GLENDALE -- Center Dylan Strome knows there is plenty of time to have a long and fruitful hockey career, and time to prove the Arizona Coyotes correct when they chose him with the No. 3 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
When the first two picks of that draft are center Connor McDavid, who won the Hart Trophy with the Edmonton Oilers last season, and center Jack Eichel, the focal point of the Buffalo Sabres, comparisons are natural. But the Coyotes are content to be patient with Strome, who they expect to be a major piece of their future.
Strome, 20, had one assist in seven games for the Coyotes last season before they sent him back to his junior team, Erie of the Ontario Hockey League. He served as captain for silver medal-winning Canada at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, and helped Erie to the OHL championship and the final of the Memorial Cup.
"I think it was the right move go back last year," said Strome, who had 354 points (114 goals, 240 assists) in 219 OHL games. "I played at a lot of levels against all different styles and with all different teammates and linemates, and I soaked up all of it."
Such a development path was agreeable to Coyotes general manager John Chayka, who envisions Strome picking up speed along that route this season.
"We could have had Dylan here and had him play a depth role or play on the wing," Chayka said. "He would have been fine doing that, but that's not what we're looking for out of him. We're looking for him to be a 200-foot center who impacts the game in all areas. That's a very difficult position to play and excel in at a young age. We're trying to bring him along the right way and do the right thing for the right reason.
"We are looking for the same thing this year. It could happen for him as early as Game 1 of the preseason, where he grabs a spot and runs with it and away he goes. It's my expectation that he will have a strong camp."
Strome has spent the summer in Arizona, focusing on leg strength, core stability and adding weight to his 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame. He also has been working with skating coach Dawn Braid to improve his stride.
"I've been working hard in the gym and on the ice and I feel a lot stronger and quicker," said Strome, who joined center Kyle Turris (No. 3 in 2007) as the Coyotes' highest draft pick since the franchise moved from Winnipeg in 1996. "Every player has the same goal of making the NHL and playing 82 games, but nothing is given to you. I know if I don't prove I'm ready, I'm going to be in the minors. It drives me to show what I can do."
The Coyotes acquired center Derek Stepan in a trade with the New York Rangers on June 23, and center Christian Dvorak had 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) in 78 games of his rookie season. But with new Arizona coach Rick Tocchet stressing skill and creativity, Chayka said there is plenty of room for Strome in the mix if he proves he's ready.
"When he's got his game going he's a big center that can impact the game in so many ways," Chayka said. "Those are the players that win championships. They are extremely rare and extremely hard to find. He has so many attributes from a skill and anticipation standpoint that let you know Dylan has a chance to be a great one.
"When a player has a ceiling like that, you don't want to do anything that can harm that. It's too valuable to the organization long term when you have a player of that caliber."