Anthony Duclair and Max Domi have been friends for a long time. They’ve only been teammates for short stretches. They’ll have the opportunity to build the latter part of their relationship this season.
The Coyotes made their final roster cuts on Sunday, sending 2015 first-round pick Dylan Strome back to Erie of the Ontario Hockey League, while assigning goalie Louis Domingue and forward Matthias Plachta to Springfield of the American Hockey League.
It’s still unclear if the 23 remaining players will constitute the opening night roster when Arizona faces the Kings on Friday in Los Angeles. Domi and Duclair are among those players. They’ll be counted on to provide speed, skill and creativity to a team in short supply of those ingredients the past few years.
“There’s pressure,” said Duclair, who played 18 games with the Rangers last season before reporting back to juniors. “We’re coming into a situation where we need to deliver. We are fast tracking to the NHL for young guys. We’re stepping into big roles, and I think we’re ready for that and ready for the challenge.”
Of the Coyotes’ forward prospects, Domi and Duclair were considered the surest bets to make the team. General manager Don Maloney said Duclair’s NHL experience gave him a leg up. Domi had an advantage because he has spent two years improving his all-around game with London of the OHL.
Jordan Martinook represents the flip side of the coin.
“I don’t think a whole bunch of people were expecting me to be here today,” Martinook, 23, said after learning he had made the team.
Martinook will fill a bottom-six forward role, but coach Dave Tippett said it became clear early in camp that Martinook was going to make a strong push for a roster spot.
“You could argue he was our best forward in training camp,” Tippett said. “He was a factor in every game he played.
“It’s the perfect example of a guy that puts the work in… (who is) devoted to try to do things right and has built his game into a role where he can come up and help the team win. He plays the game fast and he thinks the game well.”
Of the cuts, Domingue was the only certain one. Tippett liked his camp and his attitude, but the Coyotes have a backup goalie in Anders Lindback. They’d like Domingue, 23, to get a little more seasoning.
Strome, 18, was the hardest decision. The third overall pick surprised the coaching and management staffs with how well suited parts of his game already are to the NHL.
“Right now, his mind and his anticipation and thinking of the game is strong enough but his body needs to get stronger,” Tippett said. “He understands that. He recognizes that for him to be a good player in the NHL, he’s going to have to work on the physical attributes as well as continue to build his game mentally, but he’s going to have a great future ahead of him. He’s an excellent young player and you love the passion he has for the game.”
The Coyotes liked Plachta’s size, but they’d like to see the 24-year-old German forward develop more confidence on the offensive side of the ice by playing in the AHL.
Plachta’s re-assignment means veterans Kyle Chipchura and Joe Vitale will keep their jobs. Strome’s departure means Brad Richardson will move back to center, after playing the wing while Strome was in camp.
While those three veterans have shifted back into familiar roles, the inclusion of Domi, Duclair and Martinook is a clear signal that the Coyotes’ youth movement has begun.
“The first part of the equation is over,” Tippett said of the trio making the roster. “The hard part is still to come.”