In this edition of The Journey, we look at the fantasy potential of Arizona Coyotes forward prospect Christian Dvorak.
Growing up a mere 37 miles southeast of the United Center, in Frankfort, Illinois, Christian Dvorak started his hockey journey like many others across North America. Early morning skating lessons and practices are commonplace in the childhood of a young player with NHL aspirations. Dvorak played his youth hockey with the Chicago Mission AAA program, one of the best AAA organizations in the United States. It was with the Mission that the Illinois native began to develop into the elite playmaker that we see today.
Christian initially committed to the University of Wisconsin in the summer of 2012 along with several of his Chicago Mission teammates. However, he would never step foot on campus in Madison after decommitting one year later and opting to join the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League instead. London had selected Dvorak in the eighth round of the 2012 OHL Priority Draft in April of that same year, a move that would pay dividends over the next few years.
Following early season success with the Knights, it appeared the rookie forward was beginning to find his footing on his new team. Unfortunately, December 14th, 2013 was a night that would change the course of Dvorak’s future. After an awkward hit against the Erie Otters, the young forward was diagnosed with a torn ACL that would keep him out of the lineup for the duration of the 2013-14 season. The injury happened at the worst possible time, given it occurred in his draft year and he would have less opportunity to showcase his talent for NHL teams. Dvorak, who initially graded out as a first-round draft pick, slid down draft boards across the league. Arizona GM Don Maloney had the luxury to take a chance on a player with high upside with the Coyotes second, second-round pick (acquired in the David Rundblad trade with Chicago) and selected Dvorak with the 58th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Drafting mostly based on potential given his lack of games played due to injury was a risk for the Coyotes, but one that Dvorak has already started to reward. After a full recovery, he hit the ground running in 2014-15. An offensive explosion to the tune of 109 points in 66 games for London, earned him a two game call-up to Portland of the AHL at the end of the season.
Although he was a productive player in Arizona’s preseason camp, Dvorak was best served with another year in the OHL this season. He has built on his offensive breakout season of a year ago with an impressive start to the 2015-16 campaign. With 22 points in his first 13 games this season, he is currently tied for sixth in OHL scoring. As part of a talented line with Mitch Marner and potential 2016 top-10 draftee Matthew Tkachuk, Dvorak is poised for another impressive offensive season. Likely the USA World Junior Championship team will come calling on the youngster, which will give him invaluable experience in international competition.
From a scouting perspective, Dvorak checks multiple boxes that any GM would covet in a player. He’s a heady, responsible forward with high-level offensive ability. Playing on a stacked Knights team during his OHL career has certainly helped his numbers, but there is no reason to believe he cannot be a productive player at the NHL level. He has the skating ability and mindset to play a full 200 foot game, with the determination to get into critical scoring areas in the offensive zone. Given the youth movement in the desert, Dvorak could see NHL time next season, but it could take a couple seasons before he is fantasy relevant.
Fantasy Potential: The American-born forward has a renowned work ethic and compete level that will help him in his NHL transition. Likely he will be a middle-six forward with a top-line ceiling in the NHL, topping out as a forward capable of around 80 points if his full potential is reached. Developing rapport with offensively gifted prospects such as Max Domi, Anthony Duclair and Dylan Strome will only help his cause.
Dobber Prospect Rank: 29th ranked offensive prospect in DobberHockey’s Top 215
Fantasy Outlook: B+
Pros: Hockey IQ, Skating, Finishing Ability, Compete Level
Cons: Injury past, Strength
Anticipated NHL Arrival: Dvorak showcased his talent this season in camp before the 2015-16 season, but was returned to London to continue his development. He should be a full-time NHL player within the next couple seasons, likely getting his first taste of the NHL in 2016-17.
Give Kevin a follow @kleblanchockey for NHL prospect talk and happenings.
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