GLENDALE, Ariz. — When Coyotes training camp began, the rookie given the best odds of making this year’s roster was 2015 first-round pick Dylan Strome. That happened when the 23-man roster was announced on Tuesday, but when the Coyotes open the regular season on Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers at Gila River Arena, Strome will likely be the only one of five rookies watching from the press box.
Strome was skating as an extra forward at Friday’s practice, and when asked if that was an indication of his status for the season opener, coach Dave Tippett all but confirmed it was.
“I would say there’s probably a better chance that he’ll watch tomorrow’s game but we’ll come to that final conclusion in the morning,” Tippett said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys here we’re going to have to integrate. You can’t just throw them all out there to the wolves. We’re going to make sure everybody can do their best to play their best.”
It’s not the optimal situation from a marketing standpoint. The Coyotes need all the eyeballs they can get on this team and Strome has generated plenty of excitement in the Valley. The Coyotes fan base will surely be disappointed and concerned that the No. 3 overall pick last year is sitting while four other rookies are playing, but Tippett has never cared much for external optics.
“He’ll get (an) opportunity,” Tippett said. “He has to be able to get in there and play his game. When he has the puck he’s a good player; he makes good plays but positionally and strength with the puck and playing without the puck are all things that, not just Dylan but all young players have to learn.”
The Coyotes believe center Christian Dvorak brings a little more stability at this point in the two players’ respective developments, and Tippett said Laurent Dauphin has a more defined role as a fourth-line center and a penalty killer.
“With Dylan it’s more just a little bit of a factor of, how many of those young players can you put in on a given night?” Tippett said. “He’s the odd guy out.
“Stromer and Dvorak, I can see those guys complementing each other. One guy might play one night and the other guy might play the other night. It will all depend on how the mix of our center ice is going but early on, there’s going to be a learning curve for all these young guys. The game gets a lot harder than it did during exhibition season.”
Strome admitted disappointment when faced with the prospect of sitting.
“It’s obviously a little disappointing but I’ve got to look at the positives,” he said. “I’m here in the NHL, living my dream at 19. Not a lot of people get this opportunity so I’m just going to wait for my chance and just run with it when I get it.”
The Coyotes have the option of sending Strome, forward Lawson Crouse and defenseman Jakob Chychrun back to juniors after nine-game trials if they feel they are not ready for the NHL and can benefit from more time in juniors. Strome could play in the World Junior Championship if he goes back to Erie of the OHL, but the Coyotes may elect to keep him and let him work with their beefed up development staff while slotting him into games.
“They have more tools here to work with,” Strome said. “You want to become a better person and better player every day. I guess right now they feel it’s best for me to be here so I’m going to try and take everything they give me and learn from it; improve from it.
“I’m hoping to stay up here and I want to prove that I should stay up here.”
Left wing Jamie McGinn (upper body) did not skate again on Friday, leaving his playing status for Saturday in serious doubt.
“I would say he’d be a real question mark for tomorrow with not skating today,” said Tippett, who does not believe the injury is long-term. “I thought maybe he might be able to get out there and skate today but he didn’t. It’s an issue where we don’t want to put him in a bad spot again.”
The Coyotes signed McGinn to a three-year, $10 million contract this summer. If he does not play, Crouse will draw in.
— Tippett said Friday that Chychrun would make his debut against the Flyers. “The biggest thing is the maturity he brings in his game,” Tippett said. “For a young guy, that’s what’s pushed him to the level he’s at right now.”
Zbynek Michalek will likely be the defenseman that sits against the Flyers.
— The Coyotes will be one of just three teams that will not have played a game when Saturday’s NHL action begins. Colorado and Vancouver are the others. Tippett said he got a text message form Tampa coach Jon Cooper on the subject: “He said, ‘don’t you guys ever play?'”
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