The top two prospects in the a loaded Arizona Coyotes’ prospect pool are squaring off on Thursday as the USA takes on Canada in the gold medal game of the World Junior Championship.
While most have country allegiance on the line, Arizona Coyotes fans have deeper rooting interests.
This time the winner takes home a gold medal.
For Strome, a WJC gold medal would be some validation for his unwanted return to junior hockey.
On the other hand, a gold medal for Keller would likely see his stock soar even higher over Strome’s.
Why Dylan Strome Needs To Win
Too slow. Not defensively responsible. Boring.
All descriptors used to describe Strome’s play in Glendale before he was returned to the OHL for another season.
Dave Tippett and John Chayka wanted to see him fill out, bulk up, and work on being a better player without the puck.
They also wanted to see what could do at his second World Junior Championship.
He’s only put up 3 goals, 7 assists, and been the captain of Team Canada. Nothing major.
Winning this tournament would go a long way toward validating another year of the former 3rd overall pick not being a full-time player in Arizona.
It would also save him from the pitchforks north of the border should Team Canada fail.
A gold medal would put Strome in strong company in Canadian lore, and might just be the catalyst he needs to finish his junior career with a bang and seamlessly transition to the Tucson Roadrunners, should they still be playing when Erie’s season ends.
Why Clayton Keller Needs To Win
Simply put, any time America has a chance to one-up Canada in hockey, they have to take it.
Clayton Keller is the leading scorer on Team USA. He also has 3 goals and 7 assists, and when Keller’s line is on the ice the team is pulling strongly in a positive direction.
He isn’t the lone star on the roster, but it wouldn’t be hard to argue that he’s the straw that stirs the drink.
It might not get him all the way there, but I have a sneaking suspension he might end up in that discussion in the not-too-distant future regardless of tonight’s outcome.
Why The Arizona Coyotes Win Regardless
Though 2016 has been a bit of a down year for the Arizona Coyotes, 2016 was a banner year for desert hockey.
Between the Auston Matthews phenomenon, a quickly growing Division I hockey outfit at Arizona State, arena plans, the success of the Tucson Roadrunners, and now Strome and Keller representing the Coyotes in the gold medal game of the World Juniors, the talking points about desert hockey are many and they are almost all good.
Now, here we are at the World Junior Championship and arguably the best player from each team is an Arizona prospect.
Whoever wins this gold medal will be in training camp in Arizona next fall.
The silver medalist will be there too. How good does that sound?