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Guenther the Go-To Get of 2021 Draft

Coyotes trade up to first round, select player they targeted

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

They got their guy.

Coyotes General Manager Bill Armstrong woke up Friday without a first-round draft pick.

He wrapped the day with a Top 10 prospect from the 2021 NHL Draft.

Arizona selected forward Dylan Guenther with the No. 9 overall pick. Guenther, 18, and 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, was ranked the No. 5 North American skater in the draft, third among forwards, according to NHL Central Scouting Services.

Guenther described the moment his name was called as both "unreal" and "surreal." Coyotes Director of Amateur Scouting Darryl Plandowski announced the pick.

"To hear my name called, it was a huge honor and I'm pumped to be a Coyote," Guenther said. "I'm excited to be a part of the future." 

The forward has been described as a "scoring threat with a dangerous shot," and his numbers certainly back that up. Guenther averaged two points per game with the Edmonton Oil Kings this past abbreviated WHL season, recording 24 points (12G, 12A) in 12 games. He registered 59 points (26G, 33A) in 58 games during his 2019-20 season, as a 16-year-old. 

"He's a top-two-line player," Armstrong said. "He's really exciting because he's really well-rounded. He can score. He can make plays. He can go to the net. He can do it all. He can play on the power-play and he can kill penalties. He's just a player who has a huge impact when he's on your team because he can jump into so many different roles. He has the offensive output to fuel the top two lines, and that's the type of player you want to get when you're picking No. 9." 

Guenther compared his style to Claude Giroux, captain of the Philadelphia Flyers.

"Giroux is one (player) who I kind of resemble and play like," Guenther said. "He's been a force on Philadelphia for so long. He's a great leader on his team. He can score goals and make plays in the offensive zone, and that's really the strongest part of my game. 

"I think I'm a well-rounded player who can bring a lot of different pieces to the team. I think the biggest thing for me is contributing offensively. I've been a guy who's been a point producer and a goal scorer throughout my career, and that's something that I hope to bring to this team in the future." 

The Coyotes acquired the ninth-overall pick with a blockbuster trade earlier in the day, when they dealt defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and forward Conor Garland to the Vancouver Canucks for the selection, along with a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 seventh-round pick. 

"You wake up and you just think you've got a couple second-round picks," Armstrong said. "And then the next thing you know, an hour later, you're picking at No. 9. We had prepared. We got tipped off that we might be able to pick up (that pick). We had studied it, prepared for it. We knew what we wanted. He turned up there. 

"It was a huge day for us as an organization. We were able to put together a good trade that allowed us to get up to No. 9, which is unusual. I think there have only been a few trades in the last 10 years that have allowed any team to get up into the Top 10 pick -- and we were able to do that. I think the most remarkable thing about the day was that Guenther was (still) there."

While addressing his first-round selection, Armstrong thanked Ekman-Larsson and Garland for their time and service. 

"I want to thank OEL," Armstrong said. "He was a class act. He gave 10 years of his career to this organization. I wish him the best. And also Conor, someone who's just got a tremendous amount of energy and will to play the game. He's willed his way all the way to play in the NHL, and he's a very good player. I want to wish those guys the best."

Guenther attended the draft with family and friends in a suite inside Rogers Place, home of the Edmonton Oilers and his junior team, the Oil Kings. The Oil Kings set up special viewing parties for him and his teammate, Sebastian Cossa, a goalie, who was selected No. 15 overall by the Red Wings.

"We have a suite here filled with a ton of family and a lot of people behind the scenes who have done a lot of work (to help me)," Guenther said. "I think it's good to appreciate them and to have them be a part of this big moment because they've done so much to get me here today."

When asked to identify special people who supported him Guenther singled out his grandparents.

"(I want to thank) everyone who has been a part of it," Guenther said. "Family, coaches, teammates -- they all have a big part. My grandparents especially. They drove me to hockey growing up when my parents weren't able to. They were always there and they were always my number one fans growing up. Their favorite thing is to watch me play. So, it's really cool to have them be a part of this big moment."

He is familiar with Coyotes new head coach André Tourigny from his time playing with Hockey Canada's U18 team, and with Coyotes amateur scout Randy Hansch, who drafted Guenther in juniors when Hansch was assistant general manager of the Oil Kings. 

"We had a huge comfort level with him," Armstrong said. "Our new coach André Tourigny had been part of the U-18 team for Canada. He knew him real well. One of our other scouts in Western Canada, Randy Hansch, had drafted him to an organization and had worked with him for a while. Our scouts just loved him. We felt that he would never be there at that point in time, but he was there. So, for us, it was a little nerve-wracking waiting and waiting, and all of a sudden he was there. So, it's a big day for us as an organization to get the type of player that he is." 

Armstrong and his staff aren't done. In fact, far from it.

There is plenty of work to be done Saturday. The Coyotes own seven selections in Rounds 2 through 7. Those rounds comprise three, second-round picks (No. 37, 43 and 60); two, fourth-round picks (No. 107 and 122); one fifth-round pick (No. 139), and one sixth-round pick (No. 173).

Armstrong is excited about the available talent. 

"The mindset is to stay focused," Armstrong said. "We're not done here. We've got some more work to get accomplished and we've got some more guys on the board we want to get to. It's an important year for us because of the simple fact we've been able to generate a lot of picks, and now we've got to follow through. We've got to make huge picks here for the organization to move forward."

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