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Coyotes 2016-17 Rookie Camp Begins

Skill level is high among prospects looking to get noticed

by Dave Vest @davest4yotes / Coyotes Sr. Director of News Content

GLENDALE - The Coyotes began their 2016-17 Rookie Camp on Saturday with off-ice medical and physical testing, and then the prospects skated as a group for nearly two hours inside Gila River Arena.

It was a grueling day for the group of young players, including first-round draft picks Dylan Strome, Nick Merkley, Brendan Perlini, Jakob Chychrun and Lawson Crouse.

"I thought it was a good first skate for the guys," General Manager John Chayka said. "It was something to build on for sure ... It was about playing within the team structure today and learning to take that next step and compete harder for a spot."

Chayka met with the prospects as a group on Friday night and encouraged all of them to get noticed over the next five days before the veterans show up. 

"When I talked to the guys last night I said 'make it tough on me, make my job hard,'" Chayka said. "Everyone's got a chance to make this team. There are a lot of good players here and a lot of players who are looking to take that next step in their careers and who had real strong junior careers, so it's going to be a competitive camp and if someone is too relaxed or think they have their spot taken care of that can change real quick."

The players will skate again Sunday and Monday before playing two games vs. Los Angeles Kings rookies on Tuesday (6 p.m.) and Wednesday (2 p.m.) at Gila River Arena.

The veterans report for their training camp on Thursday. For players such as Strome and Dvorak, the rookie camp is a chance to really stand out and gain momentum. Both players are considered serious candidates to make the Coyotes roster this season.

"This is the first step toward where we want to go," Strome said. "At the same time, if you don't have a good camp, they don't have to keep you. They don't have to do anything. It's the NHL; they can keep who they want to keep. You've obviously got to prove to them that you deserve to be here."

Dvorak is attending Coyotes Rookie Camp for a third time and has accepted a leadership role. He said he is impressed by the high level of skill at this camp.

"There's a lot more talent at this camp (than past camps)," Dvorak said. "It's a pretty special group of guys and it's nice to be able to compete against them. It only makes you get better." 

Defenseman Cam Dineen, whom the Coyotes drafted 68th overall last June, was not at camp on Saturday because he is nursing an injury he recently suffered at the training camp for his junior hockey team in the Ontario Hockey League. 

Mark Lamb, the head coach of Arizona's American Hockey League affiliate in Tucson, is running the on-ice sessions at this camp and will be behind the bench for the rookie games vs. the Kings.

The prospects will be back on the ice inside Gila River Arena on Sunday at 10 a.m. Fans are welcome to attend the practice.

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