Welcome to the 2016 edition of “Top Shelf NHL Prospects”. As we go through the Summer of 2016 I will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. I will follow the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no trades). You can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted this year. There have been no games since then, and my reports on them will not have changed.
What I will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2016-17 roster. I will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later; or an undrafted free agent signing who I pick as my darkhorse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played or being 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
TSP: Arizona Coyotes Prospects
The Coyotes went through another tough season in 2015-16. After finishing with just 78 points, the team choose to fire general manager Don Maloney. They replaced him with analytics wonderkid John Chayka. This has led to an off-season of change with the trade and signing of Alex Goligoski; as well as signings of Jamie McGinn, Luke Schenn, Ryan White, and Kevin Connauton. They also used empty cap space as a bargaining chip by acquiring Pavel Datsyuk‘s dead money from the Detroit Red Wings in order to move up in the draft. On draft day the Coyotes picked up defenceman Anthony DeAngelo in a deal with the Lighting. The Coyotes also bought out the contract of Antoine Vermette.
Arizona Coyotes Prospects Scouting Reports
Top Prospect: Dylan Strome
Center — shoots Left
Born Mar 7 1997 — Mississauga, ONT
Height 6’3 — Weight 194 lbs [191 cm / 88 kg]
Drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in the 1st round, #3 overall at the 2015 NHL Draft.
The third overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Strome had another effective season for the Erie Otters. He put up 37 goals and 74 assists for 111 points in 56 regular season games. He was even better in the playoffs with 10 goals and 21 points in 13 games. Despite his scoring prowess, the Otters fell in the OHL Western Conference Final to the eventual Memorial Cup Champion London Knights.
Strome has excellent bloodlines. His older brother Ryan Strome is a centre with the New York Islanders. He was the fifth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. His younger brother Matthew Strome led his Toronto Marlboros team to the OHL Cup in 2015, the top trophy for midget aged teams in Ontario. He just finished his rookie season with the Hamilton Bulldogs. Matthew Strome is expected to be selected in the 2017 NHL Draft.
Dylan Strome’s skating has been a source of criticism in other reports, but it is something that I think is a bit overblown. He shows a relatively smooth skating stride once he gets going, but his first few steps are choppy. A good skating coach can help Strome improve in this area. His top end speed is decent, but his acceleration and first few steps could use some improvement. In terms of agility and edgework, Strome has the ability to beat defenders one-on-one in the cycle game or off the rush, and he also has the power and balance to fight through checks, and he is hard to knock off the puck.
A versatile forward, Dylan Strome spent some time at all three forward spots over his first two OHL years. He played almost exclusively at centre this past season. Strome has an outstanding wrist shot, and a great release. He also has very good hands in tight and can be a real sniper. Strome also has the ability to be a play maker with great vision and passing skills. He has good size and uses it to protect the puck in the cycle game. Strome is great at working down low, extending plays and waiting for the opening to take the puck to the front of the net. He can also wait for for a linemate to get open and make the tape-to-tape pass.
Strome has high-end hockey IQ, and seems to make the right play with the puck on his stick, or can find openings in the defense to set himself up for a one-timer. He is not afraid to battle for loose pucks in the corners. If he wins the battle he can quickly get the puck to an open teammate. With his size, he is not afraid to drive the net.
Strome is outstanding on faceoffs, and is one of the best in the OHL. His defensive game is decent. However it would be improved if Strome can work on his first few steps. He is committed to back checking. Strome supports the defence down low. He is willing to do whatever it takes to win games.
Dylan Strome has the size and skill to be a potential top line centre in the NHL. He is NHL ready now, and all indications are that he will make the Coyotes roster this fall. While he still has room to grow, he will begin taking the steps needed to be a franchise centre.
Prospect #2: Christian Dvorak
Center — shoots Left
Born Feb 2 1996 — Frankfort, IL
Height 6’1 — Weight 196 lbs [185 cm / 89 kg]
Drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in round 2, #58 overall at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft
In Dvorak’s draft year, he was injured, and limited to just 33 games. He also was given third line ice-time, and really struggled to put up points. Despite that, the Coyotes took a chance on him in the second round, and it was a gamble that seems to be really paying off. He put up 109 points in 66 games in 2014-15; and bettered that with 121 points in 59 games last year. Dvorak’s 52 goals led the OHL as well. He helped the Knights to the Memorial Cup. Dvorak landed on the first all-star team, and the Memorial Cup all-star team. He also played on Team USA in the World Juniors, winning a bronze medal.
