The Arizona Coyotes announced their opening night roster on Tuesday afternoon, and fans around the league can expect the Desert Dogs to ice one of the NHL’s youngest teams in 2016-17:
— Dave Vest (@davest4yotes) October 12, 2016
There could be up to four players making their NHL debuts on Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers, and the most surprising of which is 18-year-old defenseman Jakob Chychrun. Chychrun, who was selected with the #16 overall pick in June, was not initially expected to compete for an NHL job this season. However, the youngster immediately impressed Coyotes brass with his maturity and play on the ice, and, as a result, will be the first rookie to play for the Coyotes in his draft year since Mikkel Boedker and Viktor Tikhonov both did so during the 2008-09 season.
Also making their NHL debuts will be highly-touted forward prospects Christian Dvorak and Dylan Strome. Dvorak, who absolutely destroyed the competition last year with the London Knights, has impressed during the preseason; he had a goal and two assists in four preseason contests and provided the primary assist on Shane Doan’s overtime goal against the Anaheim Ducks on October 1.
Dvorak also has played well in the faceoff circle; he won 39 of the 69 draws he took during preseason action, which was good for a winning percentage of 56.5%. If he’s able to continue winning faceoffs at that rate in the regular season, he could take over as the team’s lead faceoff man after the offseason departures of Antoine Vermette and Boyd Gordon.
Joining Dvorak down the middle is last year’s third overall selection Dylan Strome. Strome, who was reportedly the last player to be cut during last season’s training camp, gave Coyotes management no choice but to keep him on the roster this year as he put up two goals and two assists in seven preseason games.
There’s still some work for Strome to do in the weight room, but there’s no questioning his skill; he appears to be vastly improved in all aspects of his game and could easily find himself in contention for the Calder Trophy at season’s end. The Coyotes made the right choice in keeping him in the NHL rather than sending him back to junior for another campaign with the Erie Otters.
A Big Body
Rounding out the group of three teenagers that will play for the Coyotes this season is big left winger Lawson Crouse, who was acquired from the Florida Panthers over the offseason in the deal that also sent the contract of injured forward Dave Bolland to Arizona. Unlike Dvorak and Strome, Crouse will not be expected to immediately contribute on offense; instead, he’ll likely play on one of Arizona’s checking lines where he’ll be expected to use his 6’4″, 220lb frame to punish the opposition while he gets acclimated to the NHL game.
After a very impressive training camp, 21-year-old rookie center Laurent Dauphin also made the Coyotes opening night roster. Dauphin had a goal in eight games with the Coyotes last season, but, like the other four rookies, will be playing on opening night for the first time.
Laurent Dauphin is the guy generating some under-the-radar buzz at #Coyotes camp this year. Last year it was Martinook, 2014 it was Rieder.
— Luke Lapinski (@LukeLapinski) October 3, 2016
Dauphin’s training camp performance reminded many of the performance that Jordan Martinook turned in last season; both players entered camp without much fanfare, but both gave Coyotes management no choice but to keep them on the roster due to strong preseason showings. Martinook was able to parlay his strong camp into a solid rookie campaign which saw him win the team’s hardest working player award, and Dauphin will be looking to make a similar impact in the NHL this season.
Overall, the Coyotes should be one of the NHL’s most exciting teams to watch this season. They arguably possess their most talented roster in franchise history and are primed to return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season.