Usually it isn’t a good sign for the health of a prospect pool when the team’s best prospect under the age of 21 was taken 58th overall in his Draft.
But Christian Dvorak is no usual player.
The Arizona Coyotes took advantage of being at the right place at the right time to pick a center prospect who, after torching major-junior hockey en route to a Memorial Cup, is on the cusp of being a mainstay in the Coyotes’ organization.
#1 - Christian Dvorak - Center - London Knights - 58th overall pick, 2014 NHL Draft
Highest Rank: 1
Lowest Rank: 2
Christian Dvorak’s OHL career got off to a rocky start; he had just 14 points in 33 games in 2013-14, and ultimately had his season ended early by a knee injury in January 2014.
That was not enough to deter the Coyotes, who were already paying a keen interest to London thanks to their prized first round selection, Max Domi. As a result, the Coyotes got to see Dvorak when he was healthy - perhaps more closely than any other NHL club -
The opportunity did. After the Coyotes acquired an additional second round pick from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for David Rundblad. By virtue of the Blackhawks’ run to the Western Conference Final, the pick was low in the second round, and so was not a big risk for Arizona after they got their other target - Kitchener’s Ryan MacInnis - earlier in the second round.
Don Maloney’s choice to draft Dvorak might be the luckiest thing to ever happen to the Arizona Coyotes. In the two seasons since his selection, Dvorak has recorded 230 points, with 93 goals and 137 assists. This past season, he was named the captain of the London Knights, and led the Knights to an OHL title and a Memorial Cup, with 14 goals and 21 assists in 18 games.
As evidenced by his prolific production, Christian Dvorak can do everything. He can score on a wicked wrist shot, or fight his way into tight spaces in front of the net to collect second chance opportunities. He can lead the rush into the offensive zone or find teammates from behind the net. Christian Dvorak is not just great, he makes everybody around him better.
We asked before if Christian Dvorak could make the Coyotes out of training camp this year, and concluded that there may not be enough open spaces on the depth chart to give Dvorak serious minutes on a regular basis.
Since then, Antoine Vermette has been bought out, and with him went a top six center spot. Though General Manager John Chayka did not mention any specific names when announcing the buyout, he did mention that "[t]his move will provide an opportunity for some of our young, talented players to step up".
Dvorak is one those young, talented players. Unfortunately for him, he is AHL eligible, which means if anything it might actually be easier for the Coyotes to keep him off the roster, as he would still be able to play in the AHL, whereas Dylan Strome would have to go back to the OHL.
Based on the moves the Coyotes have made this summer, and the dominance that Dvorak has displayed since the Coyotes chose him back in 2014, Dvorak is all but a lock to make the NHL this season. The only question will be whether his debut comes in October or a few months later.
He has the speed. He has the hands. He has the hockey sense. Christian Dvorak has everything to be the best prospect under 21 in an already loaded Arizona Coyotes’ system.
The 21 Under 21
#2 Dylan Strome | #3 Clayton Keller | #4 Adin Hill | #5 Jakob Chychrun
#6 Nick Merkley | #7 Christian Fischer | #8 Brendan Perlini | #9 Ryan MacInnis
#10 Anton Karlsson | #11 Anthony DeAngelo | #12 Conor Garland | #13 Kyle Wood
#14 Dysin Mayo | #15 Michael Bunting | #16 Cam Dineen | #17 Kyle Capobianco
#18 Erik Kallgren | #19 Patrick Kudla | #20 Brendan Warren | #21 Dean Stewart