by Seth Askelson
-- photo Seth Askelson
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 21, 2019
GLENDALE, ARIZONA -- Trading up three spots Friday night, John Chayka pulled the trigger on selecting Victor Soderstrom in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft - a two-way defenseman with a celebrated stride and offensive upside.
Chayka acquired the Philadelphia Flyers' #11 overall selection in exchange for the Coyotes' original #14 and #45 second round selection.
"We weren't leaving the draft without him; we were going to do whatever it took to get him."
When reading reports, there is no shortage of accolades paid to the 18-year-old's game, though when specific, scouts are quick to pinpoint the defenseman's knack to move the puck with superb passing vision, his skating ability, and dynamic offensive flash.
"Anytime you get a premium player at a premium position, that's kind of what we were after," Chayka noted. "He's a right-shot defenseman, moves the puck, he can play against top lines, play on the power play and play on the penalty kill - you can't trade for that. Obviously for us, we have a lot of defensemen, we think it's the foundation of our team, and [Victor] just makes that better."
Soderstrom, who attended the draft with his family, didn't hesitate when describing the emotions he felt after hearing his name called by Coyotes' Assistant General Manager and Director of Scouting Lindsay Hofford.
"It was an awesome feeling, today is the best day of my life, you can't really put it into words," he remarked with a grin. "It's an incredible feeling, it's special that they traded up to get me too."
A native of Skutskars, Sweden, Soderstrom sees the Coyotes' roster as one that's trending upward with a promising future in sight, and one that features two fellow countrymen in Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Niklas Hjalmarsson.
"I know that the team is a talented team, a young team, and they have two Swedish defensemen there as well," he added.
"Ekman-Larsson, he's a good two-way defenseman and he's very good offensively too, so he's a guy that I watch because we're kind of similar. And Hjalmarsson, he's a very good defensive defenseman, a good two-way game too and I think he has a really good first pass."
While communicating with Soderstrom prior to the draft, which included plenty of dialogue -- and dinner -- during the NHL Scouting Combine in May, Chayka noted that he and his staff were intrigued by the young blue-liner's maturity, his ability to observe and learn.
"I think Victor is a great character guy, he'll learn a lot from [Ekman-Larsson and Hjalmarsson] as well, he's a sponge," Chayka said. "Training with those guys and seeing them on the ice is only going to make him better. I don't think he's far away from playing, so we'll see how it evolves from here, but he's a special product."
Core players aren't easy to come by, and with assertiveness, the Coyotes acted on their opportunity.
"This guy's a foundational piece. We see him as a future leader of our team for a long time."
by Arizona Coyotes @ArizonaCoyotes / Arizona Coyotes
Coming soon . . . ..
DEC 18, 2019. .GLENDALE, ARIZONA - Five seasons ago, the Arizona Coyotes were in the midst of its worst season in franchise history. On Wednesday, the team introduced its biggest acquisition since moving to the desert Southwest, and that could be the key piece that pushes them into Stanley Cup contender status.
2018 NHL MVP Taylor Hall was officially introduced in his new home arena on Wednesday afternoon. The Coyotes acquired the winger in a trade with the New Jersey Devils on Monday.
Hall has already made waves with his new team, as he created the game winning goal with his hustle and elite passing that set up Oliver Ekman-Larsson to take down the San Jose Sharks 3-2 on Tuesday night. Less than 24 hours later, he was in front of the Arizona media, speaking about how he wants to fit in on an already tight-knit locker room.
“It’s been a change, there’s no doubt, but I think it’s a positive one,” Hall said, “and one that has been made very seamless by the players in the room, the organization. Everyone that works for the team has made it just about playing hockey and really that’s what I’m here to do. I’m here to contribute to a winning team, play as well as I can on both sides of the puck.”
Coyotes General Manager John Chayka made the deal without having to give up anybody on the current roster, or any of his prized prospects. Everyone around the league knew it was going to take a lot in order to get a player of Hall’s caliber, and Chayka was able to trade away something that has not been so expendable in recent years.
“We had to use some of our draft capital and things like that to get a player of this caliber,” Chayka said, “but really felt like it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire a player, like Taylor [Hall] said, in his prime, ready to come in and contribute, and hopefully take this entire organization to another level.”
Adding without subtracting from the current roster can be good for the coaching staff too. The coaches only have to worry about weaving one player into the fabric of a good locker room, without having to try and fit in three or four new players. According to Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet, Hall has to do one thing in order to really fit in with the current roster.
“He’s got to be himself,” Tocchet said. “That’s the easiest thing, we’ll adjust as it goes on.”
Getting a talented player like Hall can be tough, as a player like himself may be forced to play in a certain system. While the Coyotes have a certain way they like to play, they are not going to force Hall away from his strengths.
