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Jakob Chychrun is ready to begin his NHL career

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Jakob Chychrun talks to us about falling in love with the game, growing up in a Sun Belt market, and what he has to offer the Arizona Coyotes.

NHL: NHL Draft Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

I was lucky enough to have a few minutes with Jakob Chychrun last week during Arizona Coyotes training camp. When I spoke to him, he was coming off of two great preseason games and has since had two more. As a testament to how much faith the coaching staff already has in him, he was double shifted against the Anaheim Ducks when Connor Murphy was held out as a precaution after an awkward hit into the boards.

Jakob Chychrun may very well join the likes of Noah Hanifin, Aaron Ekblad, and Seth Jones in the ranks of young defensemen heading straight from the Draft to the NHL. Here's what he had to say about his chances:

Five For Howling: You grew up in Florida. What was it like growing up, being around a non-traditional market and growing up through that system until you went to Canada?

Jakob Chychrun: I think it’s awesome. I consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to grow up there and play hockey down in the south. Obviously, I had my dad which was a huge huge influence on me. He played in the National Hockey League.

I was lucky my family had season tickets to the Panthers and I went to a ton of those home games. That kind of helped me fall in love with the game. The hockey is really growing down south, I think that’s something a lot of people don’t know. I was able to play down there and develop down there and play against good competition. That’s a big reason of why I am where I am today.

FFH: How did it grow while you were going through the program? The Panthers had just started when you were born.

JC: So the years I don’t remember because I was too young were the years they were pretty good. Right when they came into the league they were very good. Then the games I went to growing up they were kind of struggling. They went on that 10-year non-playoff drought or whatever it was. My last year living in Florida they actually made the playoffs again and that’s when they brought New Jersey to game 7 overtime and New Jersey went on to the Stanley Cup [Final].

They had a really good team. Whenever a team is winning, obviously it attracts more people, it attracts more fans and attracts more kids to get on the ice. I think it’s really exciting now with the Panthers being an up and up organization. It’s great because it’s helping the game grow. You know the way Arizona is looking, it’s going to be quite similar here in a few years.

FFH: What have you noticed in the few months that you’ve been here, about how Arizona fans treat hockey and everything so far?

JC: It’s awesome. Every single skate we have fans in the seats. They’re cheering us on, we’re acknowledging them and it’s great to see. It makes us excited to play for them.

All over social media, I see people writing me messages and stuff like that from people who are from here. They see me and want autographs and pictures, stuff like that. It’s awesome, it’s great to see. The community loves the team here and we want to perform for them and do well.

FFH: A question you probably got a lot after the draft. What did it mean for you, for a non-traditional market team to draft you?

JC: A lot. In my head, I either wanted to go to a really big hockey market like a Toronto or Montreal. Or I wanted a southern market, like an Arizona. I was really happy. I still couldn’t be happier.

It still seems surreal, it’s honestly like a perfect situation for me here. From the opportunity I have to living here, just the staff here and the organization itself. They’ve really made me feel welcome, feel wanted and that’s great.

I think they see potential in me and at the end of the day, I want to play well for them and prove that I can play in this league. I want them to be happy with their decision of drafting me.

FHH: There is a good chance you could make the roster this year. How do you feel about the potential of starting opening night in a Coyotes uniform?

JC: That’s my goal. That’s what I've been thinking of all along, what I’ve been working towards all along. I really think it’s there for me to grab. I just need to continue to play well, to improve every day.

I think I’m on the right path right now. I feel very confident in myself right now. I think with those two games I played last weekend and it gives me more confidence that I can play in this league. We’ll just take it day by day.

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Jakob Chychrun is a special player. Chychrun is going to be a Coyote sooner rather than later, and he will be a fan favorite. He understands the market, which means something much more to the fans in Arizona.

Keep watching Jakob Chychrun. He's going to be a good one.