In the case of need over “best player,” the Arizona Coyotes went for need.
An immediate need.
Here’s a team which finished with the second-fewest goals last season, and in desperate need of any player to put the puck in the net with any frequency.
In selecting center Dylan Strome at No. 3 in Friday’s NHL draft, the need appeared to be satisfied. At the same time, general manager Don Maloney indicated the quality of centers in general is limited. For that reason, the selection of Strome was a given.
While most pundits believe Strome is not NHL-ready because of his average skating ability and negligible speed, the Coyotes believe his overall skill set is superb. With a stretch to build immediately with younger players, the approach to select Strome falls within the overall philosophy.At the core, Strome’s offensive skills are not in question, and his size, at 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, appears adequate. Still, there’s a learning curve to measure up the NHL game. At this point, Strome needs to add muscle and increase speed.
a confident Strome
For Strome, that’s not an issue, and his goal is to skate with the Coyotes when Arizona opens the NHL against the Kings in Los Angeles October 9.
“Everyone has their opinion, and I like to prove people wrong,” Strome said on a conference call with the Arizona media. “I’ll do everything in my power to prove people wrong.”
The Coyotes are confident his development will be strong, but it’s likely Strome, after attending the Coyotes NHL camp his fall, will play for Erie next season.
Strome represents the second player from the Erie Otters selected within the first three picks. When Connor McDavid went first overall to Edmonton, and Jack Eichel second to Buffalo, the Coyotes quickly scooped up Strome at three.
“You really can’t compare me with McDavid,” Strome said. “We’re different players and ready to move on to different teams.”
If Strome goes back to juniors next season, there are benefits.
Max Domi, selected at No. 12 by Arizona in the 2013 draft, spent the last two season at London after attending two Coyotes’ training camps, and now proclaims himself ready to compete at the NHL level.
“Keep in mind, we’re only 18 when we were drafted and need to work on everything,” Domi said during the Coyotes draft party in the Gila River Arena Friday. “There’s no better way to learn than to play in the OHL. After I spent the two times at training camp, and then back to London, I earned so much about myself as a player and as a person.”
While recent Arizona draftees played against Strome at the junior level, all have nothing but praise.
“(Strome) is such as skilled player,” said Brendan Perlini, the Coyotes No. 1 pick last year. “He’s smart, shifty. I played with his brother (Ryan), and both are similar players.”
While the rap on Strome is lack of speed, the 18-year old doesn’t see things that way.
“Again, I like to prove people wrong and I’ll be ready to compete,” he said. “Like every player, I need to work on my defensive game and in the defensive zone.”
After dominating at the junior level, Strome and other recent first round picks now transition to the NHL game. Strome discounts there will be major adjustments in his game.
“It will be a tough transition,” he said. “I challenge myself and push myself to be better.”
Strome is also receiving help in this transition from his brother, Ryan, who was a major contributor to the New York Islanders last season. In 81 games, Ryan popped in 17 goals, assisted on 33 others for 50 points, and four points (2 goals 2 assists) in seven Stanley Cup playoff games.
“I talk to my brother all the time,” Dylan said. “He’s always been at my side, and he is always willing to help in any way possible.”
With the selection of Strome, the Coyotes pick was their first bona-fide center in recent drafts. Most pundits believe Strome represents the first true center-ice man in the desert since Jeremy Roenick.
The expectations are now set for Strome to develop into a superb playmaker, and reliable scorer.
“I want to be that No. 1 center for a while,” he said. “I’ll do whatever it takes to be that center.”
Follow Mark Brown on twitter, @journalist193
Mark Brown is a former sports editor for daily newspapers in the Philadelphia and Cincinnati markets. He was named Best Sports Columnist, honorable mention 2004 by the Associated Press Society of Ohio. He is a contributor to major daily newspapers, including the Chicago Sun Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Milwaukee Journal, Arizona Republic, Nashville Tennessean and the Associated Press. He was a Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com and covered the Arizona Coyotes.