“I’m just a big believer in that players just morph themselves around that,” Tocchet said. “That’s why I like this group. I told those guys the other day ‘just be yourself’. All of the sudden, we’re not just gonna start to change our system. We’re just going to play, and when you acquire a guy like Taylor, he does his thing, and we’ll adjust to him.”
Hall could be that guy that does take the team to the next level. He has hit the 50+ point accomplishment six times in his nine season career, and is on pace for 69 points already this year. The last time the Coyotes had a player hit 70 points in a season was Ray Whitney, when he banked 77 points in 2011-2012.
It may be the jolt the Coyotes offense needs, an offense that has been inconsistent this season. Arizona ranks 24th in goals for per game, coming in a 2.64, and Hall immediately became the team’s points leader when the trade became official.
The offense was really the downfall for Arizona as they became entrenched in a playoff race last season. The team finished 29th in goals for per game, scoring only 2.55 per night. The Coyotes scored only seven goals during a five game losing streak during the team’s most important stretch in March. Hall is an acquisition that will, hopefully, help the team avoid stretches like last season that could sink its playoff hopes.
The Coyotes have historically been more of a defensive team. That has not changed too much this season, as the Coyotes own the second-best goals against per game in the NHL this season. While Arizona is playing to its roster strengths, Hall has noticed a different team from when he first entered the league.
“[Arizona] used to be more of a veteran team,” Hall said. “A team that, I wouldn’t say was defensive-minded but it was certainly a way of playing that was different than other teams. I know from paying attention just the last couple years since Rick [Tocchet] and John [Chayka] have come here, it’s been an offensive group. It’s been a group that wants to play fast and inject a lot of youth into the lineup as much as they can, and that’s really what the NHL is about today.”
Hall sees it as a great opportunity for him at this point in his career. The Coyotes are hoping that he is the right fit, and the player that could put them over the top.
“If you want to point to a franchise that’s had a really good trajectory over the last couple of years, it’s Arizona,” Hall said, “and that’s a really good thing for a player of my age and it’s great to come into.”
The Valley fans will not have to wait long to see Hall showcase his talents on home ice. The newest Coyote will make his home debut on Thursday when the Minnesota Wild come to town.
by Seth Askelson
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 21, 2019
GLENDALE, ARIZONA -- he Arizona Coyotes selected defenseman Victor Soderstrom from Brynas IF (SHL) in the first round (11th overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia on Friday night.
The 6-foot, 183-pound Soderstrom registered 4-3-7 and 22 penalty minutes (PIM) in 44 games with Brynas IF (SHL) and recorded 1-7-8 and two PIM in 14 games with Brynas IF J20 (SuperElit) in 2018-19. The 18-year-old defenseman recorded the most points in the SHL by an U18 skater last season.
The Skutskar, Sweden native helped the Sweden U18 team win the gold medal at the 2019 World Junior Championship, skating in four games and recording an assist.
|Sep 15||at Vegas Golden Knights||T-Mobile Arena||Las Vegas, NV||2-6||0||1||0|
|Oct 3||at. DUCKS||Honda Center||Anaheim, CA||1-2||0||1||0|
|Oct 5||vs. BOSTON BRUINS||Gila River Arena||Glendale, AZ||0-1||0||2||0|
|Oct 10|| vs. VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS||Gila River Arena|| Glendale, AZ||4-1||1||2||0|
|Oct 12|| at COLORADO AVALANCHE||Pepsi Center|| ||2-3 (OT)||1||2||1|
|Nov 16||Gila River Arena||Glendale, AZ|
|Dec 6||vs. DENVER|| Oceanside|| Tempe, AZ|
|Dec 7||vs. DENVER||Gila River Arena|| Glendale, AZ|
|Dec 14||at MICHIGAN STATE||East Lansing, MI|
|Dec 15|| at MICHIGAN STATE|| East Lansing, MI|
|Dec 21||at NEBRASKA OMAHA||Omaha, NE|
|Dec 22||at NEBRASKA OMAHA||Omaha, NE|
|Dec 28||HARVARD||Fivepoint Arena||Irvine, CA|
|Dec 29||HARVARD||Fivepoint Arena||Irvine, CA|
|Jan 4||vs. MICHIGAN TECH||Oceanside||Tempe, AZ|
|Jan 5||vs. MICHIGAN TECH||Oceanside||Tempe, AZ|
|Jan 11||at BROWN||Providence, RI|
|Jan 12||at BROWN||Providence, RI|
|Jan 17||vs. RIT||Oceanside||Tempe, AZ|
|Jan 18|| vs. RIT||Oceanside||Tempe, AZ|
|Jan 24||at CLARKSON||Potsdam, NY|
|Jan 25||at CLARKSON||Potsdam, NY|
|Jan 31||vs. ROBERT MORRIS||Oceanside||Tempe, AZ|
|Feb 1||vs. ROBERT MORRIS||Oceanside||Tempe, AZ|
|Feb 7||at HOLY CROSS||Worcester, MA|
|Feb 8||at BENTLEY||Waltham, MA|
|Feb 14||vs. ALASKA ANCHORAGE||Oceanside||Tempe, AZ|
|Feb 15||vs. ALASKA ANCHORAGE||Oceanside||Tempe, AZ|
|Feb 21||at WISCONSIN||Madison, WI|
|Feb 22||at WISCONSIN||Madison, WI|
by Arizona Coyotes @ArizonaCoyotes / Arizona Coyotes
Arizona Acquires the 11th Overall Draft Choice
from Philadelphia in Exchange for
the 14th and 45th Overall Draft Choices
-- photo Seth Askelson
'We Weren't Leaving Without Him':
Chayka Assertive To Select Soderstrom
by Seth Askelson
Arizona Coyotes Camp - Day 4
Phil Kessel’s off-ice persona is one of legend, even if he did not create it. He is a hockey social media icon, as his face is placed on memes and the subject of lighthearted jokes. What is no joke, however, is the Arizona Coyotes now have a bonified, consistent goal scorer on their roster.
