Dylan Strome

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Coyotes’ Dylan Strome earns another NHL chance after AHL scoring tear

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There haven’t been a whole lot of bright spots for the Arizona Coyotes this season. Clayton Keller’s quest for the Calder Trophy is fun to watch and Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s bounce-back season after some personal tragedy has been great to witness.

Now it’s Dylan Strome’s chance to add to the “positives” side of the ledger for the Coyotes after he was recalled from the AHL on Sunday.

You’ll remember that the No. 3 overall pick from the 2015 NHL Draft started the season in Arizona, but couldn’t find a regular spot in Rick Tocchet’s lineup. After being sent back to junior following seven games during the 2016-17 campaign, there was hope Strome could be an impact player in the Coyotes’ lineup this season. It didn’t happen at the start. He recorded zero points and only three shots in 24:18 of ice time over two games.

“I think I’ve proven that I can play there. It’s just about being consistent, I guess, finding a way to be steady on an every-day basis,” he said last month after being sent down via the Arizona Republic. “You’re going to have some good games, but you can’t have those bad games or you’ll be down here [in AHL] or you’ll be in the press box.”

Carrying the pressure of being a top-five draft pick, especially after a junior career in Erie that saw him post back-to-back 100-point seasons, the demotion could have impacted Strome in a negative way. Instead, he went to AHL Tucson and worked his way back to the NHL. With the Roadrunners he recorded points in 12 of 15 games and finished with eight goals and 26 points.

Tocchet said he wanted to see Strome improve his decision-making during his time in the AHL, where he’d also play in different situations on special teams. Strome, Tucson’s top line center, leaves the Roadrunners as their leading scorer and will likely return to the Coyotes lineup Tuesday in Edmonton and face off against his older brother Ryan.

“‘Toc’ likes to play quick, so I really worked on that,” Strome told Dave Vest of the Coyotes website. “I’m just going to play my game, just keep doing what I was doing down in Tucson. Obviously everything is a little bit quicker up there, so I’ve got to adjust to the speed, but I think it’s pretty close so I’m just going to go and have fun.”

The top 10 picks in the 2015 draft is a tough group to be a part of and have a slow start to your career. When you see names like McDavid, Eichel, Marner, Hanifin, Provorov and Werenski hitting triple digits in NHL games played and having major impacts on their teams some may want to throw the “bust” label in Strome’s direction. But after only nine NHL games and still just 20-year-old, he’s already taken his step back — now the only direction he can move is forward.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Islanders kill buzz of winning streak by demoting Ho-Sang

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Look, Josh Ho-Sang isn’t a perfect player, but he makes the NHL more fun. And, if deployed properly, probably makes the New York Islanders a more dangerous team.

Apparently generating four points (all assists) in six regular-season games didn’t make up for Ho-Sang’s flaws, at least in the eyes of Islanders management, as they sent the gifted, outspoken forward to the AHL today.

For someone without a real horse in the Islanders’ race – i.e. someone who enjoys the sport as a whole – this is a real bummer, especially with the Isles otherwise trending up with three straight wins and victories in four of five contests.

It’s not as clear-cut when you consider things from the Islanders’ perspective, though (even if, personally, Ho-Sang seems like he’s worth the trouble that comes with some risky plays).

To some, this is another step in the maturation process, and the Isles’ winning ways – sometimes with the forward in street clothes – makes this a reasonable opportunity.

There are others in the middle: understanding the Islanders’ perspective, but frustrated that the franchise won’t try to tweak things to make the most of an interesting talent.

You can find the silver lining of situations like these, yet in some ways, such viewpoints feel like they lose sight of blurrier bigger pictures. It’s a lot like trying to rationalize Dylan Strome being demoted; yes, there are some reasons things might work out, but there are also some worrisome elements regarding how the Islanders view Ho-Sang and develop prospects, in general.

While Ho-Sang isn’t perfect, it could end up being quite frustrating for Islanders fans to watch more marginal players do very little for their team (but maybe slip under the radar compared to Ho-Sang).

Selfishly, it’s most clearly a loss from an entertainment standpoint, so here’s hoping we see Ho-Sang again soon.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

When will Coyotes finally win a game?

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With a pitiful 0-8-1 opening record, the Arizona Coyotes smell a bit like the NHL’s answer to the Cleveland Browns right now.

Like the Browns, there’s logic to the way they’re being constructed, to the point where they duped some dummies into getting excited about the process. Each team is plagued by years of failings and is being steered by analytics-minded executives, making each shortcoming a catalyst for annoying debates, at least when discussions aren’t muted by the irrelevance of the matter.

In case you’re wondering, it doesn’t sound like Coyotes GM John Chayka is looking to hit the “self-destruct” button just yet.

This all brings a simple-yet-difficult question to the forefront: “When, exactly, will this team carve out a win?”

First, let’s break down their start

It’s probably helpful to sort out how bad this Coyotes team really is.

Looking at the fancy stats at places like Natural Stat Trick, the Coyotes aren’t hugely offensive. They’re basically middle-of-the-pack when it comes to the percentage of high-danger chances for vs. against, and their possession stats are reasonable enough.

There are certain numbers that should almost certainly rise for the team formerly labeled Phoenix, indicating that luck hasn’t been on this team’s side.

PDO (a team’s save percentage plus shooting percentage) is one of the go-to stats when considering if a team is lucky or unlucky, and the Coyotes have had it rough with a 95.4 percent mark. The Mason-Dixon line for a normal team is 100, and every percentage point is significant.

