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Dylan Strome eager to be part of Coyotes' rebuild

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- For Dylan Strome, the 2015 NHL Draft got really interesting at pick No. 3.

Strome, like most, conceded that center Connor McDavid, his teammate with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League, would be chosen first by the Edmonton Oilers and center Jack Eichel of Boston University would be selected second by the Buffalo Sabres.

The question of who would be picked third was Strome's focus. The odds were it would be either him, college defenseman Noah Hanifin or skilled center Mitchell Marner. In the end, Strome went No. 3 to the Arizona Coyotes.

"It was definitely an uplifting thing when I was chosen behind [McDavid and Eichel]," Strome said. "Arizona saw something in me, and I hope to prove they made the right choice. That's all I can do. I was extremely happy to be picked third and to be the first pick in that second wave of the draft. It was cool."

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound center led the OHL in scoring last season with 129 points (45 goals) for the Otters.

Leading up to the draft there was plenty of speculation about who would go where following the selections of McDavid and Eichel. Strome said the buildup to the draft got a little monotonous.

"The tough part was being asked the same questions over and over again," Strome said. "You heard them every day. People can make predictions if they want, but in the end it's up to the team that is drafting and that's all that really matters. You can listen to the media all you want about where you are going to end up, but at the end of the day it is whatever a certain team wanted."

The Coyotes were the NHL's second lowest-scoring team last season, averaging 2.01 non-shootout goals per game, and are on the lookout for anyone who can help in that department. The question is whether they will rush players such as Strome, Max Domi and Anthony Duclair or groom them slowly.

Strome believes he is ready to play in the NHL this season and will be out to prove that when he attends Arizona's training camp.

"I think you want to get to the NHL as quick as possible," Strome said. "Also, you don't want to disappoint the team that drafted you. You want to be good for the team that picked you so high and you want to be part of the new culture, because obviously the team was pretty low in the standings if you were drafted that high. You want to bring them back to where they were in the past. It's cool to hopefully be part of a rebuild."

Strome, 18, said this has been a significantly different summer for him compared to previous offseasons. He spent a great deal of his time trying to get bigger and stronger in preparation for making the next step in his career. Strome said he has also learned to deal with the obstacles and commitments that occur in a draft year.

After his season ended, Strome traveled to Quebec, site of the Memorial Cup, for the Canadian Hockey League awards; to Chicago for a Stanley Cup Playoff game; to Buffalo for the NHL Scouting Combine; to Sunrise, Fla., for the draft; and then to Arizona to meet with his new team. He said in between his travels he made sure he got his workouts in.

Of course it helps, Strome said, to have an older brother who has already blazed the same trail.

Ryan Strome, 22, was chosen by the New York Islanders with the fifth pick in 2011. He scored 17 goals and had 50 points in 81 games with the Islanders in 2014-15, his first full season in the NHL.

Dylan Strome said his brother is his role model.

"He does so many things for me that people don't see," Dylan said. "He helps me and my younger brother [Matt, who plays with the OHL's Hamilton Bulldogs] so much by telling us about his experiences. You learn so much from a guy who has done the same things as you are doing. Since I was 5 I followed in his footsteps."

Strome said he expects to play in the NHL this season.

"Yeah, that is my goal," Strome said. "There's no question that I feel I can be there. It's obviously going to be a tough task to get there and it doesn't happen for too many 18-years-olds, and there's going to be one [McDavid] who does it this year. I'm hoping I can be that second guy who makes a mark and helps Arizona get back to its winning ways."

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