make a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs in order to acquire the No. 1 overall pick and select Auston Matthews, the Scottsdale native who developed his love of hockey by attending Coyotes games as a kid.
“I think you’re always interested to see what the price to get a player like that would be,” Chayka said. “…He’d be a great asset for any team. So, of course, you make those calls and you see what the cost is, but at the end of the day we’re happy and we’re excited about our prospect base, especially up the middle, and at forward. I don’t think we’re in a position where we’re going to weaken our team moving forward. I think we’re in a position where we want to continue to grow this thing and improve it moving forward.”
He added, “I think Auston is a great player, and no matter where he plays he’ll be a great player. For us right now, we’re just going to continue to focus on improving our team. If (a trade) lines up, then that would be fantastic from our end, but if it doesn’t then you move forward and continue to grow things.”
In addition to owning the 7th and 20th picks, the Coyotes also will pick at Nos. 37, 53, 68, 120, 158, and 188, barring any trades before the draft starts Friday at 4 p.m. AZ time.
|John Chayka |
Chayka, who will rendezvous with the team’s scouts in Buffalo on Tuesday, said the Coyotes are ready to go.
“I think it’s all about that preparation component and making sure that the decisions that you make are going to be based off a lot of fact gathering, research, and analysis that you’ve done leading up to the draft,” Chayka said. “There’s opportunities that are going to arise in a short time period and your ability to make those decisions and do so in a manner that allows you to make the best decision is going to be determined by the preparation that goes into it. It’s like preparing for an exam. You want to make sure that you’ve done all the studying and all the research prior and then you’re going to write it. So if you’ve done your homework prior then you feel pretty good about it. That’s the stage that we’re at and we feel pretty confident that it’s a real chance to move our organization forward.”
In Monday’s trade with the Sharks, the Coyotes acquired San Jose’s fourth-round pick (120th overall) this year and the Sharks’ third-round pick in 2017 in exchange for prospect Maxim Letunov and a sixth-round pick in 2017.
Arizona had eight picks in this year's draft until late last week when it sent the 128th overall pick to Dallas in exchange for the exclusive negotiation rights to defenseman Alex Goligoski.