When the Coyotes made their way into training camp this past fall, rookies were expected to be in contention for a variety of spots on the roster. Jakob Chychrun performed well in development and rookie camp, as well as Anthony DeAngelo, but among the forwards, there was something of a positional crisis.
The Arizona Coyotes had a lot of young centers, but arguably none of them were 100% ready for the size and speed of the NHL. Top touted prospects like Dylan Strome and Christian Dvorak performed well, but neither were ‘ready’. Meanwhile, Laurent Dauphin quietly continued to effectively play a solid 4th line center role.
So when final cuts came, nobody was actually cut in that regard, and all three made the opening night roster.
It was at that point that Christian Dvorak took off and became the Arizona Coyotes’ best rookie for the past season. As the early part of the season unfolded, Dvorak began to grow, while Strome saw limited ice time, and Dauphin caught the I-10 Express southbound to Tucson.
Dvorak scored 5 points (1g, 4a) in his first 10 NHL games, making such an impression that Dave Tippett began to slowly ramp up his ice time. Now, ice time may not be a great indicator of growth, particularly with a coach like Dave Tippett, but most rookie NHL centers don’t get 16+ minutes of ice time in 7 of their first 20 NHL games and 14+ in 13 of their first 20.
But after that first 10 games, Dvorak only produced 7 total points over his next 30 games. His production somewhat dried up, in great part due to his limited ice time and shift quantities. In essence, Tippett tied him to the bench when he skated him and that only hindered Dvorak’s output.
The Start Of Something Good
However, at some point in mid-January, Dvorak’s game usage shifted tremendously. He played about 4 minutes more on average than the previous segment of the season and his output doubled from his first 40 games. Between games 1 and 40, Dvorak posted 12 points. In games 40 through 60, he threw down that same amount, including two 2-goal games. And despite being on one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL, he was a +5 over that 20 game stretch.
By that point in the season, Dvorak began to prove he belonged in the NHL. His defensive, two-way development was clearly apparent, particularly in his penalty-kill appearances and once Martin Hanzal was moved to Minnesota in late February, Dvorak stepped up and filled the big shoes left by the former #1 center.
Christian Dvorak finished up his final 18 games with 9 points and played to an even plus/minus despite a tremendous increase in ice time from the humble beginnings of his rookie campaign.
He also deked out the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals’ defense like pee-wees in this amazing sequence:
However, the most notable contribution this season for Dvorak was his use in face-offs. He drew a win 46.8% of the time, which was good enough for 2nd behind Martin Hanzal on the team, whose rookie face-off numbers were remarkably similar. Most importantly, when Hanzal was moved and Dvorak was transitioned to that top center role, his face-offs went up for the most part into the mid-to-high 50’s.
Now for the Grade...
Dvorak’s contributions to this last season and his cementation as the future of the Arizona Coyotes’ top-6 down the middle earned him an A in his freshman campaign. With all the hype surrounding Coyotes’ ‘NHL-ready’ centermen prospects, Dvorak was the only one who actually answered the bell.
He grew before, during, and even after, currently, as he’s serving on the formidable US Men's team at the IIHF World Championships. Dvorak earned his stripes the hard way this season and for his effort. Now, here’s to hoping he can maintain a 4.0 into his sophomore campaign and avoid the insane regression that second-year forward Anthony Duclair experienced this past year.
Do you agree with my grade of Christian Dvorak?
The grades of all the other Coyotes players can be found on our master post here.
What Grade Would You Give Christian Dvorak?
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