Dylan Strome’s time with the Arizona Coyotes this season is over.
The move comes as Strome was scratched last night for Arizona’s 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks. Strome has appeared in seven games this season, and has recorded one assist.
The move is undoubtedly disappointing for fans seeing some of Strome’s peers in the 2015 NHL Draft - Mitch Marner, Pavel Zacha, and Zach Werenski to name a few - settling into full-time NHL jobs this season. And it will also do little to quiet critics who wonder now if the Coyotes made a mistake passing on Marner or Carolina’s Noah Hanifin - now in his second NHL season - to take Strome third overall.
Returning Strome to major-junior also would appear to be a vindication of a possible plan for the season first outlined by Tom Hunter in the Bloggers’ Tribune. Returning Strome to the OHL now should get him ready to join Team Canada during their prep for the 2016 World Junior Championship, where he will play a leading role against some of the world’s best young prospects.
After the WJC ends Strome will finish out the season in Erie, at which point he would be eligible to join the Tucson Roadrunners in the AHL. Given the strong start to the season the Roadrunners have enjoyed thus far, Strome might even get some Calder Cup Playoff action in the Spring.
Strome has two major priorities this season while away from the Coyotes: continue to improve his skating, and be harder to fight off the puck. Strome’s size and wingspan are assets he has not yet had to fully develop because of his natural skill in other areas of the game. Hopefully this brief stint in the NHL should reinforce the importance of those more intangible areas of the game.
All is not lost for Strome. 2014 2nd overall pick Sam Reinhart only played in nine games for the Buffalo Sabres in his first year before being re-assigned to his WHL team. And the next pick after Reinhart - Leon Draisaitl - also did not finish his rookie season in Edmonton before returning to major-junior. Both Reinhart and Draisaitl went on to record 40+ point seasons in their returns to the NHL.
Dylan Strome’s return to major-junior is undoubtedly disappointing. But it is far too early in his career to say that drafting him was a mistake.