GLENDALE - After spending the first five weeks of the season with the Coyotes, center Dylan Strome has returned to his junior hockey team knowing what it takes to be an NHL player.
Arizona assigned Strome to his junior team, the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League, on Sunday.
"He made good strides over the summer in his physical commitment, and coming in we wanted to see where he was," Head Coach Dave Tippett said after Monday's practice. "His mind and his skill level are very good, but the physical maturity just isn't at the level it needs to be to be able to compete every night (in the NHL)."
Tippett said he and General Manager John Chayka had breakfast with Strome on Sunday and delivered the news of his demotion.
"He's all on board," Tippett said. "... He wants to be a real good player in the NHL, not just a player in the NHL, and I give him credit for that … He understands the situation. He's a very determined kid."
Strome, who notched one assist in seven games for the Coyotes, likely will star for Erie and play for Canada at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship in late December/early January. The Coyotes will be watching him closely.
"What he learned from the start of the season to now, we need him to take that back there," Tippett said. "He's a real smart kid. Play an NHL game in junior. Don't float around and get your points. Play a 200-foot game in junior. Those are the things that he's got to continue to work on and if he does that he'll be back to the NHL soon."
He added: "We have that development team in place now and they'll be on him all the time," Tippett said. "So even though he's not here, there will be lots and lots of contact with him and that will go right through until next year at training camp."
Video: Dave Tippett discusses Cunningham, Strome
With Strome gone and veteran Brad Richardson out indefinitely because of injury, the Coyotes are suddenly thinner at center.
"We still have some good depth there internally so that's where we're going to look first," General Manager John Chayka said about filling out the depth chart at center ice. "But at the same time, we were looking to improve our center position as it was. If there's something there that makes sense, then we're actively looking at things."
Martin Hanzal, Jordan Martinook, Laurent Dauphin and Christian Dvorak likely will be the four centers for the immediate future.
• Tippett said Richardson was scheduled to fly back to Arizona from Vancouver on Monday afternoon. Richardson had been in Vancouver since fracturing the fibula and tibia bones in his right leg in a game played last Thursday; he underwent surgery on Friday.
"Let's get him back here, and we'll figure that out," Tippett said regarding a timeline for his return.
• Wednesday's game vs. Vancouver at Gila River Arena will begin at 8 p.m. and not 7 p.m., the usual time for a weekday game. The late start is to accommodate a Canadian TV broadcast.