Dylan Strome has two things to prove this summer. He wants to earn a spot in the NHL with the Arizona Coyotes and he wants to represent Team Canada. This past week, he joined Arizona’s 2nd 2015 draft pick (30th overall), Nicholas Merkley, at the World Junior Showcase. This is a development camp for Team Canada, which features international “friendly” matches versus arch rival Russia and the Czech Republic. Strome was a dominant presence on the ice and impressed with 3 goal in 3 games. While Strome is a lock for a spot on Canada’s junior team, breaking into the NHL will be an uphill battle.
“He has that competitive edge and grittiness; he wants to succeed, wants the puck, wants to score and wants to win. He’s a skilled, driven player, a strong skater with the agility and reach that scouts love.” – Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr
Being Left Behind
Strome was selected 3rd overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, behind generational talents Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. There is certainly no shame in that, but that is not the only reason that Strome might feel left behind. Last winter, Dylan Strome did not make Team Canada for the World Junior Hockey Championship. As a 17-year-old competing in a bottleneck of 19-year-olds, it was not unexpected to get cut. What probably made Strome envious, was watching his 17-year-old Erie Otters teammate, Connor McDavid, star for Team Canada and win a gold medal. Meanwhile, Jack Eichel starred as captain of Team USA in the same tournament.
As McDavid and Eichel are set to start in the NHL this October, it appears that Strome will be left behind once again. It is not that he did not perform well enough in junior hockey last year. He won the CHL scoring title with 68 goals and 45 assists to total 129 points in 68 games. He was at an incredible pace of 1.9pts/game, but was still overshadowed by McDavid who put up 2.6pts/game. His soft hands and hockey sense are more than ready, but according to Coyotes general manager Don Maloney and coach Dave Tippett, he will need another year of development in order to improve his speed.
“I think my speed definitely needs to get better if I ever want to play at the next level.” – Dylan Strome
At 6’3, he is compared to imposing centermen like Ryan Getzlaf and Joe Thornton. What he still lacks for this style of play is body weight. Last weighed at 185lbs, he would need to put on an additional 35lbs to reach the 220lbs range of Getzlaf and Thornton. Sure, there are lighter forwards in the NHL. Just look at the Calgary Flames feather light Johnny Gaudreau at 150lbs. What makes Gaudreau different is that he survives by virtue of his speed and agility. Considering that the main critique of Strome’s game is his speed, another year of maturity and filling out his frame would not hurt.
Perhaps the biggest reason Strome will return to juniors this year is that the Coyotes simply do not have the space. He will need to compete with a number of older prospects on Arizona’s depth chart. There is already Max Domi (20), Anthony Duclair (19), Brendan Perlini (19) and Christian Dvorak (19) patiently waiting in line. Coincidentally, Domi and Duclair joined McDavid on Team Canada last year.
“I know it’s hard for these top guys to go back to junior. But the next step for Dylan is to make that World Junior team and be a leader…You look at Max Domi two years ago (and) the player he is now, and there is no comparison.”- Don Maloney
Dylan Strome’s Big Year in Junior Hockey
This year is Strome’s year to steal the show in junior hockey. First, he will have the rare opportunity to represent Canada in the prestigious World Junior Hockey Championship. This is a tournament that is celebrated in Canada, almost at the same level as Olympic Hockey. Here he can gain experience playing under the pressure of the national spotlight. Secondly, he can develop as a leader on the Erie Otters and make another run for the Memorial Cup. Strome will be better for it and be ready to move up to the NHL or AHL in the fall of 2016.