17 June 2007

NHL draft - #3 pick: Phoenix

As a reminder, I'm not intending these to be predictions on who will be selected - simply evaluating who I would take if I were in each club's position, and basing subsequent picks on my previous phantom picks. In other words, it's complete bullshit. :-D

Ahh, Phoenix. So much to pick on, so little time...but in this article we'll keep a focused criticism of the franchise on their drafting legacy. Of the 12 first-round picks they've made in their short and terrible 11-year history (has it been that long already?), the only one to become a star is Daniel Briere, who quite obviously has not been plying his trade for the Coyotes of late. Defensive forward Fredrik Sjostrom (#11, 2001 draft) has held a steady job for the 'Yotes over the past three seasons, but there has been no homegrown star power in the desert. To be fair, we can't fairly analyze recent draft history, which may eventually help boost their drafting reputation. They just signed their high-scoring 2005 first rounder Martin Hanzel to an entry level deal. Their highest pick - Blake Wheeler, 5th overall in 2004 - is currently excelling at the University of Minnesota. Wheeler's high school teammate Peter Mueller (#8, 2006 draft) scored 78 points for Everett (WHL) last year and has represented the USA at the past two World Junior Championships.

Yet there's no denying that this franchise's cycle of mediocrity has their roots in poor drafting. A team must expect the occasional first-round bust but Phoenix has taken that to extremes by almost literally never having success in a decade of drafts. Awful drafting has doomed the Phoenix organization to repeated mediocre finishes, only once finishing as high as second in their division. Here's an indictment of the entire organization: outside of Daniel Briere, never (since 1996) has the franchise drafted a single player who has scored 20 goals in an NHL season (the only one close being Trevor Letowski in 2000). Phoenix needs a lot, but what could help them take a big step forward both on the ice and at the gate would be an offensive dynamo.

The best fit for the Coyotes would be London Knights first-year sensation Patrick Kane. Although the chances of him still being available at the #3 slot are fairly slim, it wouldn't be unprecedented for a highly-acclaimed and odds-on favourite to go #1 to slip to the third spot - in 2002 Jay Bouwmeester was expected by many all season to be the top pick but on draft day he slipped to third, much to his surprise.

Although Phoenix is still far off from being a serious competitor, Kane's offensive wizardry is exactly what the Coyotes need to start them on the road back to respectability. Phoenix must make the hard decision to avoid ridiculous and backward-thinking signings of veterans and focus on a 3-5 year plan on making this team ready to challenge for the cup by the end of the decade. Kane could immediately be the best forward on the team by mid-season, with only Shane Doan able to challenge for that post. In the likely event that Kane is not available at the third spot, the Coyotes will likely take whomever is left of Kyle Turris and James vanRiemsdyk.

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