Why should the Arizona Coyotes keep Dylan Strome on the NHL roster this year?
There are plenty of Coyotes fans who like what they see in Strome, and feel that he's NHL ready. He has nothing to prove in the OHL, so he should play in the NHL.
So why should he be sent back to major-junior?
To start, I don't believe he's NHL ready. I don't just say that because the prospects the Coyotes have rushed to the NHL have all struggled in subsequent seasons (Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker, Viktor Tikhonov, Peter Mueller, etc.).
I also don't just say that because last year's 3rd overall pick - Leon Draisaitl - was kept up in Edmonton for 37 games, struggled as a center despite only playing third line minutes, and was promptly sent back down to major-junior.
I say that because there are specific facets of his game that I believe Strome can and should improve on before playing against the NHL.
Strome has great hands and a great shot, but his frame is not quite into form yet. He's only 185 pounds despite being 6' 3". The player he'd most likely replace at center - Antoine Vermette - is 200 pounds despite only being 6' 1".
Joe Thornton, by contrast, is 220 pounds. Ryan Getzlaf is 221 pounds, and Anze Kopitar is 224 pounds. All three California centers have at least 35 pounds on Strome, and none of those three are taller than 6' 4".
The Coyotes don't need Strome to build 40 pounds worth of muscle in one year. But if he's going to get pummeled by those three fifteen times a season, the strength disparity should probably not be that vast.
That's the benefit of playing another year in the OHL. He's not playing against guys that big and that strong. He doesn't need to "learn" how to play against big centers; he needs to be strong enough to play against big centers. Playing in the OHL provides a relatively low-pressure place for Strome to get bigger and faster.
If Strome joins the Coyotes in the NHL, he has to balance all of the rigors of being an NHL rookie (learning a new system, adjusting to the speed, dealing with media and extended travel, finding a place to live, etc.) with the need to get bigger, faster, and stronger.
Could he get bigger, faster, and stronger in Arizona? For sure. Is there an advantage to him doing that in the NHL? Not really.
The Coyotes don't benefit, because Strome doesn't seem like the one piece that it'll take to make the Coyotes a contender next season. They need more production from all of their forwards, stronger defensive play, and a rebound from their goaltending. Strome, as good as he is, is not going to fix every single one of those problems by himself.
So the Coyotes get Strome an extra year of NHL experience at age 18 - which may or may not hurt his development - in a season where the playoffs are a very distant possibility, much less the Stanley Cup.
What the Coyotes give up for the ability to do this is a year of controlling his salary via his entry-level contract. If he plays more than ten games this year, than he becomes UFA eligible at age 25, seven years from now.
It's a very real possibility that Arizona will not be competitive for the Stanley Cup seven years from now. But it seems far more likely that they will compete for the Cup in the 2022-23 season than they will in the 2015-16 season.
I would love to be wrong. I'd love for Strome to have a dazzling training camp, make the team, and carry the Coyotes to the playoffs.
I just don't think that's going to happen, and the consequences of sending Strome down when he's ready for NHL hockey are far less severe than keeping him up if he's not ready.
The Dylan Strome era will begin in Arizona. It just shouldn't begin this year.