There's no hiding the fact that the Arizona Coyotes are a team in rebuild with few expectations for the 2022/23 season.
Enjoying three picks among the first 29 in the 2022 NHL Draft and 18 in the first three rounds in 2023, 2024 and 2025, the Coyotes are purely focussed on developing prospects to eventually become competitive again.
|What:||NHL Season 2022/23|
|Where:||USA and Canada|
|When:||October 7th 2022 - June 2023|
|How to watch:||ESPN+, Star+, NHL.TV|
|Odds:||COL Avalanche +425, TOR Maple Leafs +800, FLA Panthers +900, TB Lightning +1000, CAR Hurricanes +1100|
The Coyotes suffered the most regulation defeats in the NHL last season (50) and were 31st with 57 points and a .348 points percentage ahead of only the Montreal Canadiens (55 points, .335).
No major off-season additions have been made with General Manager Bill Armstrong admitting the franchise are only interested in acquiring draft picks.
Arizona has weaponised its cap space to acquire hefty contracts from other teams, in exchange for a bucket load of draft picks.
The work by Armstrong allowed them to pick three times in the 2022 first round and build a strong foundation up the middle in centres Logan Cooley and Conor Geekie.
Giant defenceman Maveric Lamoureux, who has a huge right-shot, was their third selection and his hard-nosed style will complement the skill being brought into the organisation.
It's unclear if any of the rookies will appear in the Coyotes side next season but even if they did, it's going to take time, and further savvy picks for Armstrong's team to consider making playoffs.
The Coyotes left Gila River Arena after 19 seasons and will spend at least the next three at Arizona State University's brand-new 5,000-seat multipurpose arena.
It's a tiny facility for an NHL team, but their only option while like their team, they negotiate the build of a new arena, which won't open until the 2025/26 season at the earliest.
While not ideal, the Coyotes will benefit from a home-ice advantage like no other NHL team, with a sold-out crowd every night who will be able to make the environment a hostile one for visiting teams.
Clayton Keller, 24, who was drafted by the Coyotes with the seventh pick of the 2016 NHL draft will aim to pick up where he left off last season, scoring a career-high 28 goals before breaking his leg in late March.
Expected to be healthy for Arizona's opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Keller will form the centrepiece of their offence which will also rely on Nick Schmaltz, Lawson Crouse and Nick Ritchie.
Keller broke into the NHL in 2017/18 scoring 23 goals, 42 assists for 65 points in his debut season.
Also 24 and a first-round pick (16th overall in 2016), Arizona are pinning next seasons hopes on a bounce back season for defenceman Jakob Chychrun who has remained with the franchise despite consistent rumours linking him away.
The 6'2" blue-liner scored seven goals in 47 games last season after leading all defencemen with 18 in 2020/21.
It's also a big season for 22-year old forward Barrett Hayton, the fifth overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, who'll be required to play a bigger role after he scored 24 points (10 goals, 14 points) in 60 games last season.
Arizona conceded the second highest amount of goals last season (313) and while that wasn't down to goal-tending per-se it's a clear problem area for the Coyotes.
Karel Vejmelka is their number-one option, but he has only played one season in the NHL going 13-32-3 with a .898 save-percentage and 3.68 goals-against average (GAA) last season.
Scott Wedgewood who played 26 games last season with a better .911 save-percentage and 3/16 GAA was traded to the Dallas Stars, leaving very little depth in the crease.
Full scale re-builds have proven to work with several teams going from the NHL's basement to Stanley Cup Champions, but it takes time, a lot of patience and plenty of smart picks.
On the face of it, the Coyotes are doing the right things to have a bright future, but that's unlikely to be in 2022/23.
The focus must remain on building a foundation, a style of play and an identity of which to add their maturing prospects to, and not get disheartened by the inevitable pile of short-term defeats.