Coyotes preview: Rankings, predictions, playoff chances and more

Clayton Keller is a central part of the Coyotes' young wave of talent. Can they finally break through this season? Bob Frid/Icon Sportswire

With the 2018-19 season fast approaching, we're running snapshots of all 31 NHL teams, including point total projections, positional previews, best- and worst-case scenarios and more.

After years of building a great collection of young talent, is this finally the Arizona Coyotes' time to break through?

How they finished in 2017-18: 29-41-12 (70 points), finished 29th in the NHL, 8th in the Pacific Division

Once again, a productive summer on paper from GM John Chayka was squandered on the ice. Goalie Antti Raanta, acquired from the Rangers to be their new starter, missed most of October with an injury, and the month basically sunk the Coyotes. They lost 11 straight games to start the season under new coach Rick Tocchet and got off to a horrific 2-15-3 start overall. There were highlights after that, including Clayton Keller's Calder Trophy finalist campaign and the way he clicked with summer addition Derek Stepan. And Raanta was great when he finally got back. But as holes in the desert go, that start was the Grand Canyon.

Over/under projected point total (per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook): 81.5

Best-case scenario: That all the buzz about the Coyotes being a stealth playoff contender in the West was justified, as the Coyotes finish in the top two-thirds in the NHL in both goals scored and goals against.

Worst-case scenario: The team finally realizes its potential as a plucky underdog. All free-agent acquisitions pan out, and the Coyotes are heading to the playoffs! But wait: Unexpected drama develops regarding the city and arena. The relationship is fractured and -- despite their sudden on-ice success -- the Coyotes become emergency relocation candidates. This is the nightmare for fans in the desert.

Forward overview: Chayka made another bold summer move in trading Max Domi to Montreal for Alex Galchenyuk, who will miss the start of the season with an injury but looks to solidify the team at center with Stepan and Christian Dvorak. Another big acquisition in the summer: Michael Grabner, the speedy winger who has scored 54 goals in the past two seasons, 51 of which were at even strength. Keller had 23 goals and 42 assists as a 19-year-old, giving the team its best scoring winger since ... well, Domi. Brendan Perlini, Christian Fischer and Dylan Strome are among the young forwards expected to contribute. Brad Richardson is back to lead the grunts. NHL rank: 23rd

Defense overview: Captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson earned an eight-year contract extension as one of the NHL's top puck-moving defensemen, leading the team with 23:41 average time on ice. Niklas Hjalmarsson was another injured asset in 2017-18 and can be an effective defensive defenseman when healthy. Alex Goligoski, Jakob Chychrun, Kevin Connauton and Jason Demers fill out the rest of a potentially strong group. NHL rank: 15th

Goalie overview: Raanta finished with a .930 save percentage and an outstanding .696 quality starts percentage in 27 games. Another 10 games started, and it could have been a different season for the Coyotes. Darcy Kuemper is his able backup. NHL rank: 22nd

Special teams: Arizona finished 26th in the NHL on the power play at 16.9 percent. They were 19th on the penalty kill at 79.5 percent.

Pipeline overview: The Coyotes have an interesting system with a lot of uncertainty. There is a lot riding on Strome taking the next step soon, and Barrett Hayton was a riskier pick at No. 5 in the 2018 draft but has enough talent to potentially live up to it. The Coyotes also have some other intriguing options who spent last season in the AHL as they look to support their core group in the NHL. Read more -- Chris Peters

Fantasy nugget: Assuming Stepan is left to be on a top line with leading scorer Keller, and trade import Galchenyuk is legitimately offered a shot at proving his competence by centering a second scoring line, 22-year-old Christian Dvorak is likely bumped to the Coyotes' third forward unit, shifting fellow youngster Dylan Strome to the wing. If, however, Galchenyuk falters in his preferred position, as was the case in Montreal, Dvorak is likely to take over as centerman on the second unit, with the former Canadien reinstated (rather unhappily, we'd suppose) as a winger. Got it? Point is, there's much in play here that might not be thoroughly worked out until the season is well underway. Outside of Keller, Stepan and Galchenyuk as an alluring wild card in his new digs, fantasy managers might hold off on investing in other Arizona forward assets until later stages of the draft. Read more -- Victoria Matiash

Coach on the hot seat? The season got away from Rick Tocchet, who took the gig after winning multiple Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins as an assistant. He's not exactly the greatest tactician, but players love playing for him.

Bold prediction: Ekman-Larsson gets a Norris Trophy nomination.