Arizona Coyotes: Dylan Strome Concerns Unwarranted

Oct 2, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Dylan Strome (20) defends during the second period against the San Jose Sharks at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 2, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Dylan Strome (20) defends during the second period against the San Jose Sharks at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /

Instead of making his NHL debut on Saturday night, Dylan Strome was a healthy scratch. This raised concerns about the prospect in the fan base and around the league, but should it?

For Dylan Strome, the Arizona Coyotes’ thrilling opening night victory was likely a bitter pill to swallow.

While fellow rookies Lawson Crouse, Jakob Chychrun, and Christian Dvorak celebrated on the ice, Strome watched the proceedings from the press box.

His moment never arrived.

Strome’s absence has raised questions about the youngster’s readiness for the NHL.

It also surfaced concerns that he might not be all he was cracked up to be as the 3rd overall pick.

Those worries seem unwarranted, at least for now.

The Coyotes brain trust is unsure how to ice three brand new centers on an NHL roster while remaining competitive. That issue is compounded by their refusal to play any of the three on the wing, preferring to leave them all in their natural roles.

In the long term, this may be a sound play. In the short term, it leaves Strome as the odd man out.

His skillset isn’t identical to Dvorak’s, but there’s enough overlap offensively that the team feels more comfortable with the 20-year-old given his reliable two-way game.

Replacing Laurent Dauphin, as Craig Morgan discussed in an article for Today’s Slapshot, is a non-starter.

Still, the potential “bust” talk has begun in earnest after Strome had what was to many an up-and-down training camp and is now a healthy scratch.

We’re a little early for those discussions.

In an article a few days back, Craig Morgan wrote about Strome’s franchise potential:

"Here’s the reality: It won’t take long to find out. Check out the numbers for the NHL’s current franchise centers. Sidney Crosby had an eye-popping 102 points his rookie season; 120 his second. Anze Kopitar had 61 points his rookie season; 77 his second. Jonathan Toews had 54 points in just 64 games his rookie season; 69 in his second. Tyler Seguin had 67 points in his second season with Boston. McDavid had 48 points in an injury-shortened, 45-game rookie season. This isn’t a slow growth story. You either have it or you don’t, and the difference between haves and have-nots is championships."

It is true that a few franchise, bona fide “number one” centers have had hot starts to their careers that never abated. It’s also true that you generally know pretty early on, but that doesn’t mean all of these players have immediately had the point totals to back up the assessment.

There are also those who have not caught fire straight out of the gates and they still managed to reach that level. Seguin was one of those names mentioned, but as noted he didn’t put it all together until his second season.

Steven Stamkos and Patrice Bergeron also began their careers with 46 and 39 points respectively before breaking out in their sophomore campaigns.

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Ryan Getzlaf did not blossom into the fearsome center the Coyotes face yearly until his third season at age 22. Claude Giroux never eclipsed 50 points in his first two seasons, then became a near point-per-game pivot at age 23.

Pavel Datsyuk scored 38 and then 51 points before producing 68 points in his third go-round the league. He was 25.

Henrik Sedin played four full seasons in Vancouver having never scored more than 42 points. At age 25 he took a leap, scoring 75 points en route to a career that included winning the Hart Trophy in 2009-10.

Joe Pavelski, who just led his San Jose Sharks team to the Stanley Cup Final, didn’t pass 40 points until his third season at age 24. It took until age 26 before he became the consistent high-scoring menace he’s been the past three seasons.

It’s hard to argue that any of those players aren’t franchise centers, and that’s just to name a few.

Suffice to say, there’s a pretty good list of franchise defining top-line centers who did not make a seismic impact in year one and several even who failed to do so in year two.

If and when Strome finally plays, he may be a world-beater out of the gate. He may not.

If not, there’s plenty of precedent that he could still reach that level in subsequent seasons.

It’s unwise to measure Dylan Strome’s potential against the likes of Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. That’s kind of how Dylan Strome ended up in his predicament in the first place.

Unrealistic expectations.

Strome will never be Jack Eichel nor Connor McDavid, the two players chosen ahead of him.

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He doesn’t possess their speed and his game does not contain that kind of flash.

The 19-year-old instead plays hockey like a chess master, approaching the play like a puzzle to be solved so that a killer pass can be delivered. He slows the game down and is the type of player who might seem to be “floating” some nights, until you look at the score sheet and see he’s tallied 3 assists.

There’s a reason he’s been named the number one prospect not in the NHL by multiple outlets and scouting services over the past year.

Kid can play. One training camp or a couple of healthy scratches doesn’t change that fact.

His skating needs work, there’s no doubt, but his lack of speed isn’t a detriment to his style of play.

#20 is suspect defensively, but so are many young centers who first break into the league. That’s part of why they struggle to break out offensively in their first season.

Coaches put a ton of emphasis on the defensive side of the game and these kids don’t want to mess that up and ride the pine…like Dylan Strome is riding the pine for the Arizona Coyotes.

Dylan Strome is not a bust. He’s also not a guaranteed franchise center.

He’s a 19-year-old kid with a ton of offensive upside but a lot to learn otherwise.

A kid who needs playing time to learn and perfect those things.

It’s up in the air whether he’ll get that chance with the Arizona Coyotes this season. The team may well drop him off in Erie on the East Coast swing of their road trip.

Fans shouldn’t write him off yet, however. He’s done nothing to deserve that.

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By all accounts, Strome worked hard in the offseason and has given every indication he will do whatever Dave Tippett, John Chayka, and the rest of the staff ask of him to improve.

It’s still early days in Dylan Strome’s career.