Let’s set the scene a little bit. Your name is Don Maloney, you’re the GM of the newly rebranded Arizona Coyotes. But ownership is breathing down your neck. You haven’t made the playoffs since 2012. You just finished 14th in the brutal Pacific division, when the battle of California wasn’t two hobos dueling in the LA river. You used your last four out of five first round picks on Brendan Perlini, Henrik Samuelsson, Connor Murphy, and Brandon fucking Gormley. You need a slam dunk pick or your ass is canned. So you pimp walk up to the podium and you pick the projected (2nd) best player available, Dylan Strome. He’s tall. He’s great with his stick. He’s got that draft pedigree. Surely this couldn’t go wrong?
And let me just take this moment to say that, despite passing on the #3 rated Noah Hanifin, the Yotes did nothing*wrong* here. Strome was even ranked 7th by one list, but there was still nothing about himthat screamed “bust.” I mean, you can’t score a league leading 129 points on accident. They desperately needed a first line center because they had Sam Gagner playing 20 minutes a night. Strome’s numbers were insane. Honestly, I thought I was going to come here and lay some snark on the Yotes scouts for not seeing that Strome’s play was artificially inflated by playing on the same line as McDavid. There were plenty of doubters after the pick was made, too. But Dylan said, “Fuck the haters.” And he dunked on the OHL. Again. As captain of the Erie Otters, Strome secured 4th place in the scoring race, tallying 111 points. One year out, Arizona fans were boarding the hype train for the second coming of Ryan Getzlaf. I mean, I don’t really know what went wrong, if anything. Because when Strome joined the pro roster for Arizona, he tallied just one point in his seven-game cup of coffee in the NHL. But then he kept disappointing. The next, he split his time between Tucson and Glendale, scoring 6 points in 20 NHL games.
And then, the tipping point was reached. John Chayka yote (see what I did there? Yote? past tense of yeet but also the nickname for the t-forget it.) He yote Strome to Chicago in exchange for forward Nick Schmaltz. The hockey world was surprised. This was a textbook out-of left-field trade, and people were praising Chayka for even getting a roster player for Strome. But then, something kind of incredible happened. Strome started scoring. Like, at a point per game pace. And he kept it going for the rest of the season. Dylan Strome finished the year having scored 51 points in 58 games for Chicago. and this year, he’s scored 31 points in 48 games. So… what the hell happened? We can speculate. maybe if Chayka had been more patient with him and he was able to mesh with Tocchet’s system then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Or maybe this is a case of a player needing a change of scenery or in quality of teammates before they can start performing to their potential. Either way… while Strome isn’t a bust, Arizona ultimately got shortchanged.