GLENDALE – Coyotes prospect Christian Dvorak is proud of what he and his London Knights teammates accomplished this season, but he says he’s ready to leave junior hockey behind and take the next step in his hockey career.
“It’s definitely bittersweet,” Dvorak said Thursday, four days after London beat Rouyn-Noranda, 3-2 in overtime, to win the 2016 Memorial Cup in his final junior hockey game. “I’ve had a great time here in London and it’s going to be different not coming back here to play hockey, but I think it’s time for me to move on.”
The Coyotes agree.
|Christian Dvorak. Photo by Norm Hall. |
“Christian Dvorak is definitely pro ready,” said Steve Sullivan, Arizona’s Director of Player Development. “He’s got a 200-foot game. He led the Ontario Hockey League with 52 goals this year but he’s also the first guy over the boards for penalty killing and he’s the guy on the ice to save the game when his team is up by one goal. He’s also the guy they want on the ice to try to score if they’re down by one goal. He plays all situations and is really good in all situations.”
Dvorak notched 14 goals and 21 assists in 18 playoff games for London, including seven goals in four games at the Memorial Cup, the most by any player. The most important of those goals came with 4:11 left in the third period of the Memorial Cup championship game with London trailing 2-1. Knights Coach Dale Hunter sent Dvorak onto the ice to take a defensive zone face-off and instructed him to stay on the ice instead of coming off and re-joining his regular linemates. Dvorak won the draw, London got the puck into Rouyn-Noranda’s zone and Dvorak ended up scoring the goal from in front after a nice pass from winger Aaron Berisha.
Dvorak said London’s state of mind was still strong despite trailing 2-1 so late in the game.
“There wasn’t any panic at all,” Dvorak said. “We knew it was going to be a close game. They were ranked the No. 1 team in the CHL all season and they’re a very good hockey team and we figured it would be a one-goal game. Even when we were behind, we were confident in each other and we knew that we could find a way to win. We ended up getting the puck deep and Berisha made a great pass to me and luckily I was able to find a hole and score a goal.”
London extended its winning streak to 17 games at 7:49 of overtime when Matthew Tkachuk, son of former Coyotes captain Keith Tkachuk, scored a goal. The puck appeared to glance off Dvorak before reaching the net, but Dvorak isn’t seeking credit for the game-winning goal.
|Christian Dvorak. Photo by Getty Images. |
“We won the Memorial Cup,” Dvorak said. “It doesn’t make a difference who got that goal. We won and that’s really all that matters.”
Dvorak plans to take a little time off to rest after a long season, but after that will quickly turn his attention to getting ready for Coyotes training camp in September and his first pro season.
“I need to prepare this summer and try to improve on the ice and off the ice so I can do my best when I get back to Arizona,” Dvorak said.
The Coyotes are eager to see if Dvorak, who was voted to the OHL’s First Team All-Star Team, can keep his momentum going beyond junior hockey.
“We’re really looking forward to watching him compete for a job next season,” Sullivan said. “The sky is the limit for Christian’s hockey career. If you look at the NHL right now you want (players with) hockey IQ and guys that can think on the ice and that can make plays. He’s definitely that player. He’s very, very smart and anticipates the game extremely well and makes a lot of really good plays. He knows exactly where to be on the ice with his anticipation. We’re lucky to have him.”