Make no mistake, the new Coyote Logan Cooley won’t be lost in the desert
With his hockey hair spilling out of a new Arizona Coyotes baseball cap and his draft cut covered in a crisp black No. 22 Kachina jersey, Logan Cooley, approachable but camera shy, smiled.
“It still feels like a dream,” Cooley said Thursday in the bowels of the Bell Centre, minutes from being selected third in the NHL Draft.
Because Cooley didn’t leave the board at No. 1 or No. 2, and because presumptive first pick Shane Wright immediately became the best story in the draft after slipping to No. 4, Cooley got lost in the shuffle during draft in Montreal. He was an afterthought as he was in the running for the No. 1 pick.
But make no mistake, Cooley is no consolation prize.
In fact, he’s a foundational piece for Arizona — a 5-foot-10, 174-pound forward who models his game after NHLers Brayden Point and Patrick Kane. Cooley, who led the United States national team’s development program in scoring 1.47 points per game last season, is widely considered the most dynamic player in the class. He’s an elite skater with a new-age flair and more in defense.
“He’s exactly what we need and he has a chance to be a number one center in the National Hockey League,” Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong said.
“He’s the guy you’re going to see on the best times,” NTDP teammate Cutter Gauthier, the No. 5 pick, said of Cooley. And Gauthier isn’t just pumping his buddy’s tires; in April, Cooley pulled off a magnificent lacrosse style goal.
With the help of Cooley – who spoke to theScore at the NHL scouting meeting in June – and a handful of people who know him and his game well, let’s take a look at three clips that really showcase the 18-year-old’s skills.
Clip 1 – Disappointment and Competitiveness
This footage from a game against the University of Notre Dame shows Cooley’s innate ability to process plays at a pace that matches his foot speed.
He receives a pass in the neutral zone and enters the clean zone with only one teammate and an opponent in sight. Then, instead of going deep on the defender in a quick two-on-one scenario, he attacks the middle of the ice changing speed and direction near the hash marks.
“On the reduction,” Cooley said, “I think I threw the defender out.”
A toe drag and two quick dekes have the defender moving away from Cooley and the goaltender guessing his shot. “I like being a cheat player,” Cooley said. “Here I’m looking to one side and doing another thing that they don’t exactly expect.”
“One of his greatest qualities,” Armstrong said, “is that he has an engine. He really is a dynamic skater.
NTDP teammate Rutger McGroarty calls Cooley “the complete package” – someone with wheels, silky hands, a deadly shot and a nervousness not always present in top players. “He’s ridiculous, man. He just attacks the play,” McGroarty said, noting that Cooley isn’t afraid to initiate contact himself.
Seamus Casey, another teammate of the past two seasons, praises Cooley’s competitiveness. “Any time in practice, if you get into a fight and you take a puck from him, you better be ready. He will hunt you down,” the defender said.
Clip 2 – Speed and intelligence
This sequence begins with a teammate tossing the puck to Cooley on the wing. A few strides later, the attacker passes in front of a Finnish defender.
As Cooley carries the puck past the hash marks, his inner Kane takes over. “I was thinking backhand on the spot,” Cooley said. “At the last second, the puck was rolling so I tried to put it on my forehand to eject the goalie. Kane, the Chicago Blackhawks superstar with fantastic talent and improvisation, is a master at switching from backhand to forehand and vice versa.
Going on the short side here, with so little wiggle room, is impressive.
“Cooley is pretty tough to defend,” said first-round defender Owen Pickering, who has played against him in international competition. “You always have to stay between the dots on him. He’s a very smart player. You have to stick to the puck. I never felt overwhelmed, but it was tough.
A US-based NHL scout familiar with Cooley’s game pointed out that the Pittsburgh-area teenager has long legs, long arms and a short torso. This suggests that Cooley has room to grow. Could he pull an inch or two?
The scout also predicted that adding muscle to the University of Minnesota will only improve their skating next season and beyond. “Logan is going to get faster. His edges, his glide, his stride – everything is beautiful, his skating is almost perfect. But he doesn’t really have power. It’s graceful mechanics.”
“I’m not saying he’s Connor McDavid,” the scout added. “But we watch all the time how McDavid moves and plays faster than everyone else on the ice. It’s amazing and very unique. Well, I think there will be times in the NHL where you see Cooley doing similar things. “
Clip 3 – Vision and Creativity
Cooley is a playmaker before being a scorer, a visionary before being a finisher. Example: In 57 total games against junior, collegiate and international competition in 2021-22, he had 30 goals and 55 assists for 85 points.
As this clip shows, the idea of shooting Cooley causes the defense to misinterpret the power play rush. Notice how Cooley’s head and legs are in shooting position as he begins to skate downhill. Without fully turning his body, he then makes a no-look pass to a flanked teammate. Boom, a one-timer and a goal.
Again, deception and creativity from Cooley, this time as a distributor.
When asked if the NHL should relax and allow players like lacrosse-scoring enthusiast Trevor Zegras to flourish without criticism, Cooley said: “Yes and no. The NHL is a business and guys trying to win. You’re going to have the veterans playing the “right way” and then you’ve got the Zegras trying Michigan and trying to score with a shot between the legs. Having a bit of both in your game can you help him become a really impactful player.”
In other words, it’s all about when to lean on highlight tools and when to lean on simple play – something Cooley is still working on, according to the scout. Regardless, he’s the kind of player who will sell tickets locally (the Coyotes need help) and on the road.
“When he’s physically mature and riding at his peak,” the scout said, “all 17,000 people in the building will be on the edge of their seats watching his every move.”
John Matisz is theScore’s Senior NHL Writer. Follow John on Twitter (@MatiszJohn) or contact him by email (email@example.com).