A big part of that problem is goaltending, and that’s where Chayka’s comment about health comes in. Antti Raanta hasn’t been healthy to start his Coyotes career, so the hope is that he’ll help normalize things alongside (ideally) Louis Domingue.

It’s not just that. The Coyotes’ penalty kill is abysmal (72 percent vs. a league average of 81.3) and their power play has been similarly punchless. Some of that will normalize, but this is where you wonder about personnel.

Simply put, their offense has paralleled the Jack Eichel-dependent Buffalo Sabres’ problems in lacking balance. There’s quite a drop-off from sensational rookie Clayton Keller, new center Derek Stepan, Max Domi, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson to everyone else. It all makes you wonder how troubled Dylan Strome‘s development really is … he couldn’t break into this mix?

Overall, this team should be more competent than its record indicates. They’ve already dug themselves a huge hole, though.

An unfriendly stretch

And the tough part is that their upcoming schedule does them few favors. Yesterday’s loss to John Tavares and the New York Islanders opened a five-game road trip:

Thu, Oct 26 @ NY Rangers
Sat, Oct 28 @ New Jersey
Mon, Oct 30 @ Philadelphia
Tue, Oct 31 @ Detroit

While the Rangers are struggling, Alain Vigneault’s seat is going from hot to nuclear, so there should be some urgency there. Perhaps you could argue that all four of those teams has something to prove, but for a young and floundering Coyotes squad, a road trip might not be ideal.

(Then again, sometimes breakthroughs happen during the toughest stretches.)

It doesn’t get much easier for the Coyotes for some time, either. From Thursday through Nov. 20, the Coyotes play 11 games on the road and only three at home. That stretch also includes some congested sequences of contests, with two back-to-back sets standing out. Not good.

Not-so-great expectations

As mentioned before, the difficulty of the Coyotes’ schedule and morbidity of their start might at least have some psychological benefits for this group.

Being counted out can provide bulletin board material. Getting dealt a tough hand with a lot of road games stacks the deck, yet it also could help teammates bond; this seems like the time of year where young players will talk about their “Mario Kart” tournaments.

On paper, this could be flat-out disastrous, and it might not get much better in the standings even if things normalize from a “puck luck” standpoint.

Still, that’s what can be fun about sports: sometimes teams surprise you. So far, those surprises have been negative for the Coyotes. We’ll see if they can flip the script in the next month.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

‘Fun to watch’ — Devils rookie Jesper Bratt off to hot start

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Bovada has released its Calder Trophy odds, and the names on the list shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Clayton Keller of the Arizona Coyotes tops the list at 9/2, followed by 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier, who recorded his first NHL point for the New Jersey Devils on Monday, and what a thing of beauty that was.

Here’s a look at the list:

Clayton Keller (Arizona): 9/2

Nico Hischier (New Jersey): 5/1

Anders Bjork (Boston): 7/1

Brock Boeser (Vancouver): 7/1

Charlie McAvoy (Boston): 7/1

Alex DeBrincat (Chicago): 8/1

Nolan Patrick (Philadelphia): 9/1

Dylan Strome (Arizona): 9/1

Tyson Jost (Colorado): 12/1

Jakub Vrana (Washington): 20/1

Kailer Yamamoto (Edmonton): 20/1

Again, nothing really out of the ordinary with that list, highlighted by top prospects and first-round draft picks. It’s still early and plenty can change, of course, but there is another first-year player that, if things continue the way they are going, should start to gain more attention throughout the league.

He isn’t a first-round pick.

No, you’d have to scroll all the way down to the sixth round and the 162nd overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft to find this player’s name.

At 19 years of age, Jesper Bratt of the Devils has been able to fly under the radar to some degree because of the addition of Hischier with the top pick in June, and a number of acquisitions made this offseason to upgrade that club’s offense heading into the 2017-18 campaign.

Maybe not for much longer, though.

The first week of the new NHL season isn’t over yet, but so far Bratt leads all NHL rookies with three goals and five points in two games. He scored twice on Monday, as the Devils crushed the Buffalo Sabres.

“He’s a really good hockey player already. He’s young and he just got over here,” said Devils forward Marcus Johansson, per NJ.com. “It’s fun to watch, and I think everyone can agree on that. If he keeps going at this pace, it’s going to be pretty impressive.”

It should be mentioned that he’s currently sporting a shooting percentage of 100. That will, likely at some point in the next few days, begin to go down. Early on, though, he’s been a productive player for a Devils team that made several high profile moves over the past two summers to improve their woeful scoring attack.

There have already been a few surprises to begin this NHL season. You can add the early breakout of Jesper Bratt to that list.

Coyotes send top prospect Strome to AHL

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Before the start of the season Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka said he wants to continue to be patient with prized prospect Dylan Strome.

Chayka said that he wants Strome to be a 200-foot player and that they are trying to bring him along “the right way.” That sort of role asking an awful lot out of a young player, and the Coyotes are trying to make sure he is absolutely ready to take it on before they throw him into the deep end of the pool.

That apparently means an early season trip to the American Hockey League after just two games.

The Coyotes announced on Monday that Strome has been assigned to Tucson of the AHL and that forward Mario Kempe has been recalled. Kempe will be available for Arizona’s game on Tuesday at the Vegas Golden Knights.

Strome, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 draft, has appeared in nine games over the past two seasons (including the first two games this season) recording just a single assist during that time.

At this point the AHL seems like the perfect spot for Strome. He spent the past three seasons making a mockery of the Ontario Hockey League with 315 points (including 104 goals) in only 159 games. But he has also shown that he is probably not quite ready to take on the role at the NHL level the Coyotes are hoping he one day will, so we end up where we are now with an assignment in the AHL.