The Coyotes introduced the American-born winger in a press conference Tuesday morning. He comes over from the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he played the last four seasons. Kessel has put up at least 70 points in the last three campaigns, and he looks to add to what is already a solid Coyotes roster.
“I think this is a great situation for me,” Kessel said. “I’ve been around the league for a long time now, I think I can fit in here and help the young guys grow as players, help them take the next step to make this team into a contender and get where we want to be.”
Kessel’s relationship with Coyotes’ head coach Rick Tocchet is no secret. Tocchet was an assistant coach on Pittsburgh Penguins teams that included Kessel and won back-to-back Stanley Cups.
There have been rumors that Kessel would want to come to the Valley because of the Tocchet connection. The winger acknowledged that he and his new coach are friends, but he also realizes it’s going to be a little bit different now that Tocchet is the bench boss.
“There’s a business side here, and I think our friendship has to almost take a back seat to what we want to accomplish,” Kessel said. “Obviously, there’s going to be times he’s going to be mad at me and he’s going to yell at me, and I’m going to have to take that and respect that because we want to win.”
The move to bring in Kessel is one of many signals of a culture change for the Coyotes. A team once picking up contracts to meet the salary cap minimum is now near the salary ceiling. While it makes general manager John Chayka’s job a little tougher, it speaks to what mindset the organization is in.
“You need a commitment from ownership to do that, and (Coyotes majority owner) Alex Meruelo stepped up and made that commitment to our fans and our community, and credit to him for doing that,” Chayka said.
In the trade, the Coyotes sent over forward Alex Galchenyuk, who they acquired in a trade last offseason, and former first-round pick Pierre-Olivier Joseph. Trading away young pieces for established stars can be risky and easily criticized, but it is also necessary for a team looking to compete.
“I think we’re trying to take that next step,” Chayka said. “We owe it to this group after the year we had last year to try to take that next step.”
“I think this team is positioned well for this year, but also positioned well for the next five to 10 years, in terms of the quality of young players that we have and the waves of prospects that we have coming as well,” Chayka said.
The move also affects the business side for the Coyotes. Ticket sales and Kessel-related merchandise has boomed since the move, and it’s helping the team create a new, positive feeling.
“People see us taking a step to bring in a marquee player in this league,” Coyotes CEO Ahron Cohen said, “and last year they saw us a shade under the playoffs. Then, we bring back a lot of those core pieces and then you see us adding with a guy like Phil Kessel. I think people are excited for growth.”
“Overall, I think people are excited with our brand,” Cohen added. “We’re in a nice little period of time where we have an opportunity to get a lot of attention in this marketplace.”
The beginning of the Phil Kessel era in Arizona starts October 3 when the Coyotes open the season in Anaheim against the Ducks.
-- photo Seth Askelson
-- photo Seth Askelson
It has been seven years of disappointment for the Arizona Coyotes both on and off the ice. The team has not made the playoffs in that span, and each offseason had questions about ownership. It seems as though both of those problems will be solved soon.
The Arizona Coyotes introduced Alex Meruelo as the new majority owner Tuesday, officially making him the first billionaire owner of the franchise. He owns multiple businesses around the western United States, but this is the first time he has owned any professional sports team. He attempted to purchase the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks in 2011, but the agreement was mutually terminated between him and the current ownership group.
His second public attempt to jump into the pro sports market was a success, and in purchasing the Coyotes, he becomes the first ever NHL owner of Latin descent. He is the son of Cuban immigrants, and acknowledged his roots during the press conference.
He took time to speak in Spanish during his opening statement, and took a question and answered in the same language. When it came to questions about how the team will target the Hispanic market, he deferred to CEO Ahron Cohen, who wants to start the effort at a “grassroots level”.
