The Pacific Division has its fair share of intriguing prospects, placing five players among the first 14 names on Corey Pronman’s list of top 120 prospects compiled recently for ESPN.com (Insider required). The Coyotes lead the way overall with nine prospects making the cut. Today we profile four talented young players in the division who should have a chance to contribute to their teams this season.
Shea Theodore (Anaheim) – The Ducks already boast a strong complement of defenders with Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen leading the way. But with the NHL moving more to a speed and skill game there is always room for a smooth two-way blue liner who knows how to move the puck and that’s exactly what Theodore is.
Theodore was drafted in the first round by the Ducks in the 2013 draft out of the WHL. In 258 games with the Seattle Thunderbirds, Theodore scored 58 goals and 212 points and won the Bill Hunter award as the league’s top defenseman in 2014-15. After turning pro, Theodore would appear in 63 AHL contests over parts of three seasons, culminating in an impressive 2015-16 showing with the San Diego Gulls where he tallied 37 points in 50 games as a 20-year-old. He would also chip in eight points in 19 regular season games with the Ducks in his first taste of NHL action.
There have been rumors much of the summer that the Ducks could look to move one of their defensemen – Cam Fowler specifically has been linked to several trade rumors – in an effort to acquire a scoring-line LW. If Anaheim should succeed in those purported efforts, Theodore’s path to a regular NHL job becomes much clearer.
Dylan Strome (Arizona) – The third overall choice in the 2015 entry draft, Strome is one of the game’s top prospects after tearing up the OHL the last two seasons. Strome combined to tally 82 goals and 240 points in just 124 games for the Erie Otters. That averages out to nearly two points per game over the last two campaigns. He also led the OHL in scoring with 129 points during the 2014-15 campaign.
The 6-foot-3, 185 pound pivot has drawn comparisons from scouts to a young Ryan Getzlaf in terms of his frame and strong skating stride. Of course there are no guarantees Strome will ever impact the game the way that Getzlaf has but it does speak to the youngster’s high skill level and potential ceiling.
The Coyotes spent the summer remaking their roster into one they hope can compete for a playoff spot in 2016-17, though they didn’t add any centers from outside the organization. The top returning pivot is Martin Hanzal, who is a fine two-way player and scored a career-best 41 points in 2015-16. But he hasn’t played a full schedule of games since 2009-10 and is best suited as a #2 or even a #3 center for a contending team. Consequently, the Coyotes are likely to give Strome every opportunity to win a job centering one of the team’s top two lines. That would put him in position to share the ice at times with Anthony Duclair and Max Domi, which should ease his transition to the NHL.
Christian Dvorak (Arizona) – Dvorak, is yet another talented young forward who could force his way onto the Coyotes roster. The Coyotes used their second-round selection in the 2014 draft on Dvorak after a mediocre debut campaign with London of the OHL where he scored just 14 points in 33 games. But Dvorak took his game to another level the next two seasons, combining to score 93 goals and 230 points over that time. He would augment that performance with an impressive 35-point output in 18 games during the 2015-16 postseason and added another seven goals and 12 points in four Memorial Cup games for the Knights.
Assuming the Coyotes can get RFA Tobias Rieder re-signed, he would join free agent addition Jamie McGinn, Duclair and Domi as top-six wingers. A good performance in camp could earn Dvorak a job on the third or fourth line since Arizona’s depth up front is somewhat shallow, though it wouldn’t hurt his development to get some seasoning in the AHL first.
Hunter Shinkaruk (Calgary) – Shinkaruk, who was originally drafted in the first round by Vancouver, was acquired by Calgary in exchange for center Markus Granlund during the 2015-16 season. He made his debut this past season with the Canucks and appeared in another seven games after his trade to the Flames, with whom he scored his first two NHL goals. Shinkaruk also suited up for 62 AHL contests, tallying 27 goals and 51 points between Utica and Stockton.
The Flames have terrific young forward talent already on their NHL roster. Johnny Goudreau and Sean Monahan have already established themselves as two of the best young players in the game and could soon be joined by Sam Bennett. Free agent addition Troy Brouwer brings needed size and experience to the club’s top-six. Center Mikael Backlund, coming off a career-high 47-point campaign, and Michael Frolik, 32 points in 64 games, add more offensive punch. But there is room on the LW for a skilled player to join the Flames’ top-six and Shinkaruk may get the first crack to fill that role.
(All depth charts courtesy of Roster Resource)