Ok, we know the NHL Draft for 2022 has been completed. Who will win the 2023 NHL draft with Connor Bedard as the prize, may come down to two teams? The Arizona Coyotes or Chicago Blackhawks. Both teams are in the midst of a painful rebuild. While finishing last doesn’t always guarantee that the first overall pick is yours, it’s a good starting point. Just look at the Montreal Canadiens who landed Juraj Slafkovsky with the first draft choice.
Rebuild (aka tank) War is on…
Let’s look at these two Central Division teams vying for the first overall selection in next year’s draft.
The Coyotes made it known that they were in a rebuild before the 2021-22 season started, and they proved it. They finished 31st, just ahead of the Canadiens with a 25-50-7 record for 57 points. That was their worst record since the disastrous 2014-15 season when they only accumulated 56 points. One would think that would be enough to finish last and increase the likelihood of getting that first pick. Well, the team went out and won their last three games to ruin that concept. They also did it in a nice fashion, beating the Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, and Nashville Predators with the first two games on the road. What got into them?
Let’s face it, this team was far from being anything but mediocre. They had the worst goal differential coming in with a -106. That meant they allowed 106 more goals (313 total) than they scored (207). Their .348 points percentage was 31st.
Yet, with all of that bad draft lottery luck they have always experienced, they hoped this year would be different. They wound up getting the third overall pick. Oh yes, the 2022 draft was full of surprises beyond the Habs selecting Slafkovsky instead of the favourite Shane Wright. Then, the New Jersey Devils, who had been throwing around the idea of trading their second draft position, didn’t want Wright either, going for Simon Nemec instead. So, the Coyotes would surely take Wright, RIGHT? Nope, they chose Logan Cooley and Wright fell to the Seattle Kraken at the fourth spot.
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The 2022-23 Arizona Coyotes Won’t be Much Better
The team did make some moves, but that mostly guaranteed they won’t be pushed around by large opposing teams. Patrik Nemeth at 6-foot 4, 230 was added to the blue line. So was Josh Brown at 6-foot 5, 220 pounds. On the front line, they went with Nick Bjugstad who is 6-foot 6, 215. Ok, that may make them a bit more difficult to play against, but will they win more games with these additions? Doubtful.
The draft did help them a bit by adding a possible center they have been searching for… well forever. Cooley is committed to playing at the University of Minnesota next season, so he won’t be of any help. Conor Geekie was taken at the #11 spot and has some potential. Yet, with most prospects, it takes time. Just look at Barrett Hayton who was selected fifth overall back in 2018. He is just now perhaps (TBD) coming around to making his statement in the NHL.
Prediction for the Coyotes in the Connor Bedard Race
The Coyotes will more than likely finish close to their dismal record for 2021-22. Let’s say 58 points… ok? While nobody knows where the team will finish as far as in the final standings, they will be right there in the Bedard race. The one advantage (if you can call it that) is they will be forced to play their first 20 out of 24 games for the 2022-23 season on the road. This is due to them being forced to play at Arizona State’s new 5,000-seat (or less) multi-purpose arena. They are hoping that the city of Tempe approves their new arena/entertainment district proposal. We may know more about that by the fall.
So, let’s say the Coyotes finish 31st or 32nd. The team may be set on selecting Bedard if they are fortunate enough to draft first, but there will be other prizes in this draft. Matvei Michkov, Adam Fantilli, and Dalibor Dvorsky are all very good players who could help the Coyotes going forward.
This team has had a rough road of late, and this upcoming season won’t change their fortunes much at all. They did make some great moves at the draft, but trading Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach were merely to accentuate their tank to get Bedard. Now, two of their star players Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews seem to want out, and who can blame them. Kane lost his valuable linemate in DeBrincat and Toews recently made it known that he has no interest in sticking around for a five-year rebuild. New GM Kyle Davidson cleaned house and losing both of the $10.5 million contracts of their star players is next on the agenda.
The offence will suffer with the already departed players and the possibility of Kane and Toews seeking other employment. Kane had 92 points. DeBrincat had 78 points. Dylan Strome (signed with Washington Capitals) 48 points. Toews had 37 points. Kirby Dach (traded to Montreal) 26 points.
The Hawks finished 27th with a 28-42-12 record good for 68 points. They had an identical 14-21-6 record at home and on the road.
The Hawks were very active at the draft, making moves. They traded DeBrincat to Ottawa for the seventh pick which they used to add defenseman Kevin Korchinski of the WHL. He had four goals, and 61 assists in 67 games. They then made a shrewd move to get the 13th pick by trading Dach to Montreal. With that pick, they selected center, Frank Nazar, from the USHL where he collected 28 goals and 42 assists in 56 games in the USDP.
The 2022-23 Chicago Blackhawks Will be Worse
With the rebuild going full force ahead, this team will finish worse, and that’s their goal. You have no idea how difficult that is to state, but other teams (see the Colorado Avalanche) have gone through it successfully. The timeline is never predictable, and Toews may be correct in the five-year estimate. The Hawks, like the Coyotes, will seek teams needing cap relief to gain more draft assets. The Blackhawks have two draft picks in each of the first three rounds in 2023. If they can add to that, they will increase their odds to get Bedard or another prized player.
Prediction for the Blackhawks in the Connor Bedard Race
The Blackhawks will definitely finish below their record for 2021-22. Perhaps they will achieve 59 points, putting them right in the mix with the Coyotes for the worst record. They may not be able to “out-tank” the Coyotes who have that terrible schedule, but they will come close. It all depends on whether or not Kane and Toews stay or go. Kane may end up in the Big Apple and Toews may go home to Winnipeg. In any case, they won’t be around much longer and will miss the rebuild, and for them, that may be the best solution.
Davidson’s rebuild may achieve the results he seeks, but it will take time. For this original-six team to fall to such depths is sad indeed, yet it was inevitable. Not seeing the Chicago club up in the standings or in the postseason will be disappointing for their fans, but it is necessary.
For both of these teams, they are hoping for better times in the future. It could come to pass that neither team lands Bedard. The draft, as we learned this year is an unpredictable creature. Some other team could very well get that coveted first pick and therefore add Bedard to their roster. The 2023 draft will certainly help NHL teams with all the expected talent it possesses. Whether the Coyotes or Blackhawks come out winners is yet to be determined.
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