Phoenix Coyotes Preseason Countdown: 8 Days

USA TODAY Sports

With our preseason countdown at 8 days, we take a look at the Coyotes defenseman who scored 8 points last season; Rusty Klesla.

The embarrassment of riches on the Phoenix Coyotes' blue line has been well documented. However, the need for a second line left wing has ignited many debates attempting to decipher the most effective way to fill that role. A scenario that continues to emerge among the team's fans on social media is the trading of Rostislav Klesla.

Klesla scored eight points last season which, in a shortened season, prorated to numbers near his career average. On a team with flashy defensemen like Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle, Klesla's contributions can get lost in the sparkle.

The 31-year-old faced the third toughest competition (0.785 Corsi Rel QoC) of any defenseman on the Coyotes. Only Ekman-Larsson and Zbynek Michalek faced tougher competition (they ranked first and second respectively among all NHL players for toughest competition faced). Klesla faced that competition while starting only 48.7 percent of the time in the offensive zone, fourth lowest among Coyotes defensemen.

A mainstay on the third pairing, Klesla has helped nurture both Michael Stone and David Schlemko into viable top-six defensemen.

The first ever Columbus Blue Jacket entry draft pick, was sent to Phoenix (along with minor leaguer Dane Byers) in February 2011 in exchange for Scottie Upshall and Sami Lepisto. "Rusty" helped fill the void left by an injured Ed Jovanovski.

As a penalty-killing defensive defenseman, Klesla's game may not jump out to many watching on TV or reading a post-game box score. However, his contributions to the team have been essential to the Coyotes' success over the last couple years. When Ekman-Larsson and Michalek need a rest, and Yandle just finished up playing most, if not all, of a power play, who takes over on the penalty kill or in the defensive zone? Rostislav Klesla.

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