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No. 3 pick Strome fits Coyotes' rebuilding plan

by Jerry Brown

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dozens of children played ball hockey on the concrete floor of Gila River Arena on Friday, and about 4,000 fans filled one side of the lower level waiting to see how many pieces the Arizona Coyotes would add to their rebuilding project at the 2015 NHL Draft.

The center-ice scoreboard showed general manager Don Maloney working the phones in Sunrise, Fla. Rumors of possible trades were swirling through social media and from television analysts.

So when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman walked to the podium before the Coyotes pick at No. 3 and announced "We have a trade," audible gasps filled the building.

But the trade Bettman was revealing involved the Buffalo Sabres and Colorado Avalanche, and the Coyotes drafted Ontario Hockey League scoring champ Dylan Strome, who had had 45 goals and 129 points for the Erie Otters.

"I had a good feeling that it would be [the Coyotes] if they were picking No. 3," Strome said. "I didn't know if they were picking until about a minute until they did pick. So I really had no idea up until that moment, but I'm extremely honored and proud to be a Coyote. I can't wait to get started."

Moments before, players projected to join Strome in a new generation of Coyotes -- Max Domi, Brendan Perlini and Christian Dvorak -- modeled new 2015-16 home and road uniforms that have black pants, striped sleeves and socks.

"[Strome is] the real deal and it's exciting to see him coming here," said Domi, who played against him for the past two years while with the London Knights. "He's a big body (6-foot-3, 185 pounds) and he can score. He's going to be a franchise player, I'm sure.

"To see what he did this year alongside [No. 1 pick Connor] McDavid was incredible. He's a great kid off the ice too. Every game [I played against him], I think he scored. He's the real deal and he does everything out there."

Perlini played with Strome's brother, New York Islanders forward Ryan Strome, with the OHL Niagara Ice Dogs for one season.

"I think he's really similar to Ryan," Perlini said. "He's a really skilled player. He's smart, he's shifty, and he's got a really good skill set.

Strome played on a different line than McDavid in Erie, but scouting reports usually mentioned the benefits of playing with the player drafted No. 1 by the Edmonton Oilers.

"Obviously it helps playing with a guy of that caliber," Strome said. "I mean, he's the best player in the world and it's an honor to play with him. But I think I tried to prove people wrong when [McDavid] was out of the lineup (for 21 games with an injury and for the World Juniors) and be that good player that I know I am.

"I know my skating needs a little bit of work, but I don't feel it's a knock on me. I'm just going to get stronger and bigger, and with that is going to come getting faster. I think that's the main thing."

Domi said any thought Strome's statistics were inflated by McDavid was unfair.

"He's one of the hardest working guys and a good student of the game," Domi said of Strome. "He knows everything about it. He deserves all the credit for what he accomplished."

Domi will join Klas Dalbeck (23 years old), Connor Murphy (22), Tobias Rieder (22) and NHL veterans Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23) and Mikkel Boedker (25) with the Coyotes next season. Perlini, Anthony Duclair and Tyler Gaudet could be close behind.

Arizona ended the first round by drafting Kelowna Rockets forward Nicholas Merkley at No. 30.

"They have done a really good job of getting really good young guys in here, the guys who were here and a guy like Duclair," Domi said. "This list goes on and it's an exciting list. I can't wait for training camp."

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