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Chayka Expects Intense Competition at Rookie Camp

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALE – Twenty-nine prospects will take the ice on Saturday afternoon as the Coyotes begin their 2016-17 Rookie Camp at Gila River Arena.

The 17 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies will skate at 1 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. on the first day of camp after spending the morning taking medical exams and doing physical testing.

Dylan Strome. Photo by Norm Hall.

The rookie camp will run until Wednesday, and it will include two games against the Los Angeles Kings rookies on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. and Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 2 p.m. at Gila River Arena. Both games will be streamed live on ArizonaCoyotes.com.

“It’s a real exciting time for us,” General Manager John Chayka said. “We’ve put in a lot of work this off-season to try and improve our group and add to our prospect group. I really think that this prospect camp will be the most talented rookie camp ever for this organization. It’s going to be very competitive. We’ve got a lot of real good, young players all competing for spots and competing to play games at the NHL level and get into our exhibition games this season. We’re ready to go, for sure.”

All eyes likely will be focused on centers Dylan Strome and Christian Dvorak at the rookie camp as they appear to be the two pospects best poised to make a run at making the Coyotes roster for 2016-17. But Chayka said nothing has been guaranteed to them, or any player, and Strome and Dvorak had better be prepared to work hard in rookie camp.

“If they’re planning on taking it easy that would be a mistake because there are enough good players behind them now that they are going to take their spot,” Chayka said. “The best part of the sport is the competition, and we expect that competition to be at its highest level at this camp. That will push everyone to be better and hopefully the cream rises to the top.”

Strome, whom the Coyotes drafted third overall in 2015, nearly made the Coyotes roster last season.

“He’s just a real smart, cerebral player who does a lot of good things,” Chayka said. “It’s not like he has to be hitting the scoresheet every night to make an impact. We want him to play a 200-foot game and look after all the details that we know he learned from last year’s camp. We’re looking for consistency. It’s one thing to have one good game but you have to come in each day and follow that up consistently. For Dylan, and for all of our players, it’s a matter of making an impact in the game consistently. That’s what we’re looking for.”

Christian Dvorak. Photo by Norm Hall.

Dvorak co-captained the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League to an impressive Memorial Cup championship run last season.

“He might be as good as anyone in terms of consistently making an impact,” Chayka said. “Sometimes it’s not flashy, but he’s just a real solid and smart player that makes his teammates better and produces.”

Other players to watch at rookie camp include Coyotes first-round draft picks Brendan Perlini, Nick Merkley and Jakob Chychrun. Newcomer Lawson Crouse also was a first-round draft pick by Florida in 2015. Recent second-round draft picks Ryan MacInnis and Christian Fischer also will attend the rookie camp.

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Clayton Keller, whom the Coyotes drafted seventh overall in this year’s draft, will not attend the camp because he is enrolled at Boston University for this season and NCAA players are not permitted to attend NHL training camps.

Mark Lamb. Photo by Norm Hall.

Mark Lamb, whom the Coyotes recently named head coach of the team’s affiliate in Tucson, will serve as head coach for the rookies at the camp and in the two games vs. Los Angeles, which will serve as the finale of the camp before the veterans report on Thursday, Sept. 22 and skate for the first time on Friday, Sept. 23.

“These young guys have practiced all summer and they’ve been in the weight room and they’ve done the work, and now it’s time to play and show us what they can do in the rookie games,” Chayka said. “It’s a real good chance for us to see where a lot of prospects are amongst their peers.”

Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett will not attend this year’s rookie camp because he is serving as an assistant coach for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey. Chayka said he plans to provide rookie camp updates to Tippett on a daily basis.

NOTE: All rookie camp practices at Gila River Arena are free and open to the public. Fans should enter through Gate No. 3. Keep in mind that the Arizona Cardinals are playing a home game on Sunday, Sept. 18 at 1 p.m. and that traffic around the arena will be extremely congested all day.

ROOKIE CAMP SCHEDULE

Saturday, Sept. 17

1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. – On-Ice Practice

Sunday, Sept. 18
10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. – On-Ice Practice

Monday, Sept. 19
11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – On-Ice Practice

Tuesday, Sept. 20
9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. – Pre-Game Skate
6 p.m. – Game vs. Los Angeles Kings

Wednesday, Sept. 21
10 a.m. – 11 a.m. – Practice (Non-Game Players)
2 p.m. – Game vs. Los Angeles Kings

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