As the sun sets upon the desert and 2022 year, it is the perfect time to reflect on NHL hockey in Arizona. Although the Yotes have been near the bottom of the league and continued to be one of the laughing stocks in the league, here are some Coyotes highlights from the 2022 year.
3-year contract for Karel Vejmelka
It seems that I am talking about Vejmelka’s amazing performance in every post, and this piece is no different. On March 21st, the Coyotes and Veggie agreed to a 3-year contract extension. According to MoneyPuck, Vejemelka is third in goals saved above expected and ninth in high-danger unblocked shot attempt save percentage. His ranking in high danger unblocked shot attempt save percentage should be higher as MoneyPuck included all goalies in the ranking, no matter the number of games that they played. So, some goalies ahead of Veggie have only played a handful of games.
For his spectacular play this season, Vejmelka might be the current most underpaid player in the NHL, as he is only making $2.725 million for the next three seasons, including this one. This is such a great bargain for Arizona, especially if they keep him and resist trade offers.
Andrew Ladd’s 1000th Game
On April 20th, Andrew Ladd played in his 1000th game at Gila River Arena. Ladd provided valuable leadership to the team as he served as one of four alternate captains in his sole season with Arizona. Ladd had a history of winning as he won a gold medal at the 2005 World Juniors and two Stanley Cups (2006 with Carolina and 2010 with Chicago). His 1000th game was a great way to cap off his amazing career, as it seems unlikely that he will play again. It was also perfect that the game was against Chicago, a team that he played for three seasons and won a Stanley Cup.
At this year’s draft, the Coyotes drafted three talented prospects in the first round. All of them are having a great year for their respective teams. Here is how each of the three studs is doing.
- Logan Cooley- C (3rd overall): Cooley has 10 G- 15 A- 25 P in 19 GP for the University of Minnesota thus far. He is currently representing USA at the World Juniors.
- Conor Geekie- C (11th overall): Geekie has 17 G- 17A- 34 P in 29 GP for the Winnipeg Ice in the WHL. He also has an impressive +/- rating of 21, and his team currently ranks first in the Eastern Conference.
- Maveric Lamoureux- D (29th overall): Unfortunately, Lamoureux has missed most of this season with a shoulder injury. He just recently returned and has made a quick impact on the scoresheet, recording 3 assists in 2 games. This season, Lamoureux is wearing an A for the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL, so this will be a great opportunity for him to gain leadership experience and grow as a leader.
Coyotes Alumni Breaking Iron Man Streaks
The NHL iron man streak was broken twice in the past year. In both situations, the player spent significant time with the Coyotes franchise. Former Coyotes defenseman, Keith Yandle, broke the iron man streak on January 25th by playing in his 965th consecutive games. He played in 24 more games to set the record for 989 consecutive games before being controversially scratched. Yandle was drafted by the Coyotes 105th overall in 2005 and played with the organization from 2006 to 2015. During that time, he represented the Coyotes at two NHL All-Star games and was part of the 2012 team that the Coyotes made a deep run before being eliminated in the Western Conference finals. Off the ice, Yandle was a great teammate who brought everyone together and provided everyone with lots of great laughs.
After departing Arizona for Vegas, Kessel broke Yandle’s record by playing in 990 consecutive games on October 24th and reached 1000 consecutive games played when the Golden Knights played the Coyotes on November 17th. It was kind of poetic how Kessel was able to play his 1000th straight game against his former team.
4-0 vs. Toronto
Until Toronto loses one of the core four- Matthews, Marner, Tavares, or Nylander, or Morgan Rielly is unable to carry the defense, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be perceived as a top team in the league and a Cup contender. Despite Toronto’s firepower, Arizona has recorded 4-0-0 record against the Leafs this year. This record shows nothing but promise- the Coyotes can play a good defensive game and compete with the top dogs in the NHL.
Mullet Arena & Future of Hockey in Arizona
Mullet Arena, the only arena in the NHL to have under 15,000 seats and be shared with a university team, has proven a lot of people wrong. The stadium has been packed, and the atmosphere has never been livelier at a Coyotes home game.
In these posts, I’ve tried to focus solely on hockey and not on politics. But this is a big topic that I cannot brush over. On November 29th, Temple City Council approved the Coyotes’ proposed arena and entertainment district in a 7-0 vote. Now, the arena just needs to pass a public vote in May 2023. Tempe City Council’s approval is instrumental because the vote enables the Coyotes to remain in Arizona and demonstrates that there is interest in hockey in Arizona. Ultimately, this is great news for hockey in Arizona!