You'd be hard-pressed to find a team in the NHL with worse luck over the last few years than the Arizona Coyotes. And honestly, this isn't even strictly about their on-ice performances. Many teams have had poor luck on the ice, especially in big moments. The Coyotes, however, can't escape their bad luck no matter where they go.
Things could change in their favor, though. Arizona boasts one of the league's more promising prospect pipelines and has some exciting talent waiting in the wings. Off the ice, the team could finally find a potential home in the state of Arizona despite the Tempe arena deal falling apart.
The Coyotes finished last season on rather respectable terms given the circumstances. And they certainly hope they can build upon that in 2023-24. With that said, here are three bold predictions for the upcoming Arizona Coyotes season.
Last season, Matias Maccelli was one of the more important players on this team. He emerged as a potentially promising piece of the team's future. And he earned some consideration for the Calder Trophy, though he failed to take home the hardware.
Heading into 2023-24, he seems poised to take a bit of a backseat. The Coyotes brought in veteran wingers Jason Zucker and Alexander Kerfoot this summer. And Dylan Guenther figured to occupy a top-six role, as well. This could cause Maccelli to shift down the lineup.
However, don't count him out. Maccelli proved himself as an effective playmaker in 2022-23. And that will continue in 2023-24. Expect the young winger to force the Coyotes into giving him a more prominent role on offense as well as some improvement on his numbers from his rookie season.
Clayton Keller makes history
Clayton Keller has proven that he is an excellent hockey player. I can't think of very many people who have seen Keller play who would disagree with that idea. And he put his skill on display last season. The 25-year-old broke out for 37 goals and 86 points for the Coyotes.
This season, expect Keller to continue to establish himself as an elite player. But this goes further than that. Not only will Keller establish himself as elite, he'll do something no player has accomplished since the team relocated from Winnipeg in the 1990s.
Keller will score 100 points in 2023-24. He will benefit from the improvement of a number of Coyotes forwards around him. Most importantly, expect his linemate Barrett Hayton to take a step this upcoming season. Keller fell short of the franchise points record last season. This season, however, he should absolutely smash the record.
If Keller, Maccelli, Hayton, and others improve, the Coyotes should shock the hockey world. Now, I'm not saying this team will make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That is a rather high bar that I'm not entirely sure this team is ready to leap over just yet. But the Coyotes certainly will be more of a competitor than some give them credit for.
Of course, a lot has to go Arizona's way for this to work. Goalie Karel Vejmelka needs to find consistency in his game. He has to avoid second-half collapses that have plagued him over the last two seasons. Furthermore, the entire Arizona defense has to improve in order to support their puck-stopper.
It'll take an entire team effort for this to happen, but it isn't impossible. The Arizona Coyotes will compete for a playoff spot well into the 2023-24 NHL season. And they will certainly frustrate many teams in the process.