Arizona Rubber

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Coyotes rookies advise youth players to maintain focus


The road to the NHL is paved with challenges, heartbreaks and eventually, joy.

For those who know the journey, one personality trait that becomes important is resiliency. It is rare that players jump right from juniors into the limelight.


Just ask Dylan Strome about this path.

After a strong impression during the summer rookie camp last July and through the last two training camps, Strome made the Arizona Coyotes, only to be sent back to his Erie Otters junior team early on in the season.

The quest to skate in an NHL rink begins with the first step on the ice and the nurturing of parents and coaches. The journey is likely filled with landmines, roadblocks and numerous other pitfalls, but the ability to transition from one stage to another represents a key step in reaching the ultimate goal.

Along the way, players experience different emotions and those who can learn and grow from the myriad of events tend to succeed. Not all experiences are joyful, positive or rewarding. For those who can handle the adversity, the rewards are confidence, assurance and a strong belief in their ability. Plus, there is always the gratitude for those around them.

Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun knows firsthand. Given strong bloodlines with his father, Jeff, a former NHL defenseman with the Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers, Jakob grew up in South Florida where Jeff was an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers. Granted, not every player growing through various stages and age groups can have a mentor who played in the NHL.

Still, the need to recognize the journey and possible consequences form a strong foundation for success.

“Whenever you’re going through something tough, do everything you can to stay positive,” Chychrun said. “Plus, stay in the right state of mind. Once your mind starts to go, you start to question things. That’s when everything falls apart.”

By staying positive, Chychrun added, that’s the path in the right direction. What usually follows is dedication, a sense of purpose and perseverance. If those important traits are not compromised, then the road to success becomes bright.

If Chychrun tells young layers to stay positive, that’s a common refrain around the Coyotes locker room. Here is a group of professional players together now in the same location, but the path to reach this level took many pathways.

Forward Lawson Crouse (pictured), a former first-round pick of the Florida Panthers (11th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft) tells young players to not look beyond their own abilities.

“What I focused on during my early career is controlling the things I could control,” Crouse said. “There will be a great deal of adversity along the way, but you have to battle through that. Just focus on what you can do to get through it. You can’t worry about the outside distractions and just control what you can control.”

For youth hockey players, the emphasis on individual control, while great advice, may not apply to all players. The result here is the nurturing process. Both Chychrun and Crouse emphasize that parents represent the biggest support group. Anything regarded as “criticism” of a player’s physical ability or approach to the game needs to left on the back burner.

The nature of positive reinforcement becomes paramount.

In Chychrun’s case, his dad knew the pitfalls to avoid and remained at Jakob’s side. Despite living in Florida, Jeff accompanied Jakob each weekend to Detroit for two years so Jakob could skate with the Little Caesars 16U AAA team.

“My dad coached me my whole life growing up and he taught me a great deal about the game,” Chychrun added. “What he taught not only translated on the ice, but off as well. He always taught me the lessons of working hard and that translated into everything. That would be like my school work and just being a good human being.”

Photo/Norm Hall

— Mark Brown

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