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2015 NHL Draft Recap: Coyotes Add 9 Prospects

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes

SUNRISE, FLA. – The Coyotes entered the 2015 NHL Entry Draft with eight picks in hand on Friday and they left town on Saturday with nine new prospects.

Arizona selected six forwards, two goalies and one defenseman over the course of the annual two-day event at the BB&T Center.

Dylan Strome. Photo by Getty Images.

The Coyotes drafted center Dylan Strome, who led the Ontario Hockey League in scoring with 129 points (45 goals, 84 assists) in 68 games last season, with the No. 3 overall pick on Friday night. Other teams tried to snatch the No. 3 pick from Arizona via trade offers, but in the end the Coyotes valued picking Strome more.

"There was so much talk about trades," Strome said after being selected. "I felt if Arizona was picking I had a good chance to go there. I was ready when they picked. Right now I'm just taking it all in. It's pretty surreal. I'm not going to lie - it feels unbelievable. I'm really excited. I wish training camp started tomorrow."

The Coyotes like Strome's all-around game and his size; 6-foot-3, 187 pounds.

"Dylan’s a big, strong centerman that all teams look for, and if you don’t have it in the National Hockey League today it’s very difficult to win," Coyotes Director of Amateur Scouting Tim Bernhardt said. "We like his potential growth. He’s not done yet."

Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said there were some trade offers for the No. 3 pick that were tempting, but Strome remained the better decision.

"We had two significant offers to trade it outright, that pick, and we could have, with no pick coming back," Maloney said. "We had two teams that were aggressively trying to trade up and we could trade down. ... Those were the options. But it just came back to how much we liked this player and how important we thought adding him was to our long-term plans."

Strome, who is a native of Mississauga, Ontario, is the younger brother of Ryan Strome, who was the fifth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft by the New York Islanders. Dylan said he's eager to play against Ryan on NHL ice someday.

Nichoals Merkley. Photo by Getty Images.

Later on Friday night, the Coyotes used the final pick of the first round - No. 30 overall - on forward Nicholas Merkley, who notched 70 assists and 90 points last season for Memorial Cup runner-up Kelowna of the Western Hockey League.

"We were very happy that he was still there (at No. 30)," Bernhardt said. "They try listing him as a center but we think he’s going to be a winger. He has really good puck control skills and is very competitive."

Maloney said getting Merkley, who ranked sixth in the WHL in scoring and third in assists, at No. 30 was "a gift."

"I love this kid," Maloney said. "He's a little smaller (5 foot 10, 191 pounds), but he has it all. He's quick, he competes, he's smart, he has talent."

Merkley, who is from Alberta and who idolizes Jarome Iginla, takes pride in his assists total and the way he performs in big moments; he notched 22 assists in 19 WHL playoff games as Kelowna won the league title.

"I'm a pass-first guy and I like to make plays, but I think I'm pretty physical and competitive also," Merkley said.

The Coyotes were able to make the 30th pick because they acquired it from Chicago in the trade that sent center Antoine Vermette to the Blackhawks late last season. Thus, the Coyotes made two first-round picks at the draft for the first time since 2010.

Christian Fischer. Photo by Getty Images.

Arizona began the second day of the draft on Saturday by selecting Christian Fischer with the 32nd overall pick. Fischer, a power forward, has honed his skills with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.

"We’ve watched him over the last two years progress and get better and better," Bernhardt said. "He’s got good vision and I think he’s very underrated with what he can do with the puck. He’s strong on the walls. That’s where his game is most effective."

Fischer, who says he tries to pattern his game after Charlie Coyle of the Minnesota Wild, has ties to Arizona. His mother attended Arizona State University for one year and he has been there several times. He’s even gone tubing down the Salt River.

"It's an unbelievable experience," Fischer said regarding being drafted. "Obviously I wanted to go in the first round but in the end I'm happy with where I was taken. It's more about what you do after the draft. I'm just happy to have all the work pay off today... Arizona is a nice place."

