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Dylan Strome building toward Coyotes roster spot

Forward hopes adding bulk will be last step to playing for Arizona

by Jerry Brown / Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Some of the upgrades to the 2016 model of forward Dylan Strome jump right out at you.

With an offseason fully committed to training and recovery instead of meeting all the commitments surrounding the 2015 NHL Draft, it's easy to see that Strome has taken steps toward filling out his 6-foot-3 frame. The extra time and attention to detail allowed the No. 3 pick in 2015 to clear one of the road blocks separating him from a spot with the Arizona Coyotes: durability.

"I've put on a few pounds and really emphasized getting bigger and stronger," Strome, 19 and 194 pounds, said during development camp. "I've worked hard and hopefully I can impress enough people to make this team."

That almost happened last season. Strome believed he was ready to go from the draft to the NHL but was returned to Erie of the Ontario Hockey League on Oct. 4, just before the start of the regular season.

The Coyotes' concern was that he wasn't physically ready for the rigors of an 82-game season and considered the risk of rushing him to the NHL.

While a slew of rookie forwards, including Max Domi, Anthony Duclair and Jordan Martinook, played in the NHL, Strome was named captain of Erie, and his 74 assists and 111 points were fourth in the OHL.

"I feel like I turned a lot of heads in [Coyotes training] camp," Strome said. "But when I didn't make the team, I was really excited to get back to Erie. When I was cut, I think I was down about it for one hour. Then I started thinking about how good a team we had in Erie. And when I rejoined my teammates we had a great run. It was the most fun I've ever had in a hockey season."

Coyotes director of player development Steve Sullivan said he felt Strome's mourning period was a little longer than an hour. But the responsibility of being captain of a team with high expectations, and a chance to play for Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship, allowed him to refocus quickly. Strome had four goals and two assists in five games at the tournament.

Video: Coyotes Prospect Dylan Strome answers questions

"There was definitely a period of time when … he wasn't feeling sorry for himself, but certainly the disappointment was there," Sullivan said. "But once you get back into your element and understand that you are the captain of your team and they were depending on him, that's a big help. They were ranked very high with a lot of expectations, and a lot of it fell to him to live up to that."

Strome has one season of junior eligibility remaining but he likely won't need it. The Coyotes have veteran centers Martin Hanzal, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richardson and Ryan White on the roster, but Strome is penciled in to center one of the top two lines if he can stand up physically and prove another perceived shortcoming, his skating, won't hold him back.

He said he's worked hard with skating coach Dawn Braid to improve his stride and build more skating power.

"The weakness to his game is skating, but the strength to his game is his vision and intelligence on the ice that helps him get to places quicker," Sullivan said. "Do we feel it's going to be an issue? We're trying to polish his gifts and work with the deficiencies in the sessions with Dawn. Some of it is just power and firing the right way and getting strength behind it.

"He's stronger, a year more mature, and the skill set just continues to get better. Now he has to show in training camp that he can consistently do it against men, and that's when we know he's ready."

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