When the Arizona Coyotes selected Christian Dvorak 58th overall at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, he was a wild card.
The team used the selection they’d gained from the Chicago Blackhawks in the David Rundblad deal to select Dvorak; although he’d been a top-ranked USHL prospect, his numbers in London during his rookie campaign were fairly stagnant. Fourteen points in thirty-three games made him a player most would have overlooked altogether; with top Kitchener Rangers center Ryan MacInnis already added to their prospect pool just a few spots before, though, the Coyotes took the chance on Dvorak as well.
It certainly paid off.
Just one calendar year after being selected in the second round — something scout said was a risky, but potentially worthwhile shot — and Dvorak was quietly making a case for his second round selection to have maybe even been too low. He and teammates Max Domi (ARI, 13th overall in 2013) and Mitch Marner (2015 NDP) became one of the record-breaking numbers of CHL trios to each break the century mark in points; just one season after he struggled to find the back of the net in the Ontario Hockey League, Dvorak had 41 goals and 109 points in just sixty-six campaigns.
He went on to push for greatness at the OHL playoffs — and although he was left without both Domi and Marner for a chunk of the second round with simultaneously occurring head injuries, the 19 year old native of Frankfort, Illinois still finished with thirteen points in his ten post-season games.
Now, the Arizona Coyotes have inked him to a three year entry level deal, and he’s off to Portland, Maine — where he’ll try and help the Portland Pirates (Arizona’s AHL affiliate) make a strong playoff push. He’s the third CHL skater to do so; both Laurent Dauphin — who signed his ELC with the Coyotes last summer — and Ryan MacInnis (who signed with the club just last week) have already made their way to New England.
Dvorak is an interesting case for the Coyotes. He’s a defensively responsible center who prioritizes listening to his coaches and setting up his teammates to be better; although he’s insisted that this season was about improving his own offensive game, he’s still a ‘teammates-first’ kind of player. He’d rather be on a line with two huge stars, making them better — a narrative that all but wrote itself as he centered Domi and Marner all season — than raking in the praise himself. He’s still not the flashiest or highest-ranked center in the CHL, though — and with his numbers all but tripling themselves on a line with Domi and Marner, the team may still be curious as to what he can do without the two by his side. Returning to London for the 2015-2016 season would also leave him without either Matt or Ryan Rupert, both of whom have been mainstays on the London roster for the last five seasons (barring the 2014-2015 campaign, which saw only Matt return to the lineup) — and would provide a largely inexperienced group for Dvorak to lead.
His quiet nature, taller disposition, and easy leadership — not to mention his insistence in developing a strong defensive game to pair with any offense he might bring — make him the kind of player teams covet in the long run. The Marian Hossas, the Patrice Bergerons, the Anze Kopitars… having a strong two way center who gives off that quiet air of leadership is something that the Coyotes could strongly use.
When he reports to Portland, it won’t burn a year off his ELC; should the team opt to keep him in the major juniors next season, he has one more year of regular eligibility with the OHL.