The Arizona Coyotes went into the 2020 NHL Draft with no draft picks for the first three rounds, and new General Manager Bill Armstrong couldn’t participate due to an agreement with the St. Louis Blues. Needless to say, there wasn’t much optimism around Arizona heading into the draft. Arizona entered the draft with just four picks, but struck a minor deal with the New Jersey Devils.
They traded away a draft pick next year for the 192nd overall pick in the 2020 Draft. So there’s a small bit of optimism, but Arizona had to wait until day two to make their first selection.
With their fourth round pick (111th overall), Arizona drafted defensemen Mitchell Miller of the Tri-City Storm in the USHL. Miller is a skilled two-way defensemen that’s put up some solid numbers while in junior hockey. As a member of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, Miller recorded four goals and 12 assists for 16 points in 48 games.
During the 2019-20 season, as a member of the Tri-City Storm, Miller recorded eight goals along with twenty-five assists for 33 points. He did so in 44 games. EliteProspects describes Miller as having “high-level off the puck instincts” as well as “keeping his feet moving at all times.” Miller is a quality prospect in general, with the added bonus of being a right-shot defensemen.
Miller is set to play hockey for the University of North Dakota in the NCAA next season, so it will likely be a few years before he hits the ice in either a Tucson or Arizona Jersey. A quality prospect is well worth the wait and it is good for Miller to get his education while playing against a consistent level of competition.
With their fifth-round pick (142nd overall), Arizona drafted forward Carson Bantle of the Madison Capitols, also in the USHL. Carson Bantle is a 6’4, 201lb monster that is offensively talented, thus, can score. He’s played the last two seasons with the Capitals, a Tier I team in the Eastern Conference.
In 2018-19, Bantle recorded ten goals along with 20 total points in 62 games. Then, in 2019-20, Bantle recorded 20 goals along with 29 assists in just 49 games. He also adopted a leadership role as an alternate captain.
Bantle has size and speed while he also comes with the ability to score. All traits the Arizona Coyotes need more of. This is another good pick on paper, but Arizona will have to wait a few years. Bantle is set to play hockey at Michigan Tech in 2020-21. Once again, this is a good thing, quality prospects take time to develop and education will help Carson out later on in life.
With their sixth-round pick (173rd overall), Arizona selected forward Filip Barklund of Örebro HK J20. Filip is a bit of a wildcard, because he’s played in Swedish leagues his whole career to this point. In 2019-20, while playing for Örebro HK J20, Barklund recorded nine goals along with 21 assists which made for 30 points. He did so in 43 games.
As of the time of writing, Barklund is an alternate captain, and this season, he’s scored one goal and nine assists in 12 games. On paper, a solid pick for the sixth round, but I won’t have a better idea about his game until I watch him in his first training camp with Arizona.
With the pick they acquired from New Jersey (192nd overall), Arizona selected forward Elliot Ekefjärd. Ekefjärd is another Swedish player playing in J18 and J20 Elite leagues. In 2019-20, Ekefjärd scored 24 goals along with 13 assists for 37 points.
This was done through just 19 games. Ekefjärd is 6’4, 216lbs, so he has the size and offensive production overseas. He’s definitely an interesting prospect, but like Barklund before him, I need to watch him in training camp to get a better feel for his game.
Finally, in the seventh round (204th overall), Arizona drafted forward Ben McCartney of the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL. McCartney is my favourite of Arizona’s 2020 NHL Draft picks. He has decent size, standing at 6’0 and weighing in at 185lbs, so adding weight to be NHL or at least AHL ready shouldn’t be much of a problem.
What interests me most about the left-winger is his game. EliteProspects describes his game as “simple, meat and potatoes sort of game.” Keeping his game simple while posting solid numbers like he has been tells me that his game can easily translate over to higher levels.
In 2018-19, McCartney scored 21 goals along with 20 assists in 67 games played. In 2019-20, he scored 25 goals along with 36 assists. He did this in 61 games. He has size, a simple game and consistency, and that’s a good blend to have while moving up in terms of level of competition.
Despite the present circumstances, Arizona had a solid draft. Ekefjärd and Barklund are wildcards in my eyes, while Miller and Bantle are good prospects that should be able to develop into quality players. McCartney is a good power forward and he should be the closest to AHL/NHL readiness. Out of the five players picked, I don’t think it’s controversial to say that at least three should be AHL/NHL players within the next five years.