NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three key statistics for the Arizona Coyotes.
[Coyotes 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown]
1. Points from Phil Kessel
Kessel, acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins on June 29, was better than a point-per-game player over the past two seasons (174 points in 164 games; T-13th in NHL) with the second most power-play points (78) behind Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (84). Arizona's offense desperately needs the boost Kessel can provide; it was tied for 28th in goals per game (2.55) and was 26th in power-play percentage (16.3) last season. Kessel could spark forward Clayton Keller, who had 65 points (23 goals, 42 assists) in 82 games his rookie season in 2017-18 but saw a dip to 47 points (14 goals, 33 assists) in 82 games last season. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson had an NHL career-high 55 points (21 goals, 34 assists) in 75 games in 2015-16 and has not approached that total since but should have the opportunity to do so playing with Kessel at even strength and on the power play.
2. Penalty kill
The Coyotes penalty kill tied for first in the NHL last season with the Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets (85.0 percent). They were tied for the fifth fewest goals allowed (220), impressive considering starting goalie Antti Raanta missed the majority of the season with a lower-body injury. In his place, backup Darcy Kuemper thrived in Arizona's defensive system and led the NHL in save percentage (.925) among goalies to play at least 55 games. Kuemper excelled on the penalty kill, with the third best save percentage (.897; minimum 50 games). With Kuemper's strong performance and Raanta's injury history, there could be a timeshare situation in Arizona this season.
Video: 31 in 31: Arizona Coyotes 2019-20 season preview
3. 5-on-5 scoring
The Coyotes scored the fewest goals 5-on-5 last season (132). Just how important is 5-on-5 scoring? Eight of the top 10 teams in 5-on-5 goals qualified for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Toronto Maple Leafs, Lightning, Washington Capitals, San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames, Columbus Blue Jackets, Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights). It's worth noting that Kessel should help in this area, and his 15 even-strength goals last season would have ranked second on the Coyotes behind forward Brad Richardson (16). Forward Alex Galchenyuk, who was acquired by the Penguins for Kessel, was eighth among Coyotes skaters in even-strength goals (10), and forward Richard Panik, who signed with the Capitals on July 1, was tied for second with 13. If Kessel makes the impact he's expected to, he should help offset the loss of Galchenyuk and Panik, but production will be required from throughout the lineup to boost the overall total. It's also feasible to suggest they'll improve their even-strength scoring rates because Arizona finished with the lowest shooting percentage 5-on-5 (6.6 percent) in the NHL.
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