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Coyotes Load Up by Drafting Luke Kunin

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The 2016 NHL Entry Draft is 15 days away and the Minnesota Wild is looking to add that next star player to the team to carry the franchise to the next level. Every weekday leading up to the first round of the draft, Hockey Wilderness is conducting a mock draft. Today we are at pick 19 and the New York Islanders are on the clock.

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Despite some of the success seeming a bit unsustainable, the Arizona Coyotes took a step forward this season. Their youth movement is transitioning to the NHL well and they'll only improve with experience. Though they were near the bottom of the standings, their season should be seen as a success of a certain kind. They didn't need to make the playoffs.

Their 46.4% CF% was the third worst in the league, but there were good signs inside that even. Many of the young players were above an even CF%Rel mark or above, including Oliver Ekman-Larsson (5.62%), Tobias Rieder (3.89%), Anthony Duclair (3.73%), Sergei Plotnikov (3.4% in 13 games), Tyler Gaudet (2.5% in 14 games), Jordan Martinook (0.43%), Connor Murphy (0.35%), Michael Stone (0.1%), Laurent Dauphin (-0.45%), and Max Domi (-0.64%).

It's a small thing, but the guys driving play inside the organization were young and there's no reason they shouldn't be improved this season under new GM John Chayka. There's a lot of work to be done re-signing players and bolstering the lineup with nine players from last year set to become UFAs.

Coyotes Prospect Pipeline

It's touched on a bit above, but it's a good situation for the Coyotes, with guys like Max Domi and Anthon Duclair proving very quickly that they are ready for play at the NHL level. Add in that Dylan Strome is on the way, as is Christian Dvorak, Nick Merkley, Brendan Perlini, Christian Fisher, Ryan MacInnis, and Conor Garland.

That's a ridiculous amount of talent. However, those are all forwards. Their defensive prospects are wanting. There are some good young players in the NHL, and Connor Clifton had a great year for Quinnipiac. There are some others who similarly could be a NHLer, but there isn't a top pairing guy in the group.

In net, 24-year-old Louis Domingue stepped into the starting role when Mike Smith was injured and showed that he's ready for the NHL.

About Luke Kunin

Kunin, who previously served as the captain of the U.S. National Team Development Program, showed off his speed and intelligence this year, widely considered to be his best asset. He's an average sized center, who has some bite in his game. While the Coyotes clearly need defense, at this pick Kunin is a good project and since he's their second first round pick, loading up down the middle isn't a bad idea.

The hope in his second year at the University of Wisconsin is that he'll continue to devlop a more disciplined game. He has incredible speed, leading Future Considerations to compare him to Carl Hagelin, but counter-intuitively may need to work on aspects of his transition game. Breakouts can be sloppy, with turnovers and a tendency to cheat up the ice, leaving his team exposed in the defensive zone.

When he isn't making those occasional mistakes, he's a solid two-way skater and has the talent at both ends to spend time on the penalty kill as well.

Plus, he'll be a great compliment to Auston Matthews once they make a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first overall pick. That will happen after Toronto goes back to the Penguins and tries to re-acquire Conn Smythe-winner Phil Kessel.

How He Could Fit With the Wild

He's not quite NHL ready, but if the team is anything like they are now at that point, his speed would fit in nicely and he'd offer a possibility at center in the top six, though he may be more likely to take on a wing role. He's a shot generator who averaged nearly four shots per game with the Badgers. What's not to like?