The draft is an important time for the minor league club of any NHL organization as the players selected are the ones that will eventually fill the ranks of the minor league club. In the case of the Tucson Roadrunners, it was particularly eventful as their parent club; the Arizona Coyotes made nine selections.
Originally, the Coyotes were supposed to pick twice in the first round, owning both the 7th overall selection and the 23rd pick that was received from Minnesota at the trade deadline. This changed on draft day however as the 7th pick was traded to the New York Rangers as part of the deal that brought Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Coyotes.
23rd overall- Pierre-Oliver Joseph (Defenseman), Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
Listed at 6’2″ and 163 pounds, Joseph was third highest rated prospect in playing in Canada’s elite Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) heading into the 2017 Draft. While playing with the Charlottetown Islanders, he registered 6 goals, 33 assists, and 59 points in 62 games this season. Throughout the season, he was key on the Islanders powerplay, scoring 3 goals and 17 assists, the latter being the second highest on his team.
The 17-year-old native of Chambly, Quebec is praised for being a reliable two-way defenseman with excellent offensive and defensive awareness. As one of the youngest players selected in the draft, Joseph will need time to mature and bulk up before he can see NHL action. Expect to see him in Tucson two years down the road after he ages out of Juniors after turning 20 (he turns 18 on July 1st).
44th overall- Filip Westerlund (Defenseman), Frolunda HC (Swedish Hockey League)
As expected, with the 44th selection, the Coyotes added more depth on defense, selecting Filip Westerlund of Harnosand, Sweden. Last season Westerlund scored 0 goals, 4 assists and was +3 in 33 games while playing for Frolunda last season. While this may not seem impressive, it is considering he was an 18-year-old playing against grown men in one of the best hockey leagues in the world.
Westerlund is praised by scouts for his vision, puck control, and passing. It is also noted that his skating could be better and that given his high Hockey IQ, there is room for improvement in his defensive game. As a European Player, the 18-year-old is not subject to the CHL transfer agreement that will keep Pierre-Oliver Joseph in the QMJHL until he is 20, meaning Westerlund is eligible to play in the AHL as soon as he is signed to an Arizona Coyotes contract. Given this and Westerlund proving last season that he could play with Europe’s best, there is a strong possibility that he could be a Roadrunner this October.
69th Overall- MacKenzie Entwistle (Right Wing), Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
With the 69th overall pick, the Coyotes bolstered their depth on the wing, drafting the 6’3″, 174 pound Mackenzie Entwistle out of Georgetown, Ontario. Ranked as the 44th best North American skater according to the NHL’s Central Scouting Organization, Entwistle projects as a solid depth forward, capable of providing excellent secondary scoring, posting 12 goals, 13 assists and 25 points in 54 games with the Ontario Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs in 2016-17.
Like Pierre-Oliver Joseph, Entwistle is a North American Skater playing Major Junior Hockey in Canada, meaning that the CHL transfer agreement will keep him in the OHL until he is at least 20. Because of this do not expect to see the 17-year-old in a Roadrunner uniform until the 2019-20 season.
75th Overall- Nate Schnarr (Center), Guelph Storm (OHL)
At 75, midway through the third round, the Coyotes Organization added a depth center, drafting Nate Schnarr of Kitchener, Ontario. Schnarr projects as a bottom-6 forward scoring 18 goals, 18 assists for 36 points in 54 games with the Guelph Storm last season. Listed at 6’3″ and 181 pounds, the 18-year-old brings size and strength to the table. Like Entwistle, the CHL transfer agreement also applies to Schnarr, meaning that we will not see him as a regular in Tucson’s lineup until at least two years down the road.
82nd Overall- Cameron Crotty (Defenseman), Brockville Braves (Central Canada Hockey League)
With their final selection in the third round, the Coyotes added another defenseman, selecting Cameron Crotty of the Brockville Braves. The Ottawa, Ontario Native is a defensive, stay at home defenseman registering 4 goals, 9 assists and 13 points in 41 games last season with Brockville. Electing not to play in the OHL, Crotty did not lose his NCAA eligibility by playing Major Junior Hockey and is committed to play for Boston University next season.