“We’re focused on being very authentic and really reaching out in a meaningful way,” Cohen said. “What’s wonderful is that you have an owner that’s inspirational to not just the Hispanic community but every person can look and say ‘This is the American Dream’.”
The Coyotes have not seen postseason play since the 2012 run to the Western Conference Finals, though just missed out in 2019 by four points. The current roster and the success of the team last year has the new owner excited, and he made it very clear one thing he wants out of his franchise.
“I sure as (expletive) want to win.”
Throughout the last 10 years of juggling ownership, the biggest fear is that a new owner would want to move the Coyotes. With Meruelo owning business in California and Nevada, it does not seem likely that he would ever want to move the team, and he reassured the fan base of that.
“I am committed to making it work, whether it be (in Glendale), or someplace in the Valley,” Meruelo said. “I want to be a part of this state. That is my sole interest. I’ll do everything I possibly can to make it happen.”
When asked about the arena situation, Meruelo said that it is hard to be out in Glendale, away from the majority of the fan base and sponsors. But he did not explicitly rule out Gila River Arena as a long-term option, something that previous ownership and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman have said would not be viable down the road.
Financial restrictions and resources have made it tough for Coyotes General Manager John Chayka to make moves in the offseason and in free agency. Meruelo is going to bring in a much-needed financial boost, and it can allow the Coyotes to make some moves they may not have been able to do in the past. While there is the extra money, Chayka ensured that it would not be thrown around carelessly.
“If you look at his resume, (Meruelo) always invested in his businesses,” Chayka said. “If you’re trying to accomplish the goal of winning the Stanley Cup, you have to be very thoughtful about things and he’s not going to come in and be wasteful.”
The off-season has been one filled with buzz so far, and Meruelo coming in is the cherry on top. With another full month before training camp opens, it remains to be seen if the new owner’s resources will play a factor in adding to the current roster. What is clear is Meruelo’s ultimate goals: find a viable option to stay in Arizona and win Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Ice Time Hockey SW photos
Arizona Coyotes Camp 2019: Day 4, with Barrett Hayton
Last week’s road trip for the Arizona Coyotes got off to an encouraging start in Sunrise. Adin Hill made 30 saves in his first start of the season, and the Coyotes offense fired on all cylinders in a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers.
The final two games away from Glendale were not so kind. The streak-breaking Coyotes got another chance in Tampa, and instead were overwhelmed by the Lightning after a couple of tough-luck goals against in the first period.
Then good news came Friday when it was announced that Antti Raanta would start in Carolina. Those positive vibes quickly disappeared when Raanta left the game with an injury in a tough 3-0 loss.
The week ended with a little more positive loss, a shootout defeat to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had been the league’s best team since losing Sidney Crosby. It was a better performance that saw the much-needed return of defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to the lineup.
Now the Coyotes face the biggest stretch of its season. The next three games before the All-Star break are against Pacific Division opponents, beginning with the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. This is a stretch where Arizona can put themselves in a really good position before having 11 days off, or really put themselves behind the eight-ball heading into the most crucial part of the season.
The long break will be much needed for the Coyotes no matter how the next three games go. They are hurting in its biggest strength, goaltending, and it was announced that Darcy Kuemper will not play before the All-Star break.
It does not look as though Raanta will not be back to play this week, so the crease for Arizona will need to be held down by its young goaltender tandem. Hill played outstanding in Florida and made key saves against Pittsburgh on Sunday, but the team needs more consistency from him. While it is nearly impossible to find anyone to play at the level Kuemper was before injury, all it may take for the Coyotes to win the next three is steady performances from Hill.
The perfect opportunity to get Ivan Prosvetov his first career NHL start would be Tuesday against the Sharks. Get him out in a comfortable environment, against a team that is struggling with injuries and trying to stay afloat would be the best chance to find his legs in the big league.
Prosvetov has really shined and taken over in Tucson as well. In 15 games, he holds a 2.38 goals against average and a .931 SV%, showing why the Coyotes took him in the fourth round just two years ago. With Raanta’s injury struggles since his arrival to the Valley, Prosvetov might be a full-time member of the Coyotes sooner than anybody was expecting.
The Coyotes have been ravaged by injuries during Rick Tocchet’s entire tenure as head coach. The Coyotes seem complete in its 18 skaters, a positive that has rarely been present. The one thing Arizona always had was its goaltending, and now the depth is being tested in the position. If the Coyotes can pick up four of a six possible points this week, they can enter the break with a little more breathing room, and get back to full health for the first time in a long time.
“I sure as sh*t want to win.” – Meruelo
makes intentions known during introduction
- photo courtesy of Arizona Coyotes
Coyotes Select Victor Soderstrom
In The First Round Of The 2019 NHL Draft