While there's an element of risk to any prospect, that's the key to prospecting well. A balance of risk and reward needs to be struck so the reward outweighs the risk. Each team does their best to engineer situations where the potential rewards are greater than the risks by a fair margin. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it's Cam Barker. Until a player actually makes or fails to make the NHL, it's all just guess-work based on performance at lower levels.
One of the most important of these lower levels is Major Junior. The CHL is composed of three leagues and produces a sizable amount of NHL bound talent. 95 players from the CHL were drafted in the 2015 NHL entry draft. One of the three leagues which makes up the CHL is the WH, which is the league where Dysin Mayo, one of the Coyotes less well-publicized defensive prospects, plays.
Dysin Mayo - just like the condiment - is a defensive prospect currently playing for the Edmonton Oil Kings. To date, Mayo has played three seasons for the Oil Kings and was drafted in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL entry draft, 133rd overall. What the Coyotes hope to see Mayo develop into is still a bit of a mystery; however, it is easy to see the characteristics which drew the Coyotes to this particular defenseman.
Mayo is a quick, smooth skater with excellent puck movement. He's a two-way defenseman who is as comfortable releasing powerful shots from the point as hip-checking opposing forwards off the puck. Mayo is also a smart player and a budding leader. He earned an "A" in his third year with the Oil Kings, stepping into the void left by the departure of many veterans and leaders on the team after the 2013-14 season.
Mayo has played all of his Major Junior hockey for the Edmonton Oil Kings. His first year saw Mayo play a more limited role, logging only 42 games and totalling five points. His second year saw Mayo increase his role and start to play in a second-pairing role with Cody Corbett.
His offensive output increased substantially in this new role, and Mayo became one of the more versatile members of the Oil Kings defense corps. Mayo also began to play in a special teams role as well as at even strength. His quick feet allow him to get back quickly should it be required, a helpful skill for anyone to have.
The 2014 Oil Kings won the Memorial Cup, a feat in which Mayo played a key role. He was a large part of a shutdown defense credited with keeping the high-powered offense of the Guelph Storm in check. Mayo was drafted just after that very successful Memorial Cup Tournament.
In his third year with the Oil Kings, Mayo was promoted to the role of first-pairing defenseman and played extensively in all situations. He has become one of the Oil Kings' most reliable and predictable defenseman and vital to their success. In the coming year, Mayo looks to become an anchor to the Oil Kings defense and play a pivotal role in a successful season for his team.
Puck Movement and Skating
Mayo is an efficient and accurate mover of the puck. He can capably protect the puck from opposition and has a strong first pass. Beyond his first pass, Mayo is smart with the puck. This is especially evident when Mayo is on the power play. He works to bring the puck to the centre of the ice, where better passing lanes and shooting positions are available. Mayo isn't likely to shoot the puck into the shin guards of a defending player just to shoot the puck, but rather he seeks to move the puck to keep the play alive.
In addition to being smart with the puck, Mayo has also improved his vision on ice since he started playing first-pairing minutes. Mayo has always had solid on-ice vision and an understanding of what his role is; however, over the course of his junior career, Mayo has learned when he needs to pass the puck forward and when he should start the rush by skating the puck forward. Mayo's smooth and agile skating style allow him to move the puck around the ice and lead rushes with considerable skill.
Mayo shows agility and acceleration in both directions and from all reports is an excellent skater. He is more than capable of leading a rush and then back checking without the troubles less-skilled skaters often encounter. Brilliant skating has allowed Mayo to become something of a playmaker for the Oil Kings. He is often able to bring the puck in deep and see the best available option for a scoring chance. Normally, these plays begin because Mayo has the skill to skate the puck into the offensive zone. These skills have often been on display during playoff games, where Mayo seems to find another level.
With more ice time, Dysin Mayo produces more. His first year - with 42 games played - saw him produce five points. His second year - with 63 games played - yielded 35 points, and his third year - with 72 games played - saw him jump to a solid 51 points on the season.
While this may seem like a simplistic evaluation, Mayo is one of the few Oil Kings player who have thrived after the 2014 Memorial Cup victory. Both Pollock and Irving spent part of the Oil Kings season looking like pale imitations of the players they were the year before. No so with Mayo. Mayo has thrived under the pressure of playing first-pairing minutes on a team with less talent in front of him.
Mayo played more minutes, scored more points, and grew in capability throughout the season, becoming one of the Oil Kings go to defenseman in all situations. The continued improvement in Mayo's offensive output, despite the chance in team circumstances, seems to indicate that Mayo is a player where continued offensive growth is likely. If Mayo's offensive production continues to grow, he could become a force for the Coyotes after some time in the AHL to hone his skills a bit more.
Leadership and Confidence
The 2014-2015 saw Mayo earn an "A" and a leadership role within the Oil Kings organization. Mayo began his Major Junior career as a more tentative and unsure player. He was less likely to jump into a rush or start one, and this tentativeness is reflected in his point production.
This increase in confidence is especially evident in Mayo's playoff performances. His point production is reliable. During the 2013-2014 playoff run, Mayo was just under 0.75 points per game. His numbers in the 2014-2015 playoffs are less impressive. However, the 2014-2015 playoff run was considerably shorter and involved a team that had difficulty scoring at the best of times. Mayo's confidence was much improved both by being drafted and by the Oil Kings Memorial Cup win.
Mayo displays a great deal more confidence in both leading rushes and in breaking up opposition plays in his own zone. He belief in his own skills has grown and consequently his play making is smoother. There has been a greater flow to Mayo's game in this last year. His more prominent role and minutes in all situations have also done a great deal to increase Mayo's on-ice confidence.
The leadership potential in Mayo is most obvious in his role defensively. Mayo, paired with overager Saunter, led the Oil Kings defensively over the past year. However, with Saunter moving on to a professional contract with the Canucks, Mayo will be expected to bear the burden of defensive leadership on his own in the coming year.
Mayo's leadership has been demonstrated community leadership during his time with the Oil Kings, being part of several events, such as "Read-In Week," promotional work for charity games, and practices with minor hockey teams. This type of presences in the community gives Mayo a leadership role on the team by virtue of standing and importance. The community looks to Mayo as a leader on the team, based on both his drafted status and his experience in the WHL. It is safe to assume younger players look to him the same way.
Mayo is a prospect with potential. He has vision, skating speed and skill, and puck-handling skills. However, there is still a risk to Mayo. While there is always a risk with any prospect, Mayo's size and strength have some watchers worried. At only 6'1", Mayo is on the smaller side for an NHL defenseman. He also doesn't have the brute strength sometimes found in likely NHL defensive prospects. He can be forced off the puck, and there are times when Mayo is unable to win a battle along the boards due being matched against a stronger opposing player.
None of that should overshadow what Mayo does well. His skating is excellent, and his puck movement is a level above found in most of the junior hockey. He's also growing into a leadership role on the team which will be tested in the coming season. If he continues to develop as he has been, Mayo looks to become a dynamic leader whose example is a compelling motivation for his teammates and who is experienced in dealing with both press and community commitments.
As Mayo matures, it becomes more likely he will become a player on which it is worth taking a risk. He's shown a tremendous upside and a downside he can work to improve. Most projections have Mayo as a bottom-six defenseman with the possibility of becoming a second-pairing player in times of need. As a smaller player, Mayo's risk factor may be higher, but drafting Mayo in the fifth round does a lot to mitigate that risk. The NHL has also seen the rise of the smaller player lately, indicating it might just be time for Mayo to earn some serious consideration with his play. If this is true, Mayo will be one to watch for Coyotes fans over the next couple years.