SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Coyotes made five more roster cuts on Wednesday to reduce their training camp roster to 26 players — three above the opening-night limit. Center Dylan Strome was not among those cuts.
Earlier in the day, general manager Don Maloney repeated something he’s been saying for the past two weeks: that Strome has a good chance to make the roster.
“Stromer has played very well,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said after practice at the Ice Den on Wednesday.
Could the excitement around the team’s 2015 first-round pick (third overall) be built up any more?
“Everybody wants to see the future quickly and obviously, he’s a big part of the future,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said.
The Coyotes must and will reduce their roster by three more players after Friday’s preseason finale against San Jose. Goalie Louis Domingue will be one of those cuts. That means two players from among Strome, Jordan Martinook, Matthias Plachta and Anthony Duclair will not make the roster unless the Coyotes choose to waive a veteran or two, such as Kyle Chipchura, John Scott or Joe Vitale.
Given Tippett’s recent comments, it’s a virtual lock that Martinook will make the roster.
The Coyotes already have four centers on their roster in Antoine Vermette, Martin Hanzal, Brad Richardson and Boyd Gordon (Chipchura and Vitale can also play center). Maloney said at media day that both Vermette and Richardson can play wing, but it’s hard to envision Vermette moving to a position where he was far less effective in Chicago, and Richardson made it clear at media day that he signed with the Coyotes with the understanding he was playing center.
“I definitely don’t want to play the wing but I will if I have to,” Richardson said. “I’m definitely more comfortable at center.”
So how will this all play out? Strome isn’t sweating the details.
“I’m just playing my game and having fun,” he said. “I keep living day by day, and hopefully I’ll make opening day.”
Doan has had a chance to play with Strome in the preseason and has come away impressed with both the off-ice and on-ice product.
“He loves the game and for me, that’s a big thing,” Doan said. “I think he plays hockey because he loves it; not just because he’s an unbelievable player.
“He’s really smart. He’s in the right areas. Offensively, he makes 5- and 6-foot passes and holds onto the puck at the right time; moves the puck at the right time.”
Strome has endured questions about his skating ability, but he shrugs them off.
“You really need to be smart to play here and I think my hockey IQ is one of my strengths,” he said. “I know people talk about the speed of the game and some people have mentioned my skating, but if you can get in the right spots and make the right plays, the smarts can make up for it.”
The idea of playing Strome in a nine-game trial before returning him to Eerie of the Ontario Junior Hockey league has been floated, but Strome said that is not his understanding of how things will work.
“They’ve said even from the start of summer, whoever plays well is going to make the team,” he said. “If I get my chance to stay and if I play good enough, I think they’re going to keep me.”
There are numerous issues to sort out before that can happen, but Strome is doing his best to make the decision a difficult one for the Coyotes.
“I’m trying to play and live every day like it’s my last here,” he said.
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