By Alex Thomas | AHL On The Beat Archive
Most young adults today know the song “The Circle of Life”, which came from the hit Disney movie The Lion King back in the 1990’s. It’s almost ironic, because a group of kids from that generation are living out the sports version of that song. During the 2014-15 National Hockey League season, the Arizona Coyotes took a turn in the franchise circle of life, transitioning from a veteran team to a younger one.
The organization dealt numerous veterans like Keith Yandle, Antoine Vermette, and Zbynek Michalek for young assets. Some of those assets, like Anthony Duclair and Klas Dahlback, have already begun to pay dividends for the team. Other pieces haven’t emerged at the NHL level yet, but rest assured they are coming.
"We are very happy with the depth of our organization’s talent and our top prospects," said Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney. "It’s reflective of solid drafting and the initial phase of development after the Draft.”
When one looks at the Coyotes and its system, it’s easy to get excited. The club drafted Dylan Strome a year ago and he’s beaming with potential. He’s scored 100 points in consecutive seasons in the Ontario Hockey League and could push for NHL employment in the fall. He’s got all the talent to be the kind of elite center needed to compete in the ultra-competitive Pacific Division of the NHL.
Christian Dvorak, Nick Merkley, Brendan Perlini, Conor Garland, Kyle Wood, and Dysin Mayo round out what is an impressive group of young players in the junior ranks. All of these players have some serious NHL potential and the hope is they lead the next generation of Coyotes to heights never seen before in the desert. High picks, high talent and a good mix of style makes for a very, very bright future in Arizona.
Before those guys can make an impact in the NHL, however, they’ll likely have to do a tour of duty in the American Hockey League. That’s where the Springfield Falcons come into play, an organization that has sent stars like Danny Briere and Trevor Letowski to Arizona in the past. All of the guys mentioned above, save for maybe Strome, will likely see some time in Western Massachusetts in the near future.
It isn’t just the Coyotes who have a bright future, it’s the Falcons too. The best NHL teams develop prospects in the AHL and the Coyotes are no different. Guys like Louis Domingue, Philip Samuelsson, and Laurent Dauphin have all seen time at both levels this season and have helped both the Yotes and Falcons collect victories along the way. That may just be the plan for the future too, a future that includes one of the best systems in pro hockey.
Should guys like Merkley, Garland, Dvorak, Mayo, Wood, or others see the AHL, it should push the Falcons to levels that this area hasn’t seen in a couple of seasons now. It will make Springfield a better hockey team and, in the long run, Arizona a better club too.
“We’re proud that we have so many talented players doing so well at the junior level and are excited to see how these players continue to develop in the American Hockey League,” Maloney continued. “We are very optimistic about our future and look forward to seeing many of these players in Coyotes jerseys soon."
It’s hard not to be excited. The Coyotes have made vast improvements on the ice this season over last and their main young pieces are still developing at the junior level. Slowly but surely, they’ll make their way from the CHL and NCAA to the NHL. Not all of the players will, but most will stop by the AHL on their road to accomplishing their dream.
When that happens, the Falcons’ future will share a brightness with its parent club in the desert. It’s the circle of life, really.