The Arizona Coyotes received some excellent news at the end of July when 2022 No. 3 overall pick Logan Cooley signed a contract with the team.
Cooley initially decided in May that he would return to the Minnesota Gophers for his sophomore season of collegiate hockey. He said part of his decision was due to the arena vote for the Coyotes failing, thus inspiring concern for his long-term future with Arizona.
The Coyotes, after all, had been here before.
After they selected forward Blake Wheeler fifth overall in the 2004 NHL Draft, he declined a contract from Arizona over a four-year period to become a free agent, playing out all four years in college. In a coincidence that brought on deja vu for the Cooley situation, Wheeler also went to the University of Minnesota. Wheeler went on to sign with the Boston Bruins in 2008, and is still in the NHL today, 15 seasons and 812 career points later.
Cooley, however, rejected the notion he could take some other options, like staying in college all four years to become a free agent or asking for a trade.
And now he is set to join the Coyotes this fall.
Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong sees the timing as ideal, noting Cooley’s current ability and also how Arizona’s standing will allow for him to learn through mistakes in another year of development for the hockey team.
“I believe when I watched him play last year, he was a dominant college player,” Armstrong said on Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Thursday. “He came into our development camp here in the summer and for me he was the best player. I just couldn’t envision him going back to college. … We really felt like this was the year for him to come in and take that next step with the team.”
As a freshman, Cooley was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, the honor given to college hockey’s best player. He recorded a NCAA-leading 38 assists and was second in points with 60.
The 19-year-old is expected to compete for a top-six forward spot from the jump.