Dvorak is a very good skater with above average top-end speed and very good acceleration. His first step is very good, and his ability to change speeds helps him to beat opponents off the rush. He also has good agility and edgework, allowing Dvorak to slip around defenders. He has really improved his balance and strength over the last two years. This has allowed him to play a power forward’s game. Dvorak fights through checks and takes the puck to the net. He also wins his battles in the corners.
Dvorak has really blossomed as an offensive player. He has a very good wrist shot and an excellent release. He gets the puck off very quickly, freezing goalies. Before they know what happened, the puck is in the back of the net. He also has the soft hands to finish in tight to the goal. Dvorak can also be an effective play maker. He uses good patience, vision and passing skill to set up teammates. Dvorak plays a fearless game as he is not afraid to handle the puck in traffic, to battle on the boards, or to get to the front of the net. He has very high hockey IQ. Dvorak reads the play extremely well. He makes the smart plays both with and without the puck.
Dvorak already plays a strong two-way game, as seen by coach Dale Hunter’s willingness to use him on the penalty kill, starting him there when he was still just 17. He anticipates extremely well and cuts down passing lanes. He also uses his good quickness to pressure the points and block shots and cause more turnovers. Dvorak can also be a threat to score short handed. He also brings the solid defensive game and awareness at even strength. He back checks effectively and supports his defence down low.
In moving on from players like Mikael Boedker, and Vermette; the Coyotes are making room in their top six to add some young talent next year. Dvorak will have every opportunity to make the squad with a decent training camp. Even if sent down to the AHL, don’t expect his stay there to be long. Dvorak is very close to earning an opportunity to play in the NHL.
Prospect #3: Clayton Keller
Prospect #4: Jakob Chychrun
The Coyotes drafted Chychrun in the first round, 16th overall at the 2016 NHL Draft. Since no meaningful games have been played since the draft; I will not be rewriting the report. You can find it here.
Prospect #5: Anthony DeAngelo
Defense — shoots Right
Born Oct 24 1995 — Sewell, NJ
Height 5’11 — Weight 182 lbs [180 cm / 83 kg]
Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in round 1, #19 overall at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft
Traded to the Arizona Coyotes in June 2016
In his first year as a professional player, DeAngelo showed his high end potential. He scored six goals and added 37 assists for 43 points in 69 games with the Syracuse Crunch. In a surprising move, DeAngelo was traded to the Coyotes at the draft.
Anthony DeAngelo is a star offensively from the blue line. He has good skating and puck handling skills and can lead the rush or join as a trailer. He has high-end speed and excellent acceleration which can allow him to make these types of plays. DeAngelo also has excellent edge work and agility. He uses this agility to get past defenders in one-on-one situations. That said he could make better use of his agility in helping him defend against the rush.
DeAngelo has a good assortment of shots, including an excellent wrist shot and release, a hard slap shot and a booming one-timer. He is a natural power play quarterback who shows poise with the puck and excellent passing skills. DeAngelo has patience to wait for the right play, and can use good lateral agility and mobility to walk the line and open up lanes. He often pinches into the slot in order to get into a better position to shoot. He can sometimes get caught doing it too often and this hurts his defensive game.
Defensively his game is very much a work in progress. He can be overpowered in front of the net and in the corners. At 5’11” he is a little short for an NHL defenceman, but this can be overcome. More and more defencemen are succeeding in the league despite being less than six-feet tall. However he really needs to add some muscle to a small and slender frame, and could stand to become stronger on his skates in board battles and in front of the net. He also needs work on his positioning and fundamentals.
DeAngelo has a tendency to puck watch and can lose his man in the defensive zone. He is also beaten far too often one-on-one, especially given his skating ability. He takes a lot of chances. DeAngelo can be burned with giveaways and bad decisions. While he has a ton of offensive skill and is a threat to create a scoring chance every time he is on the ice in the offensive end; he just does not yet have the defensive acumen to consistently stop some of the best players in the AHL.
With the Coyotes adding a number of experienced players to their blue line this off-season, competition will be tough for a spot on the blueline this fall. DeAngelo can take the time to continue to grow his defensive game in the AHL. He should be ready for a few callups this year, and full time duty for the 2017-18 seaosn.
Prospect #6: Brendan Perlini
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born Apr 27 1996 — Guildford, England
Height 6’2 — Weight 212 lbs [188 cm / 96 kg]
Drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in the first round, #12 overall at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft
Perlini’s final year in the OHL has to be considered a bit of a disappointment. He saw major drop-offs in both his goals per game and points per game with the Niagara Ice Dogs. This is a red flag for any 19-year-old CHL player, as he should be progressing each year. He battled injuries at times, and that may have slowed him down through the year. Perlini was still an important part of Niagara’s surprising run to the OHL Final.
