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Christian Dvorak convinced he's ready for NHL

Coyotes prospect eager to show he can step into lineup as 20-year-old

by Mike Brophy / Correspondent

TORONTO -- Arizona Coyotes prospect Christian Dvorak is convinced he's ready for the NHL.

"I think so," said Dvorak, a center who attended the NHLPA Rookie Showcase on Aug. 29. "Obviously it's up to the team. But I'm going to try my best, give my best effort in training camp, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity."

Dvorak, 20, had 93 goals and 230 points in 125 games with London of the Ontario Hockey League over the past two seasons. A left wing, Dvorak was selected by the Coyotes in the second round (No. 58) of the 2014 NHL Draft. He had a little taste of professional hockey in 2015, playing in two regular-season games and five playoff games with Portland of the American Hockey League. Dvorak had a goal and an assist in the two regular-season games and one assist in the five playoff games with Portland.

"It was pretty cool," said Dvorak, who signed an entry-level contract with the Coyotes in April 2015. "I was still a young kid, it was two [seasons] ago, but it was cool to play a few regular-season games in the AHL and to play in a playoff series too. It was a good experience.

"There's not a lot of room out there compared to junior. There's not too much space to make plays, so you have to think quicker out there. There are smarter players in the pro game, and it's definitely a step ahead. It was nice to see how the league is, and it gave me a better idea of what I needed to do for camp and prepare for pro hockey."

Dvorak credits his junior coach, longtime NHL center and former Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter, for pointing him in the right direction.

"He really preaches a 200-foot game and there are not too many players in the NHL that do not play a 200-foot game," Dvorak said. "There is a lot of video about how to play on the defensive side of the puck, and I think I learned a lot from him defensively and that's a huge part of the game."

Dvorak played on a line last season with fellow NHL prospects Mitchell Marner (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Matthew Tkachuk (Calgary Flames), helping London win the Memorial Cup. Tkachuk, selected by the Flames with the No. 6 pick at the 2016 draft, thinks Dvorak has a legitimate shot at cracking Arizona's lineup this season.

"He is an awesome two-way player who is sneaky offensively," Tkachuk said. "He had over 50 goals last season and a ton of points and he is so sound defensively. He showed that throughout the year in the regular season, playoffs, the Memorial Cup and at the World Junior Championship. I think he is going to have a great year with Arizona and a great career."

The Coyotes have a wealth of young talent, including second-year forwards Max Domi and Anthony Duclair and highly regarded prospects Dvorak and Dylan Strome, the third player selected at the 2015 draft.

Dvorak is excited about the Coyotes' future and believes he and Strome can develop along with young players such as Domi, Duclair and Lawson Crouse, who was acquired by Arizona from the Florida Panthers on Aug. 25.

"It's a lot of competition, and I think that brings out the best in you," he said. "It just brings out the competitive juices a little more trying to vie for a spot with all these other great prospects. The future looks very bright for the organization."

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