GLENDALE – Head Coach Dave Tippett watched five rookies contribute all season, and what he saw from them has left him excited about next season and beyond.
“There’s lots of hope here,” Tippett said. “There’s lots of work to be done, but I like the direction we’re heading.”
Coyotes rookies led the NHL in points (134) and ranked second in goals (51) and assists (83), and helped the team improve from 56 points in 2014-15 to 78 points this season. Arizona remained in contention for the Stanley Cup Playoffs until late in the season and came up just 10 points short of earning a berth.
Forwards Max Domi and Anthony Duclair led the way among the newcomers by producing impressive offensive statistics in their first seasons.
Domi notched 52 points, two shy of the record for points in a season by a Coyotes rookie set by Peter Mueller in 2007-08. He ranked third among NHL rookies in points (52), second in assists (34), and tied for sixth in goals (18).
“We’ve grown a lot as a group, and I know I’ve learned a lot from every guy in here,” Domi said before departing for the off-season. “It’s been a lot of fun. We took some steps forward here, and that’s great, but not quite enough (to make the playoffs). We’re going to remember this feeling and not want to experience this again.”
Duclair scored 20 goals, two shy of Mueller’s record for goals scored by a Coyotes rookie. He ranked seventh among NHL rookies in points (44), fifth in goals (20), and tied for seventh in assists (24).
“I didn’t expect to score 20 goals this year,” Duclair said. “I’m pretty happy to have that accomplishment and share it with these guys. It’s been unbelievable.”
Forward Jordan Martinook earned the team’s Hardest Working Player award in his first season. Martinook chipped in nine goals and 15 assists, and was a reliable penalty killer. He ranked 17th among NHL rookies in points (24), tied for 15th in goals (nine), and tied for 17th in assists (15).
“I don’t want this season to end,” Martinook said. “It’s almost to the point where I wish we could go right into training camp next year, because it’s been so much fun.”
Louis Domingue jumped into the lineup when needed and proved he could be a regular NHL goaltender. Domingue posted a 15-18-5 record, a 2.75 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage in 39 games. His performance while starter Mike Smith recovered from core muscle surgery in December was a key reason why the Coyotes remained in the playoff hunt as long as they did.
“My goal once I got here was to prove to everyone I could be counted on as an NHL goaltender and I believe I accomplished that,” said Domingue, who ranked third among NHL rookies in games played (39), fourth in wins (15), and second in saves (1,041).
Last but not least, defenseman Klas Dahlbeck led the team and all NHL rookies with 178 hits in 71 games. He also ranked 11th among freshmen with 64 shots on goal while playing 15:43 per game.
Captain Shane Doan was impressed by how all five young players handled themselves in their first full seasons.
“As good as all of our rookies have been as players, they’ve been an absolute treat to have in our dressing room and I think that bodes (well) for the future,” Doan said.
Looking ahead to next season, two prospects appear poised to make serious runs at roster spots.
Center Dylan Strome, whom the Coyotes selected with the third overall draft pick last year, turned in another stellar season playing junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League. Strome notched 111 points (37 goals, 74 assists) in 56 games for Erie this season.
Meanwhile, center Christian Dvorak, whom the Coyotes drafted 58th overall in 2014, notched 121 points (52 goals, 69 assists) in 59 games playing for London (OHL) this season.
Both Strome and Dvorak are still competing in the OHL playoffs, in a series pitting Erie vs. London.