Fischer, a native of Wayne, Illinois, is committed to the University of Notre Dame.

The Coyotes were supposed to make their next pick at No. 60, but they traded that selection to Calgary in exchange for picks Nos. 76 and 83.

Kyle Capobianco. Photo by Marissa O'Connor.

Arizona then selected defenseman Kyle Capobianco, who finished tied for the team lead in assists (30) and tied for second in points (40) for Sudbury (OHL) last season, with the No. 63 pick.

"He’s a smooth-skating and smart defenseman," Bernhardt said. "We like his head and we like his legs. It’s been hard to get defensemen in the last couple of drafts. There hasn’t been a ton available. So we targeted Kyle and we were happy to get him when we did."

Capobianco, like Dylan Strome, is a native of Mississauga, Ontario. They are good pals and they grew up playing ball hockey on the streets together. And like Fischer, Capobianco has ties to the Valley of the Sun; his uncle lives there and he visits often.

"I like to be an offensive defenseman but I'm not a high-risk, high-reward kind of guy," Capobianco said when asked to describe his playing style. "I think I'm a pretty good skater."

With the 76th pick, the Coyotes selected goalie Adin Hill, who played for Portland of the Western Hockey League last season. The 6-foot-4, 198-pound native of Comox, British Columbia, notched a 31-11-1 record with a 2.81 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage in 46 games last season.

Hill is the first goalie the Coyotes have drafted since 2013 when they selected Brendan Burke, a teammate of Hill’s last season.

Adin Hill. Photo by Getty Images.

Hill describes himself as a hybrid goalie. His idol is Henrik Lundqvist. Oh, and he can dunk a basketball.

"He’s a late bloomer growing into himself," Bernhardt said. "He emerged this year. We really like his raw ability and we like his mental toughness. He looks like he’s having fun. He’s not all tied up in knots. Nothing seems to bother him which is a great quality to have for a goalie."

A few minutes after drafting Hill, the Coyotes selected forward Brendan Warren with the 81st pick. Warren, a native of Carleton, Mich., notched 17 goals and 17 assists in 52 games for Team USA (USHL) last season.

"There's a lot left to do but this is a great steppingstone," Warren said after being drafted. "It's really rewarding."

Warren said he started playing hockey when he was five years old.

"I wasn't a natural, that's for sure, but I fell in love with it and stuck with it," he said.

Warren has committed to the University of Michigan. The Coyotes are hoping he will blossom offensively while there.

"He’s a two-way winger who can really skate," Bernahrdt said. "We think his game may be more suited for the pros than junior hockey."

Brendan Warren. Photo by Getty Images.

Moments after taking Warren, the Coyotes selected Swedish forward Jens Looke with the 83rd pick and then later they picked Canadian forward Conor Garland at No. 123.

Neither player attended the draft.

Looke was the youngest player and scored three goals on Sweden's World Junior Championship team this year. Bernhardt said the Coyotes like his hockey IQ.

Playing for Moncton, Garland, who is a native of Scituate, Mass., led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 129 points (35 goals, 94 assists) in 67 games.

"The more you watch this kid you think he's got the puck the whole game," Bernhardt said.

"He’s a smaller-sized player (5-foot-8, 163 pounds) but there’s room for those players nowadays."

Late in the draft, in the seventh and final round, Arizona chose Swedish goalie Erik Kallgren with the 183rd pick. The Stockholm native posted impressive stats in 34 games last season: 1.75 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. He, too, did not attend the draft.

"We’re very happy with the way things went and the staff is pleased," Bernhardt said. "We got players from all over the world. We look forward to seeing these young men develop."

Fans are invited to watch the new draft picks and other prospects at the annual Prospect Development Camp from July 7-9 at the Ice Den in Scottsdale. On-ice sessions are set for 2:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. on July 7 and 9 and from 1:50 p.m. to 3:20 p.m. on July 8. The sessions are free and open to the public.

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