The Tucson Roadrunners’ biggest loss of the season came off the ice Sunday.
Tucson’s parent organization, the Arizona Coyotes, recalled Dylan Strome that day after another stellar weekend by the rookie.
Anyone who watched Strome play in Tucson this fall knew that he was bound for the NHL sooner than later.
The 20-year old forward carved up the American Hockey League in 15 games with the Roadrunners, producing eight goals and 18 assists.
He ranked second in the AHL in points, despite playing six fewer games than the points leader.
“Dylan did a nice job taking advantage of the opportunity to work on his game at the AHL level,” Coyotes general manager John Chayka said in a statement. “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 capped off his run in Tucson with a three-game stretch last week that included four goals and a game-winning assist on Saturday.
He was named AHL Player of the Week a day after being recalled .
Strome credited his teammates for giving him plenty of scoring opportunities.
“My linemates definitely helped me huge down in Tucson,” Strome said in a statement. “(Lawson) Crouse and (Nick) Merkley were unbelievable, the way they play with speed, and I think we really clicked together.
“It was really nice playing with them.”
Strome’s departure will be the biggest challenge yet for a Roadrunners team that depended heavily on his presence in the front line.
The Roadrunners are in first place in the AHL’s Western Conference with a 10-3-2-1 record.
With Strome gone, Tucson may ask more out of forward Merkley, who scored in all three games last week. Merkley leads all rookies with 11 goals this season.
In recalling Strome, the Coyotes sent Mario Kempe down to Tucson. The 29-year old veteran played in 18 games with Arizona this season and could help compensate for the loss of Strome.
It’s also possible that Kempe’s move to Tucson is a short-time situation and that he could be back with the NHL club before the weekend.
Tucson should benefit from a seven-day break before the team returns to the ice Sunday to host Ontario. The break is the longest of the season.
The Roadrunners play Ontario again next Tuesday to wrap up a five-game homestand. Tucson then embarks on a Bay Area road trip.