Perlini is a very good skater, with excellent speed and acceleration. He couples this with very good agility to be deadly off the rush. He is extremely hard to stop one-on-one. Add to that the good balance and power to be able to fight through checks and you have a lot of offensive potential here.
In the offensive zone, Perlini possesses very good hockey sense, good creativity and excellent vision to be a dynamic play maker with the puck on his stick. He has good stick handling, and the puck protection skills needed to extend plays and give his linemates time to get open. He is very good in the cycle game. Perlini has shown off a much improved shot and release this season, and this is the biggest change in his offensive game. He has a great wrist shot, and also has a very good one-timer. While Perlini has great height, he could stand to put on more muscle and play a more physical game going forward.
Perlini has also shown great improvement in his play away from the puck, and the change in his game extends to all three zones. He is also showing off good defensive instincts, including being very strong in reading the play and in cutting down passing and shooting lanes. He back checks hard, and covers his man extremely well. Perlini has very good hockey IQ and you can see how he always makes sure to get the puck out of the zone when it comes near his side of the ice.
Perlini will need some time at the AHL level in order to round out his game. He could be ready for the NHL in the 2017-18 season. He’s had injury issues for a couple of years now, so staying healthy will be a major key to his continued development.
Sleeper Prospect: Conor Garland
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born Mar 11 1996 — Boston, MA
Height 5’8″ — Weight 163 lbs [173 cm / 74 kg]
Drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in round 5, 123rd overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft
Garland had another fantastic season with the Moncton Wildcats. He scored 128 points and won the QMJHL scoring title for the second year in a row. He also was a QMJHL First All-Star Team member. Garland led the Wildcats to an appearance in the final four in the QMJHL playoffs, but it was not quite enough to win it all.
Garland is an outstanding skater. He is extremely fast, and has the first step quickness and acceleration to reach that speed quickly. He can use a change of gears to elude defenders. Once Garland gets a step on a defenceman, he drops his shoulder and accelerates to the net. He also has very good footwork. Elite edge work, and outstanding agility make Garland very elusive and tough to stop one-on-one. Defenders must back off to respect both his speed and his elusiveness. This opens up passing and shooting lanes for him. While he is small, Garland has good lower body strength. He takes advantage of his low centre of gravity and is strong on the puck. Garland has good balance and can fight through checks to get to the net.
Garland plays bigger than his size, winning battles on the boards, and controlling the puck in the cycle. He is a great play maker with outstanding stick handling. Able to handle the puck in a phone booth, Garland can beat defenders with a wide variety of moves. He also has great passing, and superb vision. Garland can find a teammate with a tape-to-tape pass, when others would not see the lane. He can make outstanding saucer passes, and can feather the puck through the tiniest of openings. With his strength on the puck, and his stick handling ability he can really extend plays.
Garland has the poise to maintain possession and keep the play going. This allows his teammates time to get open. He has off-the-charts hockey IQ and ability to read and anticipate plays. Garland also has very accurate wrist and snap shots, with deceptive power. He also has a lightning quick release allowing him to score goals from further out.
Garland plays a committed game at the defensive end. He back checks hard and uses his quickness, hockey IQ and anticipation to break up plays. While he is undersized, he never backs down from a board battle. Garland uses his excellent balance, leverage and quick hands to often come out of such battles with the puck. His size does cause some issues when defending against the cycle game. He can be outmuscled by bigger forwards.
Garland will make the jump to the AHL this year. He will get the opportunity to show his offensive skills against older, bigger and strong pro players. If he can continue to keep putting up numbers, as he has at every level he’s ever played, he will get his opportunity. It might take some time with the depth of prospects in the Coyotes system.
The Coyotes have built one of the best prospect systems in the NHL. As seen above, they have some high end forward prospects. This is excentuated by depth. Forwards Christian Fischer, Nick Merkley, Laurent Dauphin, Henrik Samuelsson, and Ryan MacInnis all have serious NHL potential. The defence was a bit of an issue heading into the draft, but Chayka addressed it nicely. Adding Chychrun, DeAngelo, and Cam Dineen, all in the same day makes for a serious haul. Previous pick-ups Dysin Mayo, Kyle Capobianco and Kyle Wood are also darkhorses to make some noise. Goal may be a bit of an issue with Louis Dominigue now considered graduated. Getting another talented goalie in the pipeline could become a priority for the Coyotes in the near future.
ST CATHARINES, ON – NOVEMBER 19: Dylan Strome #19 of the Erie Otters skates during an OHL game against the Niagara IceDogs at the Meridian Centre on November 19, 2015 in St Catharines, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)