With head coaches flying off the market and one of the top available names being the guy they just let go, the Arizona Coyotes’ hunt for a head coach is in an interesting spot. From the get-go, the word was that the ’Yotes and GM Bill Armstrong could be looking for a fresh voice, perhaps even a first-time NHL coach, so they may be unfazed by the recent run on big names. Yet, insider Craig Morgan reports that one of their top candidates is in fact a seasoned veteran. Morgan writes that Dallas Stars assistant Todd Nelson is scheduled to have his third interview for the vacancy, by all accounts the most of any candidate. Nelson has been in the NHL (or AHL) since 2006, including a brief stint as the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers. He has found great success in the minors, winning two Calder Cups, and never really got a fair shake as the bench boss in Edmonton, so in a way he would be somewhat of a first-time NHL head coach. He has picked up experience in Dallas over the past three years under Jim Montgomery and Rick Bowness and could be ready for another shot at the top job.
Morgan considers Nelson’s greatest competition to be Andre Tourigny, the head coach of the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s and most recently an assistant for Canada’s gold medal World Championship entry. Tourigny briefly coached in the NHL as an assistant with the Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators over three years, but has mostly coached at the major junior level and has been the bench boss of Canada’s World Junior team the past two years. Tourigny has found immense success working with young players; he has been named OHL Coach of the Year (twice), QMJHL Coach of the Year, and the overall CHL Coach of the Year, not to mention medals at four World Juniors. Can he translate that ability to the pros and lead a Coyotes team that needs to take a step forward rather than continuing to tread water? That is the question that Armstrong must answer. According to Morgan, he has already decided that St. Louis Blues assistant Mike Van Ryn and AHL Providence head coach Jay Leach are not the men for the job.
- The Chicago Blackhawks just gained some Expansion Draft flexibility. The Athletic’s Scott Powers reports that Alexander Nylander has been declared exempt from the impending selection process. In order to be eligible for the draft, a player must have three pro service years. Nylander, who has been playing professionally in North America for five seasons, may seem like an impossibility to avoid that label, but somehow he does. Despite playing in 116 AHL games between 2016-17 and 2017-18, he played in only seven combined NHL games and his rookie contract underwent the entry-level slide each season, meaning service time did not accrue. He then played countable NHL season in each of the past two years. However, this season – in what was meant to be his third year of service – Nylander missed the entire campaign due to injury. This means that, again, his service time will not clock. After five years in and out of the NHL, Nylander will be considered a second-year pro and untouchable for the Seattle Kraken. As Powers notes, Nylander was expected to be protected by the Blackhawks next month. Now off the board, it will allow the team to protected another forward that they may not have expected. He suggests deadline addition Adam Gaudette or reliable fourth-liner David Kampf could be the pick, while young, high-upside assets Brandon Hagel and Henrik Borgstrom should now be locks.
- The KHL’s Ak Bars Kazan has succeeded in keeping a pair of drafted prospects away from their NHL teams for a while longer. The team announced that they have re-signed Columbus’ Dmitri Voronkov and Anaheim’s Artyom Galimov to multi-year extensions. At their age, this is not an NHL career death sentence for either player, but it is likely disheartening to their teams who would like to get them on North American ice as soon as possible. 20-year-old Voronkov, a 2019 fourth-round pick of the Blue Jackets, has signed a two-year deal with Ak Bars after setting career highs across the board in the KHL this season. The impressive youngster has already played two full seasons in the KHL and has been dominant for Russia on the World Junior stage as well. Voronkov’s name carries weight as a prospect and the Jackets undoubtedly hope that he will follow WJC teammate Yegor Chinakhov to Columbus as soon as his new contract expires. There is a bit more cause for pause when it comes to Galimov. The 21-year-old was an overage pick by the Ducks just last year and despite his age has signed a three-year extension with Ak Bars. Galimov is a grassroots product of Kazan and has loyalty to the club, as they do to him after two successful seasons to begin his KHL career. Galimov has actually outpaced Voronkov to this point, showing that he too is a serious NHL prospect. However, Galimov will be 25 years old before he could ever step onto Anaheim ice and will have that much more attachment to Ak Bars. His ability should keep him interested in the NHL and the Ducks in him, but it is not a guarantee.