Logan Cooley turning pro is a game changer for the new-look Arizona Coyotes


To this day, the Arizona Coyotes have never won the draft lottery — but they might’ve hit the jackpot when they picked Logan Cooley with the No. 3 selection in the 2022 NHL Draft.

Cooley, 19, signed his entry-level contract with the Coyotes on Thursday, just over two months after he originally announced he would return to the University of Minnesota for his sophomore year.

With the Golden Gophers in 2022–23, Cooley finished second in the NCAA with 60 points in 39 games. He led Minnesota to the National Championship game and was named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, presented annually to the nation’s top men’s ice hockey player.

Cooley might just end up being a bona fide No. 1 center in the NHL, something the Coyotes haven’t had since Jeremy Roenick left for the Philadelphia Flyers as a free agent in 2001.

Players of that caliber are among the most difficult to come by in the National Hockey League. They seldom become available on the trade market; almost never as UFAs.

By and large, these top-tier pivots end up being dispersed throughout the league at the annual NHL Draft. And while the Coyotes have made their fair share of high picks, they’ve only just missed out on some of the league’s most talented prospects in the decades since Roenick skipped town for Philadelphia.

Take 2015 as an example. The Coyotes finished with the second-worst record in the league, but the Edmonton Oilers ended up leapfrogging both them and the Buffalo Sabres to make their fourth No. 1 pick in six years.

Edmonton and Buffalo respectively ended up with Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, who soon went on to become top-line centers in the NHL. Arizona went with the consensus next-best player available at No. 3: Dylan Strome.

The 2022 NHL Draft unfolded in similar fashion, at least on the surface. The Montreal Canadiens maintained their grasp on the No. 1 pick after the lottery, but the New Jersey Devils moved up to bump the Coyotes down, once again, from the No. 2 spot.

But something strange happened on draft day. Montreal threw a curveball and wound up taking big winger Juraj Slafkovsky, while New Jersey stuck to pre-draft expectations and nabbed defenseman Simon Nemec with the second pick.

Faced with a choice between presumptive No. 1 overall pick Shane Wright and a speedy U.S. National Team Development Team standout in Cooley, the Coyotes elected to go with the latter. One year later, it looks like they might’ve made the right call.

Since 1990, only 10 players have scored at least 60 points in an NCAA season before age 19. Two did it last year: Cooley, and 2023 No. 3 draft pick Adam Fantilli. The other eight all went on to be star players in the NHL.

It’s an impressive list:

  • Doug Weight
  • Paul Kariya
  • Brian Gionta
  • Mike Cammalleri
  • Zach Parise
  • Thomas Vanek
  • Jack Eichel
  • Brock Boeser

Boeser is arguably the least acclaimed player of that group, and he still has 311 points in 398 career games with the Vancouver Canucks. The other seven players put up multiple 70-point NHL seasons, at minimum.

It’s incredible company for both Cooley and Fantilli, who are only five months apart in age despite being drafted in successive years. There isn’t a single bad apple in that entire bunch.

If Cooley reaches his potential as a future No. 1 center, the Coyotes might actually end up with enviable depth down the middle. Barrett Hayton established himself last year as a strong fit on the team’s top line between wingers Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz, while 2022 draft pick Conor Geekie has top-six upside. Nick Bjugstad and Alex Kerfoot are suitable stop-gaps for the next two seasons.

There’s also the question of whether Cooley will play on a line with fellow top prospect Dylan Guenther, who he competed against at the 2023 World Junior Championship in Halifax and Moncton. Although Cooley finished second to Connor Bedard in tournament scoring with 14 points in seven games, it was Guenther who scored the golden goal against Czechia in the championship final.

In his media availability on Thursday, Cooley cited the Coyotes’ off-season moves as part of the reason he elected to change course and join the team. In addition to signing Kerfoot and bringing back Bjugstad, the Coyotes added veteran winger Jason Zucker on a one-year deal to potentially play alongside Cooley on a scoring line.

Add the likes of Matias Maccelli and Lawson Crouse into the equation, and the Coyotes’ forward lineup becomes one of many potentially fruitful permutations. For the first time in many years, they look to have some legit firepower.


#9 Clayton Keller#29 Barrett Hayton#8 Nick Schmaltz
#16 Jason Zucker#92 Logan Cooley#11 Dylan Guenther
#63 Matias Maccelli#17 Nick Bjugstad#67 Lawson Crouse
#15 Alex Kerfoot#22 Jack McBain (RFA)#72 Travis Boyd
#53 Michael Carcone#38 Liam O’Brien
#90 J.J. Moser#50 Sean Durzi#70 Karel Vejmelka
#4 Juuso Valimaki#77 Victor Soderstrom#39 Connor Ingram
#24 Travis Dermott#51 Troy Stecher#50 Ivan Prosvetov
#3 Josh Brown

The Coyotes still have some major holes to fill on defence. Their goaltending tandem of Karel Vejmelka and Connor Ingram is relatively untested. Their rink situation is still a work in progress, although they’re lined up to remain at Mullett Arena — where opponents have found it deceptively difficult to win — for the next few years.

But the Central Division landscape is shifting. The Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues underperformed last season and have sold off numerous key players, and the Winnipeg Jets might be in line to do the same. Even with Connor Bedard, it’s hard to fathom the paper-thin Chicago Blackhawks doing much damage next season.

In a perfect world for the Coyotes, it might just end up being a Desert Dog-fight for positioning around the fourth and fifth spots in the Central next year. Playoff hockey in Tempe might still be a fantasy, but it’s no longer an impossibility. Not with Keller, Cooley, Maccelli, and Schmaltz all under contract for at least the next three years.

At the very least, Cooley should be able to give Bedard a bit of a scare in the Calder Trophy race next season. The two top prospects will meet for the first time in the NHL at Mullett Arena on October 30, and Daily Faceoff will be there for up-to-the-minute coverage of their inaugural encounter.

If nothing else, it’ll be pretty cool.

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