Bill Armstrong UTAH GM

BUFFALO -- Utah general manager Bill Armstrong said nothing has changed in how the hockey operations department is approaching the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft.

The franchise announced it was moving from Arizona to Utah on April 18. Utah has 13 selections at the draft, including the No. 6 pick in the first round, which will be held at Sphere in Las Vegas on June 28 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS).

"I think that's one of the reasons that they brought everybody from the hockey ops, is to keep the process the same," Armstrong said during the fitness testing portion of the NHL Scouting Combine on Saturday. "I think our staff has done a tremendous job at acquiring prospects and going through the draft and just accumulating a good mass of prospects in a short period of time. So, I think they're excited about the process that we've developed here and the talent, not only that we've drafted but also in our staff that allows us to kind of feed the engine every year."

Defenseman could be an area Utah focuses on at No. 6, with Sam Dickinson of London of the Ontario Hockey League, Carter Yakemchuk of Calgary of the Western Hockey League, Zeev Buium of the University of Denver, Zayne Parekh of Saginaw of the OHL and Stian Solberg of Valerenga in Norway among potential options.

"When you have that amount of picks, you have to keep an eye on that; you don't want to end up with too much of one thing," he said. "But when we're picking up top, we're trying to take the best player. As we move through the later rounds, then we can look at some needs for the club, whether it's goaltenders or [defensemen], centermen or whatever it may be. We can go through that process and look at what we need to acquire later on."

In addition to its cache of picks this year, which includes three second-round selections, Utah has seven picks in the first three rounds of the 2025 NHL Draft.

"It gives you a lot of creativity there," Armstrong said. "The thing that you can do that most teams can't do, you can look down the road two years from now and say, ‘Hey, listen, we can backstock your draft, so not only are you getting draft picks from this year, but we can help you get them next year and the following year.’ ... I think we're unique in the sense that we can be pretty adaptable and flexible, and hopefully that creates some good opportunity for us at the end of the day."

The draft is just one area Armstrong has been busy with since the franchise announced its move. Another includes making sure owners Ryan and Ashley Smith understand where the team is in its goal of returning to contention for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Arizona Coyotes (36-41-5) finished 21 points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference, the fourth straight season they failed to qualify for the postseason.

"We're going into our fourth year of the rebuild," Armstrong said. "We're not going to be contending for a Stanley Cup, but the advantage of [building] our team and getting the players that we've accumulated over the years is that you're not buying 33-year-olds, you're buying 23-year-olds that are going to move forward with you over the years. So, I think our fans can get attached to some good players in the [Logan] Cooleys and the [Dylan] Guenthers and the [J.J.] Mosers and the [Josh] Doans of the world. I think that's the advantage for our club going in there.

"But there's also a patience level with the fans that they have to understand, I think at the end of the year we were the youngest forward group, and I think the second-youngest team in the National Hockey League. So, there's a period of growth that we still have to go through."

Utah has narrowed down the list of candidates for its team name to six selections. More than 520,000 fans voted online from a selection of 20 names, and the top six -- which accounted for 60 percent of the total vote -- were announced Thursday.

Those were: Utah Blizzard, Utah Hockey Club (Utah HC), Utah Mammoth, Utah Outlaws, Utah Venom and Utah Yeti.

The second phase of voting launched Thursday and will be open until June 20. Details on the final steps in the name selection process will be announced in the coming months.

Armstrong said he still feels a certain energy from the move.

"It has been very exciting for us," he said. "We've been able to walk into a situation where you have instant fans, and people are just craving hockey in Utah. They have a saying that Utah shows up, and they're not wrong about that. They've showed up in masses to support us. It's been overwhelming, drinking out of a firehose at times, getting everybody settled from our staff and getting things set up for our players to come in eventually and go to work. So, it's exciting times for us."

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