It is unclear whether Crotty will ever play in Tucson or anywhere in the Coyotes organization because draft picks become invalid after three years and it is very common for later draft picks to play a full four seasons in college. If he instead chooses to leave the NCAA after his freshman, sophomore or junior years by signing a contract with the Coyotes, Crotty could be playing in the AHL for the Roadrunners as early as the 2018-19 season.
108th Overall- Noel Hofenmayer (Defenseman), Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
With their lone selection in the fourth round, the Coyotes added an offensively-minded defenseman in Noel Hofenmayer from Greater Toronto, Ontario. With the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s, the 18-year-old registered an impressive 14 goals, 26 assists, and 40 points in 62 games last season. Listed at 6’0″ and 190 pounds, Hofenmayer is slightly under-sized, but is praised for his vision and play-making abilities. As with other Major Junior Players taken in this draft, the CHL transfer agreement will keep him in the OHL for at least the next two seasons.
126th Overall- Michael Karow (Defenseman), Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
With the 126th pick, the Coyotes selected their first American Skater in the draft, choosing Michael Karow out Green Bay, Wisconsin. Listed at an impressive 6’2″ and 205 pounds Karow is a solid defensively-minded defenseman, posting 4 goals, 17 assists and 21 points in 58 games last season. Since he committed to play at Boston College next year, much like Cameron Crotty, it is unclear whether he will ever suit up for the Roadrunners. It could be as early as the 2018-19 season or not at all.
128th Overall- Tyler Steenbergen (Center), Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
With the 128th pick, the Coyotes selected an undersized player capable of putting up big numbers. Steenbergen was one of the more exciting players chosen by the Coyotes this year because of his tremendous potential and offensive upside. Last year the Sylvan Lake, Alberta native posted an outstanding 51 goals, 39 assists and 90 points in 72 games playing in the Major Junior level Western Hockey League last year.
As with other smaller players, Steenbergen’s 5’10” 181 pound listing raises concerns about how well he will be able to develop the physical aspect of his game; a necessity if he is to compete at the professional level. This is ultimately why small skilled players like Steenbergen tend to fall to the later rounds, despite world-class production in one of the top Junior Hockey Leagues in the world. Look no further than Conor Garland on the Roadrunners for an example of this.
Steenbergen is the prototypical sleeper for the Coyotes in this draft, and if he develops properly, a few years down the road he will look like an absolute steal. Unlike most of the selections in this draft, Steenbergen is 19-years-old because he went undrafted in his first year of eligibility. If he puts up good numbers for a second consecutive season in 2017-18 with Swift Current, expect the Coyotes to sign Steenbergen to a contract and have him playing in the organization by the 2018-19 season.
Since the Coyotes did not have a pick in the sixth round of the draft this year, their last pick came in the seventh and final round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
190th Overall- Erik Walli Walterholm (Right Wing)- Djurgarden (Allsvenskan- Swedish Major Junior Hockey)
Ranked the 62nd overall European Skater by NHL Central Scouting the Coyotes selected Right Winger, Erik Walli Walterholm out of Sweden. Walterholm was a point per game player last year in Sweden’s top Junior Hockey League, registering 8 goals, 6 assists, and 14 points in 14 games last year. Weighing in at 6’2″ and 179 lbs, he is another project with great potential. Although unlikely, as a European skater he is theoretically eligible to sign a contract with the Coyotes and be playing in the AHL with the Roadrunners next season.
Since he didn’t even play a full season in the Allsvenskan last year and was chosen in the seventh round, the Coyotes will most likely not offer him a contract and allow him to develop in Europe for another year.
The Arizona Coyotes were one of the big winners in this year’s draft making good trades and making interesting selections up and down the board in a weak draft year. Given the Mike Smith trade, it was a bit surprising that they did not take a goaltender, but they made the most of their picks, bolstering their depth at every other position, especially on defense.