Coyotes prospect Dylan Strome had trouble staying in the lineup through the early season, so Arizona has decided that sending the 19-year-old back to the OHL is “best of his development.”
The youth movement for the Arizona Coyotes is well underway, but Dylan Strome won’t be part of any progress the club makes for the rest of the campaign.
After watching yet another game from the sidelines, the 10th time in 17 games he has done so as a healthy scratch, the Coyotes announced Sunday that Strome, 19, has been sent back to the OHL’s Erie Otters. It’s not surprising given the amount he’s been bouncing in and out of the lineup, and Coyotes GM John Chayka said it was a move made with Strome’s continued development in mind.
“Dylan has made exceptional progress and continues to make strides to being an elite center in this league,” Chayka said. “At this point in time we felt it was best for his development to get him back playing in junior, but his future in the NHL is very bright.”
During his seven games in the NHL, Strome picked up an assist, his first career NHL point, while averaging less than 14 minutes of ice time per game. With that in mind, the demotion is far from shocking. Even still, few would have expected Strome would find himself on the outside of the Coyotes’ roster looking in ahead of the season, especially with how dominant he has been in the OHL over the past two seasons.
Since the start of the 2014-15 season, Strome racked up a remarkable 82 goals and 240 points with the Otters, and a panel of scouts pegged Strome as the NHL’s top prospect in THN’s 2016 Future Watch edition. Toronto Maple Leafs’ talented rookie duo of William Nylander and Mitch Marner, Philadelphia Flyers rearguard Ivan Provorov, Colorado Avalanche freshman Mikko Rantanen and rookie blueliner Zach Werenski, who continues to turn heads with the Columbus Blue Jackets, were all ranked behind Strome by the panel of scouts.
Strome will now be one of only two players — and the only skater — ranked in the top 10 of Future Watch 2016 not playing in the NHL this season. The other is Washington Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov, and he’s playing professionally in the KHL.
Realistically, the best option for Strome would have been a demotion to the AHL, but he’s not yet old enough for that to be a possibility. Next season, Strome could very well spend some time in the minor league, but the CHL-NHL transfer agreement wouldn’t have allowed for him to head down to the Tucson Roadrunners this season as he’s not 20, nor will he be by Dec. 31.
Heading back to Erie isn’t the worst-case scenario, though. If nothing else, Strome will be able to work on the exact areas of his game that the Coyotes feel need work. It was clear coach Dave Tippett didn’t have much trust in the youngster’s defensive ability quite yet, and Strome started only nine total shifts in the Coyotes’ zone at 5-on-5, earning more than triple that count in the offensive zone.
The demotion to the OHL also all but guarantees Strome will get to head to the World Junior Championship once again for Team Canada. He played a major role at the tournament in 2015-16, scoring four goals and six points in five games for the Canadians and earning a nod as one of the team’s top three players at the tournament.