GLENDALE -- Cam Dineen enjoyed an introduction to pro hockey last season as he practiced and worked out with the Tucson Roadrunners for about a month after finishing his third season of junior hockey. Now, he's eager to get into some pro games.
"Going into this season I'm eligible to play in Tucson, so that's my goal for now," Dineen said recently, during Arizona's annual prospect development camp.
The camp was Dineen's third since the Coyotes drafted the left-handed defenseman 68th overall in 2016. He enjoyed being a senior participant at the event, and capped the experience by scoring a goal for victorious Team White in the camp-ending scrimmage.
The Coyotes are pleased by how steadily Dineen, who finished second in the Ontario Hockey League's Rookie of the Year voting in 2015-16, is evolving. Playing for two OHL teams last season, Dineen ranked third among OHL defensemen with 20 goals and fourth with 64 points.
"Cam had a strong final junior season and is progressing well," Coyotes General Manager John Chayka said. "He's a high character person that works hard at his game. We're excited about him."
Dineen, 20, started last season competing for North Bay, an average OHL team. He said he enjoyed playing there because he logged lots of ice time and played in all situations. Dineen wasn't looking to be traded to Sarnia, but when the deal happened he embraced it. Sarnia, which sent rookie defenseman Braden Henderson, five draft picks and two conditional draft picks to North Bay for Dineen finished the regular season with 97 points - second most in the OHL.
"I thought I had a good year in North Bay," Dineen said. "I started off pretty strong. Then I got to go over to Sarnia and play with their top-end guys, which was great. Those guys give you the puck and they get open so it's definitely much easier to get points. I was really happy about that."
Dineen had planned to attend Yale University a few years ago but opted for the OHL instead. His size (5-foot-11, 183 pounds) is a minor concern, but his intelligence is a major plus.
"He's a very cerebral player with good skills," Chayka said. "Transitioning to his first year pro and maintaining the strengths of his game will be the next step."
Dineen, who grew up in Toms River, N.J., was a slick-passing power-play quarterback with a powerful shot in junior hockey. His goal is to become a solid all-around player at the pro level.
"Cam's a gifted offensive defenseman," Player Development Coach Alex Henry said. "He shows good intelligence on the ice with the puck, going north and on the power play. We've been working on rounding out his game. The jump from junior hockey to defending against bigger and stronger and faster opponents this year will be the challenge for him. To transition to pro this year, we've made progress in his positioning and using his skating ability with a good stick to be more effective defensively. Cam's an intelligent player and a quiet yet driven person. I'm confident he will use these qualities to make the jump this year, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what he can do."
"I've been working with development coaches here and gotten some good results," Dineen said. "Alex Henry has given me a lot of little things I can do to clean up the defensive side of my game, as well as given me some tips for offense. I think the staff here has seen the improvements, so I think I just have to keep showing them that this summer and into next season. I'm excited to take the next step."