Eichel a Better Fit For Coyotes Than McDavid
Just as the Coyotes seemed to be turning a corner off the ice, they fell off a cliff on it.
Ranked 29th overall; only Buffalo sit below Arizona in the standings, after a terrible campaign has seen them slide from 89 points last season to 54 this term.
The silver lining to this tale of misery is a legitimate shot at drafting one of the two best prospects to come along in years, giving a young Yotes team hope for the future.
As it stands, Arizona will have a 13.5% chance of winning the draft lottery on April 18th – giving the Coyotes their highest ever draft pick (Kyle Turris was taken 3rd overall in 2007), and a shot at Eerie Otters star Connor McDavid. And unless Buffalo overturns the 6 point gap between the two teams in their remaining six games, that’s how it will stay.
Finishing bottom only gives the Sabres a 20% chance of securing that coveted first pick, with the twelve other non-play-off teams also having a chance at winning the lottery, but lets assume for the moment the lottery follows the expected path and sees Buffalo and Arizona land the 1st and 2nd selections.
Aside from satisfying Sabres General Manager Tim Murray’s unnatural fascination with McDavid, it would provide Arizona with the chance to add Boston University Terriers phenom Jack Eichel – which may actually be the best outcome for the franchise.
Puck Daddy’s Ryan Lambert extolled the virtues of Eichel on the One Puck Short Podcast in November; and little has changed since. Eichel fired home 24 goals and 67 points in 34 games for the Terriers this season – leading the NCAA in scoring – and is the consensus 2nd overall pick.
Either McDavid or Eichel would be a fantastic addition to a Coyotes team that already sports strong prospects like Brandon Gormley, Max Domi and Brendan Perlini. And with 23-year old Oliver Ekman-Larsson patrolling the blue line, adding either of these junior starlets to that core means Arizona has a group it can be confident moving forward with.
But Eichel’s benefit to Arizona moves slightly beyond stats and puck skills – while McDavid is considered the better of the pair, he doesn’t have one thing Eichel has: an American passport.
Is this blatant flag waving? Yes. But maybe that’s the point.
This isn’t a slur on McDavid or Canadian or European skaters, far from it. McDavid and Eichel are two ‘can’t miss’ prospects, and Eichel would have been a 1st overall pick in almost any other year. Thus, either would be a significant boon to the team.
But equally, a healthy dose of patriotism wrapped around a young man who is both talented and engaging could be a winner for a team in need of a shot in the arm.
Buffalo has a healthy foundation of support – they just need talent. The Coyotes, for lack of a better term, don’t – and as such, maybe need something a little bit more.
Arizona has a vociferous hardcore fan base, but it is – compared to others – small. It’s also a fan base that has been through the ringer with ownership squabbles, money difficulties and constant talk of relocation. Regardless of the good work Dave Tippett did with largely unheralded rosters on the ice, the Coyotes were almost always defined by their bottom line. And even for the most hardy fan, that is exhausting.
Throw in an enthusiastic, talented, American born star and you’ve ticked a lot of peoples boxes.
Of course there are no guarantees top picks translate into Stanley Cups – just ask Edmonton – and financial losses cannot be wiped away over night; but for a team that has spent such a long time fighting to sell itself both locally and nationally, it’s a step in the right direction.
The Coyotes saw an upturn in interest during a three year run from 2010 to 2012, qualifying for the play-offs and securing the franchise’ first Division title during that span. It shows that the people of Arizona will turn out to support a successful team – something Glendale/Phoenix has seldom seen.
Eichel could be the perfect kick starter to changing that.
A smart General Manager, savvy coach and ‘sell-able’ players – it’s a recipe for success. Arizona have done great things with limited resources; something Nashville did before, them as have countless others. It can lead to success and the foundations are there, in spite of the financial tidal waves that frequently threaten to wash them away.
For Arizona the 2015 draft could be the start of something special.