Coyotes send Strome back to juniors to continue development

GLENDALE, Ariz. — After six weeks of exposure to the NHL game, the Arizona Coyotes decided that center Dylan Strome's long-term development will be best served by returing to the Erie Otters of the junior Ontario Hockey League on Sunday.

The 19-year-old Strome had an assist and averaged 13:41 of ice time in seven games with the Coyotes this season. He was drafted third overall.

“His mind, and his skill level, are very good,” coach Dave Tippett said Monday, “but his physical maturity just isn't at the level it needs to be to compete every night.

“We met with him yesterday morning for a while, it was a really good talk. In the month in a half he's been here, he's realized just how hard it is to play in the league and how committed athletes are. Those are some of the lessons that we felt he needed to learn. I think those things have started to sink in for him.”

Last season, he had 37 goals and 74 assists in 56 regular-season games for Erie. Because Strome still has junior eligibility, he isn't allowed to play in the Coyotes' farm system, and the team had up to nine games to see how he could compete at the NHL level before deciding to keep him for the full season or send him back. Tippett believes strongly it was a valuable learning experience for Strome.

“When you're compting with NHL players every day, you're getting better in a hurry,” he said. “These six weeks, seven weeks, for him, I guarantee you he got way more than this if he'd gone back to junior for a month and a half.

“He needs to play with men, and we needed to see what level he could get to. In the end we decided it was the best approach for his long-term development, but I think this month and half he'll long back on and it'll be very, very valuable for him.”

CRAIG CUNNINGHAM UPDATE

Tippett also briefly addressed the condition of Tucson Roadrunners captain Craig Cunningham, who remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition after collapsing on the ice just prior to a scheduled game in Tucson on Saturday. The team has not released any medical details out of respect for his family.

“He's critical, he's stable, he's getting unbelievable care down there,” Tippett said. “The doctors and all the people involved did a fantastic job in a real serious situation. We're all praying for him and hoping for the best.”

Cunningham, 26, played 10 games for the Coyotes last season and had four goals and nine assists in 11 games this season for Tucson.