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Coyotes youth looking to build on NHL experience

Coyotes youth looking to build on NHL experience Seth Askelson/TSJ Sports


Strome, Keller, Fischer continue improvement at this week’s Coyotes development camp

It’s no secret the Arizona Coyotes have been in rebuild mode. The team has held a draft pick in the top-10 the last three drafts. The last time the franchise saw a playoff game was in 2012. They were then being eliminated in the Western Conference Finals by the Los Angeles Kings.

But the winds of change seem to be blowing in the Valley of the Sun. The team traded their longtime starting goaltender Mike Smith, and decided not to bring back their even longer tenured captain, Shane Doan.

While general manager John Chayka made some moves this past weekend to immediately improve the team, it is clear the Coyotes roster will be a young one. Chayka and the rest of the organization will get a chance to see what they have from their younger players during developmental camp, which opened Monday afternoon. Chayka has liked what he has seen so far, and there are players at this year’s gathering that can help the others with the Coyotes’ style.

“We got three players that have already played some games in the National Hockey League, so that’s some good leadership for these guys,” Chayka said. “They know what it takes. They know how hard it is.”

The three players Chayka is referring to are Clayton Keller, Dylan Strome, and Christian Fischer. While the three played a combined 17 games, NHL experience is still valuable.


“That seven-game stint (in the NHL) gave me an idea for the speed I have to play at, those habits I have to work on in the summer,” Fischer said. “So come September, I’ll be pretty comfortable, get into preseason games, and show the worth I can have on that team.”

Fischer had the luxury to play in the American Hockey League last season, and he feels that time really benefited his game. He says his success in the minors helped with his confidence, and he found one major difference when he made it to the NHL.

“The strength of the players,” Fischer said. “In the AHL, it’s a little easier to get to the front of the net. (In the NHL) you gotta find a way to get to the front of the net. It’s the game I’m going to be playing, I’m a power forward. That’s how I score my goals.”

While Fischer improved his game in the AHL, his journey was very different from Strome’s.

The 2015 third overall pick has struggled to make the Coyotes roster. He failed to make the roster his draft year, and only appeared in seven games this past season. Recording only one point, the Coyotes felt it was best for him to play another year in the OHL. Strome played at so many different levels that he continued to improve his game away from the NHL.

“You gotta learn to adapt,” Strome said. “Obviously every game is different and every team you play against comes with a new task. Played against so many teams and so many guys I’ve never even heard of or never even played against before in my life, so you gotta to adjust and gotta adapt, but it was definitely good.”


The goal for Strome, Keller, and Fischer is to make the opening night roster. Each player trains differently during the off-season, but Keller and Fischer feel that preparing in Arizona is best for them.

“I’ve been here for a while now training and it’s awesome,” Keller said. “I really enjoy it and I feel like I’ve gotten a lot stronger.”

These players could train anywhere they’d like, but the Coyotes training staff is the reason the players work out in Arizona

“(Coyotes strength and conditioning coach) JP(Majors) is, I think, one of the best trainers in the NHL,” Fischer said. “It’s second to none, the facility and the program that he runs us through.”

Of course, a little friendly competition in the gym never hurts.

“With teammates, we push ourselves to get better,” Fischer said. “We all want to lift more weight than one another.”

The three ‘veterans’ of developmental camp are working to improve throughout the week. But, they are helping those who’s first pro experience is the camp.

“I remember my first camp coming in, it’s a little scary,” Fischer said. “Just calming (the new prospects) down. This is a time to get better, this isn’t (main) camp. You’re not trying to make the team.”