If you looked at the Arizona Coyotes’ draft picks on Monday morning, the list did not bring any hope for a team that has suddenly come to a fork in the road with its current roster. It took about seven and a half hours of the 2020 Entry Draft for the Coyotes to make its first pick of the event, but when they finally got to select, the revamped staff kept the picks coming the rest of the afternoon.
Round 4, Pick 111 – Mitchell Miller, Defenseman, 5’10’’, 180 lbs., Tri-City Storm (USHL)
Arizona decided to spend its first pick of the draft to shore up the defenseman pipeline. Miller put together an impressive 2019-2020 season offensively for Tri-City, putting up 33 points in 44 games. His great performance on the offensive end is familiar territory for the North Dakota freshman.
“I grew up as a forward,” Miller said. “My U16 year, I switched to defense for one game, and then I decided to finish out as [a defenseman].”
Elite Prospects liked the way he moved the puck and how he positions himself on the ice. If he is able to transition those skills to the professional level, he could fit the middle 4 rotation, and with the potential to jump to the top pairing.
Round 5, Pick 142 – Carson Bantle, Left Wing, 6’4”, 194 lbs., Madison Capitols (USHL)
The St. Louis Blues won its Stanley Cup two summers ago with a lot of big, skilled forwards. That is exactly what Carson Bantle brings to the table, putting up 49 points in 49 games with Madison in the USHL last season. It was a huge jump from the year previous with the Capitols, as he had 20 points in 60 contests.
The Bantle pick was the first of four forwards selected by Arizona as they try to bolster its offensive pool of prospects. The Wisconsin native says he plays like a forward who has given the Coyotes nightmares over the last decade-and-a-half.
“I’d say I model my game after Ryan Getzlaf,” Bantle said. “He’s a big forward like me, has good hands in tight, and plays more of that north-south type game. He’s also big and strong in front of the net and very good in the corners. He uses his body to separate the puck from other players and be able to get to the net.”
He will be headed to Michigan Tech for the upcoming NCAA season, and will most likely spend a couple of seasons at college. Bantle will have the opportunity to develop Ryan Getzlaf-level skills as the Coyotes look to find its next group of forwards for the future.
Round 6, Pick 173 – Filip Barklund 6’, 168 lbs., Orebro HK (J20 Nationell, Sweden)
Sweden has become a hotbed for draft prospects, especially over the past decade. The Coyotes are no strangers to selecting players from the Scandinavian country, as its current captain and top prospect both represent the Tre Kronor. Arizona decided to nab two more players from the country, the first of which is praised for his skating.
After putting up 29 points in 19 games at the J18 Elit level, Barklund put together eight points in 17 games at the J20 SuperElit level as a 16-year-old. That same season, he represented at the U17 World Championships, scoring a goal to go along with 3 assists. Barklund continued to improve during his second season in the J20 SuperElit, posting 30 points in 43 games. It is good news for the Coyotes that he continues to produce as he moves up in competition, as he already has six points in the J20 Nationell in six contests so far.
Round 7, Pick 192 – Elliot Ekefjard, 6’ 4’’, 216 lbs., Malmo Redhawks J20 (J20 Nationell, Sweden)
Arizona’s brass felt strongly about jumping up in the seventh round this year, shipping next year’s seventh New Jersey’s way in order to draft the large Swedish forward. Ekefjard is similar to countryman Barkland, as the 192nd overall pick has posted great numbers in every league he’s played in.
Last season, Ekefjard participated in action across three separate leagues. He posted 37 points in 19 games in the J18 Elit before moving to J18 Allsvenskan and adding 20 points in 16 more contests. Ekefjard was able to get into 15 games in the J20 Elit before the end of the 2019-2020 year, putting up 14 points in 15 games, including nine goals. Purely through the basic stats, Ekefjard is able to keep up at any level of competition he is thrown into. The largest challenge for players overseas is adjusting to the North American style of hockey, so it is something to look out for when Ekefjard and Barklund come over for various prospect and training camps over the next few years.
Round 7, Pick 204 – Ben McCartney 6’, 185 lbs., Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
The Brandon Wheat Kings forward did not get selected in his first year of draft eligibility in 2019, but his 61 points in 61 games put him in a good position to get selected this time around. The Coyotes selected the 19-year-old with its final pick of the 2020 Draft, and McCartney has shown growth over the last two season.
His confidence may have been boosted with his performance in the 2018 WHL playoffs. During that regular season, he had just 12 points in 51 games. McCartney found his stride in the postseason though, where he posted six points in 11 games. The following season, he had 41 points, and then posted his 61 point season. McCartney will most likely play one more year with the Wheat Kings this season, and Arizona, if they choose to sign him, will get a chance to see him in Tucson for the next couple of years after.
It is hard to produce a splash when a team does not have a selection within the first 100 picks. With what the Coyotes had to work with, a result of its previous general manager, they bolstered its prospect pool with players that will have a chance to develop in different leagues. While new GM Bill Armstrong was unable to participate directly in the Coyotes selections, he had a plan for his staff prior to the draft.
“We don’t want to let a whole year go by and not have any prospects come into our organization,” Armstrong said. “The way that I guided this group, and what I was allowed to do is plant a seed and say to them, ‘we need one player out of this draft’.”
Armstrong has a great track record with late-round picks from his St. Louis days, showing great scouting prowess that led to his current position. It will most likely be 3-4 years before this class of players comes close to any NHL action, but this draft could be the foundation to a championship team down the road.