When the Arizona Coyotes hired then 26-year-old John Chayka as general manager last May, they knew there were going to be detractors. He knew it, too. But so far, the youngest GM in NHL history has turned the club’s fortunes around pretty quickly.

Arizona Coyotes
Over/under: 75.5 points
Stanley Cup Odds: +11847
Western Conference Odds: +7615
Pacific Division Odds: +2993

Arizona already had a great offseason when training camps opened last week, but it got even better when they added effective defenseman Jason Demers to the fold for a replacement level forward in Jamie McGinn.

Even before adding Demers, the Coyotes figured to have one of the league’s better defensive units. This summer, Chayka added one of the league’s best pure defensive-defensemen in Niklas Hjalmarsson in a trade with Chicago. Hjalmarsson joins a defense that already boasts Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Alex Goligoski. Even though the team will be without Jakob Chychrun for an extended period of time, the Coyotes have turned their defense into a strength in the span of 14 months.

Chayka made another fantastic move right before the draft when he acquired top-line center Derek Stepan and goaltender Antti Raanta from the Rangers.

In Stepan, the Coyotes get a play-driving center who can anchor a first line, presumably with Max Domi. Stepan should vastly improve an offensive unit that finished 27th in goals per game in 2017, but he will need help from a pair of much-hyped rookies. Dylan Strome and Clayton Keller are both former top-10 picks, and they will both play big roles in how far the Coyotes go this year. The Coyotes have the potential to have a season not too much unlike the 2016-17 Maple Leafs had last year, but if that’s going to be the case Strome and Keller will need to find their footing pretty quickly.

Raanta may be unproven as an NHL starter, but it’s hard not to like what we’ve seen out of the 28-year-old Finn as a backup in Chicago and New York. In 30 games last year, Raanta posted a .933 save percentage while at even strength. If he can replicate that form in twice as many games, the Coyotes could be the surprise team out West.

Winning the Pacific Division is probably out of the question, but there is definitely value in backing the ‘Yotes to go over 75.5 points. In fact, this line has already moved from 74 to 75.5, and the over is currently juiced at -136.

Part I of our NHL Futures Preview series, featuring the Carolina Hurricanes, can be found here.

all odds provided by Pinnacle

[Photo: Matt Kartozian, USA Today]

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