The beginning of Dylan Strome’s first full professional season was disappointing. Formerly heralded as the best prospect in the game, Strome, who was sent back to junior last season, made the Arizona Coyotes out of training camp, but failed to click early, skated fourth-line minutes and was shipped to the AHL just two games into the campaign.
Talk about making the best of the situation, though. Strome dominated with the Tucson Roadrunners, scoring eight goals and 26 points in 15 games and looking every bit the offensive threat he was believed to be when selected third overall in the 2015 draft. And Strome’s hard work and production more than paid off when the Coyotes announced Sunday afternoon the 20-year-old had been recalled from the AHL.
"Dylan did a nice job taking advantage of the opportunity to work on his game at the AHL level," Coyotes GM John Chayka said per the team website. "He was focused on the areas we asked him to work on and was very productive as well. We're expecting him to come up and continue to grow with the group here.”
Strome’s call up comes at a great time, too. While the early season was almost unfathomably unkind to the Coyotes, Arizona has actually managed to piece together a decent record in recent weeks, winning four of their past six outings with the two losses coming in relatively close games against the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights. Strome will slot into the lineup just in time for the Coyotes to hit the road for a two-game swing, as well, as Arizona heads to Alberta for two games in three nights against the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.
The hope, of course, is that Strome’s production at the AHL level carries over to the NHL now that he’s seemingly found his scoring touch, as well as some confidence, playing at the pro level. The most important thing for him, however, may be getting the opportunity. As noted, he was sparingly used during his two-game stay with the Coyotes to start the season, averaging 12:09 per game, but it was evident in the AHL what he can do when given the chance to produce. That means time on the power play and skating with some top talent could be exactly what the doctor ordered, and if Strome can produce at even half the rate he was in the minors, it would help give the Coyotes an impactful one-two freshman punch in he and Clayton Keller.
And while Strome has made his way up — and hopefully for good — he’s not the only AHL standout who could get a shot with the big club. Here are five young players who could receive the call in the near future:
Mike Vecchione, Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia Flyers)
The Flyers have been a one-line team this season, with Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux the only three players who are really clicking offensively. Granted, the trio has been one of the best in the entire league, but having only one unit that’s scoring is concerning. At some point, then, Philadelphia might look at injecting some additional scoring into their lineup, and Vecchione, 24, could be just the guy to help the attack.
After an outstanding season at Union College in 2016-17 in which he scored 29 goals and 63 points in 38 games, Vecchione has come into the AHL without really missing a beat. In 20 games, he has six goals and 18 points, he’s averaging more than two shots on goal per game and has contributed on the power play. Vecchione isn’t a complete stranger to the NHL game, either, having seen two games with the big club at the tail end of the past campaign.
Is he going to come up and blast his way into the Calder Trophy race? Not a chance, but if Philadelphia is looking for a middle-six forward with some offensive upside, they could do much worse than Vecchione.
Jack Roslovic, Manitoba Moose (Winnipeg Jets)
During our summer 2020 Vision series, we projected Jack Roslovic to be with the big club in a few years’ time. The expectation, however, was that he might just be cracking the roster for the first time. It’s hard not to look at his performance in the AHL this season and believe he’s a bit ahead of schedule, though. In 21 games, Roslovic has 11 goals and 22 points and is putting himself right in the conversation for the league’s top scorers. Only Strome and AHL veteran Chris Bourque have put up more points.
It’s not just that Roslovic is scoring, though. The 20-year-old is making his presence felt all over the ice. As offensively gifted as he is, he’s a no-brainer to help contribute to Manitoba’s power play, but Roslovic has also chipped in on the penalty kill and has used his speed to show why he can be much more of a one-zone threat.
The trouble for Roslovic right now is opportunity. The Jets’ top six is basically set in stone and there’s not much sense in having Roslovic come up to play limited minutes. Kyle Connor has shown what these talented Jets youngsters can do when put in the right situation, and Roslovic could be Connor-esque in his production if he gets the chance.
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Providence Bruins (Boston Bruins)
Both Vecchione and Roslovic stand out because of their offensive impact through the early part of the AHL campaign, but it’s the combination of offensive contribution and heady play that makes Forsbacka Karlsson an option for the Bruins in the near future or down the line.
After signing with the Bruins out of Boston University, where he had produced 14 goals and 33 points in 39 games, Forsbacka Karlsson, 21, ended his season with a one-game look in the NHL. Come this season, though, Forsbacka Karlsson started with the Baby Bruins and has turned some heads with his 200-foot game. Offensively, he’s produced five goals and 12 points in 18 games with Providence, but he’s also chipping in on the penalty kill and taking on a top-six role for the club.
That’s the best thing about Forsbacka Karlsson’s game: that he has the ability to be an all-situations player. If the injuries persist as they have through the early season for Boston — the Bruins are currently without Brad Marchand, David Backes and Anders Bjork up front — they’re going to need someone to slot into the depth spots in the lineup and take some tough minutes. Forsbacka Karlsson can be the one to take on that role.
Vinnie Hinostroza, Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks)
The Blackhawks haven’t been forced to reach into their minor league system as of yet, but Chicago, like every team in the NHL, is bound to run into an injury or two along the way. And, when that time comes, it seems a forgone conclusion that Hinostroza, 23, is going to find his way up to the big club. It only makes sense he’d be the first to get a look, too, because Hinostroza has been as effective as any player in the Blackhawks’ system.
In 20 games with the IceHogs this season, Hinostroza has potted eight goals and 18 points and he’s been getting even more opportunities. As of Monday, he has the seventh-most shots in the league (62), a sure sign he’s been making things happen on the attack. Scoring at this kind of clip in the AHL is about par for the course for Hinostroza, too. In 66 games with the IceHogs in 2015-16, he put up 18 goals and 51 points, followed by three goals and seven points in a 15-game stint last season.
Hinostroza’s NHL experience also makes him a virtual lock to get the call at some point. He skated in 49 games for Chicago last season, scoring six goals and 14 points. As soon as a spot opens, you can bet Hinostroza will be with the Blackhawks again.
Tage Thompson, San Antonio Rampage (St. Louis Blues)
Thompson and Strome are somewhat similar in that the start of their respective seasons were almost mirror images. Starting with the big club out of camp, both skated limited minutes over a brief period — Thompson got four games to Strome’s two — before the decision was made to get the player more ice time in the minors. For Strome, that resulted in a massive offensive breakout and a call back up to the NHL. For Thompson, the rise has been a bit slower, but it looks like he’s starting to hit his stride.
Through 17 games, Thompson has seven goals and 13 points, but the bulk of his offense has come over the past three weeks. Matter of fact, after a five-game scoring drought, Thompson has gone off for seven goals and 10 points in his past 10 games. That includes two two-point outings and a six-game point streak that ended Sunday when Thompson was held off the scoresheet against the Ontario Reign.
If there’s one advantage Thompson has over anyone on this list, it’s sheer size. He’s a monster, listed at 6-foot-5 and 185 pounds. He might need to bulk up his frame a bit, but as a net-front presence on the power play and a power forward on an offensive-minded line, Thompson has the ability to add even more punch to an already impressive St. Louis attack.
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