GLENDALE - There are several interesting story lines surrounding the Coyotes season finale vs. Minnesota on Saturday night at Gila River Arena. Most involve veteran players such as Shane Doan, Zbynek Michalek and Martin Hanzal.
But there also is one involving a rookie. Christian Dvorak will enter the game needing just six face-off wins to set a new franchise record for face-off wins by a freshman.
And here's the best part: Dvorak just might set the record by winning a draw vs. the player who holds the record. Hanzal, whom Arizona traded to Minnesota in March, won 470 face-offs as a Coyotes rookie in 2007-08. Dvorak has won 465 this season, the second most among NHL rookies. Toronto's Auston Matthews tops that list with 523.
"It's definitely been a big adjustment for me moving from the junior to the pro ranks," Dvorak said. "The guys in the NHL are a lot stronger and a lot more experienced in the face-off circles. I struggled with it early, but I've gotten good tips from teammates like Marty Hanzal on how to get better at them and that's why I've gotten better."
Per STATS, Dvorak has shown gradual and significant improvement in the face-off circles throughout his rookie season. In October, he won just 43.5 percent of his draws in seven games. In March, he won 51.9 percent in 16 games. For the season, his face-off winning percentage is at 47.1 percent entering the season finale.
Beyond the face-off circles, Dvorak has quickly evolved from a junior player to an NHL player.
"He continues to move forward at a pace we really like," Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "He's a good, young player. Like all of our young players, he took some time to get up and going, but when you look at him now he does a lot of things well in the game, and (he's) playing a hard position at center that touches a lot of parts of the game."
Dvorak, whom Arizona drafted/stole with the 58th overall pick in 2014, leads the team with a plus-6 rating, and ranks third on the team with 15 goals and sixth with 33 points.
"I'm pleased with the 15 goals and the points, but I want to keep getting better," Dvorak said. "I don't really put statistical goals out there for myself, I just try to play my game and do what I do out there ... There have been ups and downs throughout the season, and I think I've gotten better as the season has gone on. That's been my goal, to just keep getting better."
Tippett said it took Dvorak a little time to grow out of some habits he learned in junior hockey. For instance, he's learned how to play shorter shifts, and how to play quicker and fresher within those shifts.
Captain Shane Doan, who's seen a lot of rookies try to make it in the NHL, likes Dvorak's game, too.
"It seems every time you see him he's getting better," Doan said. "We got to play together a fair amount and I really admire his personality and the way he plays the game and the way he handles himself. He's so composed. He scored one of the nicer goals you'll see in the NHL (vs. Washington on March 31) and you couldn't even tell. Maybe on the inside he's dancing around, but on the outside he's just so composed."
Video: WSH@ARI: Dvorak forces turnover, scores superb goal
Doan and Dvorak have a big-brother-little-brother relationship that is beneficial to both.
"He means a lot to me," Dvorak said. "He's been great to all the young guys on our team, but he's done so much for me. He's always there for me, every single day, through the ups and downs. I definitely owe a lot to him. He's been a great role model."