Charles Woodall-Pike The Hockey Writers
Arizona Prospects Enjoying Success in Junior Leagues
There has been a lot of talk about the young stars in the Arizona Coyotes organization for a while now. The conversations picked up last season with the anticipation of Max Domi and the performance of Tobias Rieder. This year has seen Domi’s arrival and the addition of Anthony Duclair fuel the excitement of the franchise’s future. Domi and Duclair have been a crucial part of Arizona’s early success this season, and there is still more exciting talent in the Coyotes organization waiting to make their jump to the NHL.
One of the most notable scorers in Arizona’s prospect pool is Christian Dvorak. Dvorak was fifth in the OHL last season with 109 points and he is on his way to putting together another big total with London this year. Dvorak is currently third among all OHL scorers with 32 points, trailing Erie’s Alex DeBrincat (37) and fellow Knight forward Matthew Tkachuk (34). In a recent game against the Guelph Storm, he scored five goals, four of which came in a seven-minute frame, to lead the Knights to an impressive 9-2 victory. In his last five games, which have all been London victories, Dvorak has eight goals and 17 points. Arizona fans are excited to see what Dvorak can do in the NHL, especially when he is reunited with Domi.
A more recent addition to Arizona’s prospect pool, Dylan Strome has put together a strong start with the Erie Otters. The third overall pick in this year’s draft had some big skates to fill in Erie following Connor McDavid’s 120-point performance last season. So far, Strome has been up to the task as he has collected 28 points in 14 games, including seven multi-point games. In just three games this month, he has collected 12 points (three goals, nine assists), including the decisive goal in Erie’s 7-2 win over Peterborough on November 6. With Strome just missing making the team out of training camp this year, it would not be a surprise to see him in Arizona for the 2016-17 season.
Brendan Perlini had a rough start to the year as he struggled in training camp before being cut from the roster. He is back in Niagara for his fourth OHL campaign and he has been improving his game with the IceDogs. Perlini has 16 points in 16 games so far, which includes a hat trick on October 8 against Barrie. The 2014 first-round pick has notched 76 goals and 159 points during his OHL career, so he definitely has the ability to find the back of the net. It just remains to be seen how well he will do when the 2016 training camp begins.
The OHL is not the only league that is seeing Coyotes prospects making big impacts this year as Nick Merkley has been doing well in the WHL. Merkley was the 30th overall pick in this year’s draft, which Arizona acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks along with defenseman Klas Dahlback in the Antoine Vermette trade at last year’s deadline. The Calgary native recently earned Player of the Week honors with the Kelowna Rockets after notching eight points in three games, and he is third on the team in scoring with 17 points. Merkley also scored in the shootout in Kelowna’s 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Giants on Wednesday.
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