Five questions facing Arizona Coyotes

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NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2021-22 regular season, which starts Oct. 12. Today, five questions facing the Arizona Coyotes:

 

1. Who emerges as the starting goalie?

The Coyotes will open training camp with Carter Hutton and Josef Korenar on the goalie depth chart after Darcy Kuemper was traded to the Colorado Avalanche, Antti Raanta signed with the Carolina Hurricanes, and Adin Hill was traded to the San Jose Sharks this offseason.

Hutton signed a one-year contract July 28 after the 35-year-old went 1-10-1 with a 3.47 goals-against average and an .886 save percentage in 13 games (12 starts) for the Buffalo Sabres last season. Korenar is a 23-year-old acquired in the Hill trade and is 3-5-0 with a 3.17 GAA and an .899 save percentage in 10 NHL games (seven starts).

There’s also Ivan Prosvetov, a 22-year-old prospect who likely will start the season with Tucson of the American Hockey League.

Kuemper stabilized the position for the Coyotes with 55 wins in four seasons, including an NHL career-high 27 during his signature 2018-19 season, when he had a 2.33 GAA, a .925 save percentage and five shutouts. Replacing him will be a major challenge.

 

2. Will they name a new captain?

The Coyotes traded defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, their captain for the past three seasons, to the Vancouver Canucks on July 23. Though forwards Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel and Loui Eriksson, acquired from Vancouver, and 35-year-old defenseman Anton Stralman, traded to Arizona by the Florida Panthers on July 26, can help fill the leadership void, the Coyotes may prefer a young, core player to be the captain. One candidate could be Clayton Keller, a 23-year-old forward entering his fourth full NHL season.

 

3. Will one of their top young forwards take the next step?

The hope is Keller, Barrett Hayton, 21, and Christian Dvorak, 25, help spark an offense that averaged 2.68 goals per game last season, which ranked 23rd in the NHL. Keller has averaged 15 goals per season since scoring 23 as a rookie in 2017-18, and the Coyotes are waiting for Hayton to take hold of a full-time role in the NHL.

Jakob Chychrun became Arizona’s cornerstone at defenseman last season when the 23-year-old led NHL defensemen with 18 goals and tied Quinn Hughes of Vancouver for 10th in points (41 in 56 games).

“If he wants to take the next step, if he can tighten up on the defensive side of the puck, he’s got a chance to be a Norris Trophy winner,” Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong told SiriusXM NHL Network Radio on Aug. 10. “He’s that good. He’s all about getting better, improving his game.”

Video: STL@ARI: Keller rips wrist shot from circle for PPG

 

4. Who’s next in line?

Victor Soderstrom could eventually replace Ekman-Larsson. The 20-year-old defenseman scored one goal and had one assist in four NHL games, and scored 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 32 games for Tucson last season, his first in North America. Jan Jenik, a 20-year-old forward, scored one goal in each of in his first two NHL games and scored 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 29 AHL games last season, his first as a pro. Arizona acquired the No. 9 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft from Vancouver in the trade for Ekman-Larsson and forward Conor Garland, and used it to select Dylan Guenther, an 18-year-old forward expected to return to the Western Hockey League after scoring 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists) in 12 games for Edmonton last season.

 

5. Will Andre Tourigny make a good first impression?

Tourigny is set to coach an NHL team for the first time. The 47-year-old was hired July 1 after the Coyotes announced May 9 that Rick Tocchet would not return after four seasons. The former Ottawa Senators assistant (2015-16) and two-time Ontario Hockey League Coach of the Year (2018-19, 2019-20) gets his opportunity during a rebuild and a move to the Central Division to accommodate the expansion Seattle Kraken playing in the Pacific Division.

“We just ask on our side, patience and time,” Armstrong said. “The fans are going to be excited about the kids coming through in the next few years.”

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