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Captain Coyote has been very impressed with Arizona's young pups

Ryan Kennedy
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Shane Doan (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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Captain Coyote has been very impressed with Arizona's young pups

Ryan Kennedy
By:

Shane Doan is climbing up the all-time leaderboard in games played, while the Arizona Coyotes continue to buck conventional wisdom by winning. A combination of veteran leadership and youthful exuberance has been the key – but Doan reveals that he never saw his team becoming basement dwellers this season anyway.

In the history of the sport, not many players have skated in the NHL for as many games as Shane Doan – and the list continues to get smaller as the Arizona Coyotes captain keeps chugging along at age 39. Which is to say that Doan has seen a lot out there. Very few people would have expected Arizona to get off to the solid start that the Coyotes have had this season, but the team's leader knew better than to write his boys off, despite last year's cratering.

“I’m an internal optimist," Doan said. "We always have a chance to win if we play our best. That’s always my attitude. If the young guys came in and were half as good as everyone talked about, we were going to be OK. And they’ve been better than everyone was talking about – that doesn’t happen too often.”

Boy howdy. Rookie Max Domi leads the team in goal-scoring, while 20-year-old sophomore Anthony Duclair sits second. On top of that, the team was getting solid penalty-killing minutes from Jordan Martinook, who is still Calder-eligible at age 23.

“All three can skate and the game is heading that way, everybody knows that," Doan said. "Speed is so important – so is hockey sense – and if you can put the two together, you’ve got a really good player. We’ve got a few guys with that.”

Through 16 games, the Coyotes were holding down a playoff spot in the Pacific Division, something very few would have predicted after last year's 29th-place finish in the NHL standings. Shooting percentage has helped a lot. Last year, the Desert Dogs were the worst in the league, connecting on just 5.72 percent of their attempts. This season, they're shooting at an 8.87 percent clip – good for third overall. While this number is a little higher than can be expected out of an NHL team over the course of 82 games, it's not unreasonable; fourteen teams last year maintained shooting percentages above the 7.8 percent that is often cited as the average.

It wouldn't be a surprise if Domi took a run at the Calder Trophy, while Martin Hanzal is having his best season ever. On top of that, Oliver Ekman-Larsson is among the league leaders in ice time and points by a defenseman. Most importantly, the team is playing meaningful hockey again, reversing last season's 3-6-1 doom start.

“Nobody wants to do what we did last year," Doan said, "Ever."

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Captain Coyote has been very impressed with Arizona's young pups