John Chayka is the General Manager of the Arizona Coyotes. He became the GM when he was just 26 years old. He got the job as assistant GM the year before, and after one short year as an assistant Arizona ownership made history making him the youngest General Manager in the history of North American Sports.
I remember the day he was promoted to GM like it was yesterday. He was only one year older then me at the time and I was truly floored that someone my age could be the General Manager of a hockey team. Chayka became my personal hero and to this day that hasn't changed
Chayka was given a team that was drowning in the desert, and he's made big strides of late to improve his club. One of those strides is prospect Dylan Strome. Strome was the 2015 third overall pick and Chayka has let him develop for three full seasons and now he will get the call up this season as an NHL regular.
2015 will always be remembered as the Connor McDavid draft and Strome's seen a lot of his fellow first rounders enjoy success in the NHL ever since. Tons of first round names from 2015 have made big contributions to their clubs like: Eichel, Marner, Hanifin, Barzal, Boeser and Konecny just to name a few.
So what has the top Arizona prospect been up to the last three years? Let's dive in.
Strome spent two seasons with Erie in the WHL. Medalled twice at the World Junior Championship and last season he spent the majority of the year in the AHL with the Tucson Roadrunners. Even against older competition last season in Tucson he scored 22 goals to go with 31 assists before he got the call up from the Coyotes ending the year with the big club.
The 21 year old six-foot-three, 194 pound centre was absolutely electrifying for Team Canada at the WJC in Montreal and Buffalo. Strome was a big part of the teams that won silver and gold respectively and has been an exciting playmaker to watch since his draft day. He was named captain of the gold medal team and put up 10 points in 7 games. Even before the WJC Strome represented Canada at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup where he won Gold.
Most scouts compare Strome to a young Ryan Getzlaf, and if he can reach Getzlafian level output he will be worth the three year wait. While I think this comparison is a good one, the major concern I have is Strome probably won't have a young Corey Perry on his wing.
Another interesting thing to consider is how deep Arizona is up the middle, they have three guys who are locked into their roles in Stepan, Galchenyuk and the newly resigned Dvorak.
This leaves Strome with two options: move to the wing or be a 4th line centre. Neither of those options screams Calder winning season but there's a chance he moves to centre if someone gets injured. The good news is he will definitely get some powerplay time where he will be able to show off his full offensive skill set.
What's great about Ryan is his ability to be a leader, he projects to be a future captain or alternate captain for this transitioning team. He leads by example and his tremendous work ethic should raise the level of game in every player in the room. Furthermore Strome has a hard, accurate release on his shot and he is very creative in the offensive zone. He's been a difference maker on every team he's ever played for in every league and the NHL should be no different.
No prospect is ever perfect and although Strome is tall he has always needed to get bigger and stronger, especially in order to be an impact player in the NHL. He also needs to continue to work on his speed and first step but he is making strides in both these areas.
Last season Clayton Keller was consistently in Calder Trophy talk ultimately losing to Canadian Matthew Barzal. I think a similar script could happen this year with Strome being in the Calder conversation all year long only to lose to either Petterson or Mittlestadt. Regardless, he's a fantastic prospect and if he's utilized properly he could hit 20 goals and 30 assists in his first full NHL season.
Surrounded by other young talent like Keller, Dvorak and Chychrun and a more stable core of veterans like Stepan, OEL, Hjalmarsson and the newly acquired Galchenyuk Arizona has improved from last season which should create a good environment for Strome.
The Coyotes are improving every year and with a good core of young talent and the addition of a few veterans they should be a more fun team to watch this year. They also improved their goaltending by adding Kuemper as a stable backup to Raanta. Chayka has done a great job making a competitive hockey club in the Desert and now he's primed for his first good season. Strome will be a big part of this team for years to come and it's finally time for the third overall pick in 2015 to show the world what he can do.
Things are heating up in the desert again.