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Dylan Strome eager for breakthrough with Coyotes

Forward picked No. 3 in 2015 Draft wants to 'prove that I belong'

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

Dylan Strome tries not to think about his path to the NHL or the success his peers have had there. It's still not easy to deal with.

The Arizona Coyotes forward is the only top 10 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft who has yet to establish himself in the League.

"I'm still trying to prove that I belong and that Arizona made the right pick," Strome said.


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The 21-year-old has played in 28 NHL games; the other nine have each played in at least 115, with seven of them already past the 150-game mark, led by Calgary Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin (239), Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (209) and Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (209).

McDavid and Eichel were the top two picks, respectively. Hanifin was No. 5, behind Strome and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner (159 games).

Six through 10 were New Jersey Devils center Pavel Zacha (140), Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov (164), Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (155), San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier (115) and Colorado Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen (165).

Each played in at least 67 NHL games last season. Strome played in 21.

"Hopefully in five, 10 years down the road people will look back and say they did make the right pick," Strome said. "Time will tell."

That time starts now for Strome.

"My goal is to play 82 games in the NHL this year," said Strome, whose brother, Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Strome, was the No. 5 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft by the New York Islanders and became a full-time NHL player in his second season in the League. "I do feel like I belong there."

Video: ARI@VAN: Strome sends home loose puck, extends lead

The Coyotes want him to prove it, because they view Strome as an elite prospect and a big piece of what they hope turns into a championship core. They saw enough from him last season, his first full one as a professional, to bolster their belief in him.

Strome dominated in the American Hockey League, scoring 53 points (22 goals, 31 assists) in 50 games for Tucson. He finished strong in the NHL too, scoring eight points (three goals, five assists) in Arizona's final 10 games after getting recalled for a second time March 20.

"Look, if he was a second-round pick and he comes in and lights up the American League, I think everyone would be saying this guy is an untouchable," Arizona general manager John Chayka said. "He's a [6-foot-3] center with a great year of pro [hockey] under his belt and he's produced at every level. I view him as a really good player."

Strome didn't give the Coyotes much hope in his first two NHL stints last season.

He had no points in the first two games of the season, both losses (0-1-1), and was sent down to Tucson. He returned for nine games from Nov. 28-Dec. 16 and scored his first NHL goal, but that was his only point. Arizona went 1-6-2.

"Our whole team was all over the place, so it felt like he didn't have a fair shot," Coyotes center Derek Stepan said. "But he played really well in the minors and honed his skills. He easily could have shut the engines down and said, 'Poor me,' but he learned how to use his skill set to be successful so he could get that 10-game stint at the end of the year when he played really well."

Strome said confidence was the difference for him in the final 10 games. He built it in the AHL, where he helped Tucson go 33-13-4 in his 50 games.

"When I got up there, I just tried to play the same game that I played in the AHL," Strome said. "I kept trying to get those chances. I was creating so many chances. I was on the puck. I felt good. I felt good about my game. I finally just realized that I deserved to be there."

The challenge to make it this season, especially as a center, will be greater for Strome.

Video: ARI@CGY: Strome scores with seeing-eye goal

The Coyotes are deeper in the middle with the addition of Alex Galchenyuk in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens. They also have Stepan and Christian Dvorak. They re-signed Brad Richardson and have Nick Cousins available at the position.

"There is going to be a lot of competition," coach Rick Tocchet said.

Strome said he wants to be a center, the position he's played his entire life and where he feels he can best help Arizona.

"I feel like I showed last year, the last 10 games, that I could play it," Strome said.

But Chayka and Tocchet view versatility as essential, so Strome could make the Coyotes as a wing. Strome said he'd be OK with that.

"He turned the corner last year a little bit, and I want to see him get away from the corner now," Tocchet said. "I want to see him get a straightaway and separate himself."

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