Yesterday we looked at the steps the Arizona Coyotes took to improve their goaltending situation heading into the future. Today, we look at Arizona's defensive depth on the right side. This is the weakest position that the Coyotes have but they bolstered this position by both acquiring right-handed prospects last season via trade and through the draft.
The Coyotes could do with a few more prospects down the right side, but as it is, they have at least some depth now. Let's take a look at where the Coyotes' right-handed defensemen line up on the team's depth chart.
Since Connor Murphy debuted with the Coyotes in 2013-14 he has been moving slowly up the depth chart. Starting on the bottom pairings, he is now on the top pair with Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
But last year wasn’t kind to Murphy. He started on the second pairing, which really was the third pairing when with Nicklas Grossmann. Murphy found himself scratched in December for a brief period of time due to poor defensive decisions and play.
After being scratched, he started playing with Ekman-Larsson (which would help anybody improve), and they finished the season together as a pair.
Murphy played a career high 78 games last season while also setting a career high in points with six goals and 11 assists for 17 points. The previous season he only had four goals and three assists for seven points.
This season, Murphy will most likely still be Ekman-Larsson’s partner at the start of the season. Murphy is still young at 23, but he is rounding out to be a top pairing defenseman. He is also sporting a brand new 6 year, $3.85 million contract.
Michael Stone is still recovering from ACL/MCL repair surgery for an injury suffered during a game against the Philadelphia Flyers last season. He has been skating informally with the team, but may not be ready for the first game of the season.
Stone had a career season as well, playing with Ekman-Larsson for a good part of the year and with Kevin Connauton after he was picked up on waivers. Stone had six goals and a career high of 30 assists for 36 points.
If Stone has managed a full recovery by the start of the season, he could play with Alex Goligoski, which would make for a very strong second pairing.
Stone may not be the flashiest defenseman, but he gets the job done. He’s more than just a shot-blocker. He and Zbynek Michalek are two of the better penalty killers the Coyotes have. Stone is entering a one-year contract worth $4 million, signed before he and the Coyotes went to arbitration this summer. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, so this a big year for him for many reasons.
Luke Schenn was a late July addition to the Coyotes. He played for the Philadelphia Flyers and the Los Angeles Kings last season. Hopefully, the Coyotes can assist Schenn in revamping his career. He signed for 2 years with the Coyotes at $1.25 million a year.
Schenn started out with the Toronto Maple Leafs right out of the draft in 2008. He played four seasons with the Leafs before he was traded to the Flyers, where he played with his brother Brayden, a forward. He was shipped out to L.A. well before the trade deadline this season to play a hard hitting game. He has four goals and 12 assists total with the two clubs.
Hopefully playing with the Coyotes can jump start his defensive career again. Playing on the lower pairing and easing into Tippett’s system could be a huge help for this young defenseman. He is only 26, he can still improve his game.
Zbynek Michalek brings a lot to the Coyotes despite the meager stats. Michalek is an amazing penalty killer, blocker of pucks, and generally a good human. But his injury concerns are mounting, especially when it comes to concussions.
This is the year Zbynek Michalek may be the 7th defenseman. He played 70 games last year and had two goals and five assists for seven points. At 33 years old, Michalek is starting to slow down. Filtering him in and out of the line-up would help keep him fresh.
Having him on the roster is a good thing as well. Michalek is a mentor for younger players. He helped mold Ekman-Larsson’s game when they were the top pairing in 2013-14. He is a stable presence on the blue line, and any team would be happy to have him.
This is the last year of Michalek’s contract, if not his last season, If it is, he will leave a proud legacy in Arizona. If not, Michalek will be blocking shots for a few more years to come.
Jamie McBain has bounced around a bit over the last few years, from the Carolina Hurricanes, to the Buffalo Sabres, to a tryout with the Coyotes in 2014, to the Los Angeles Kings. He would be the first man up in an injury situation for the Coyotes.
Last season he played 44 games with the Kings and had two goals and seven assists. McBain's role will be to provide defensive depth in the AHL with NHL potential in case of injuries. He has a two-way contract with the Coyotes for one year.
Anthony DeAngelo is an interesting pickup. The Coyotes acquired him from Tampa Bay for the 37th overall pick in the 2016 draft. He is an offensive defenseman with great upside, something most NHL teams would love to have. But Tampa traded him for a low pick, possibly before of ‘character’ issues. Strong personalities like Shane Doan could help DeAngelo put those issues firmly behind him.
DeAngelo played 69 games in the AHL last year for the Syracuse Crunch. He had six goals and 37 assists for 43 points in his first year as a pro. Having DeAngelo in Tucson will help evolve his game, and he may be a call up during the year if there are injuries.
Keep an eye on him, as DeAngelo may be a steal for GM John Chayka in the future.
Kyle Wood was acquired in the Mikkel Boedker trade last season. He is a very strong, very large and very smart defenseman. His defensive partner in the OHL - Cam Dineen - was also drafted by the Coyotes.
In the 48 games he played with the North Bay Battalion last season he had eight goals and 31 assists for 39 points. In the previous season, he played 67 games and had 16 goals and 24 assists for 40 points. Had he played a full season he would have set career highs.
Wood is another great pick up for the defensive depth of the Coyotes. This year he is AHL eligible, which should help him take the next step in his development.
Dysin Mayo turned some heads last season during rookie camp. This year at development camp was no different. Make a note to watch him at camp this year and see who he is paired with. Dakota Mermis seems like a likely candidate.
Last season in the WHL he played 71 games with the Edmonton Oil Kings and had six goals, 37 assists for 43 points. He is a smart defenseman who needs time to develop in the AHL.
Connor Clifton is going into his last year at Quinnipiac University. Last season in 43 games he had 7 goals and 21 assists for 28 points. Quinnipiac made it to the Frozen Four Final but fell to North Dakota. Another year in college could be good for him, but whether he signs with the Coyotes after college is an open question. Clifton was drafted by the Coyotes in 2013 in the fifth round at 133rd overall.
Dean Stewart is the Coyotes' 7th round pick from the 2016 draft. He was drafted out of the MJHL Portage Terriers. In 42 games last year, he had eight goals and 14 assists for 22 points. He will be one to watch down the road to see if he can crack the AHL lineup.
What does it mean?
The Coyotes are much better on the right side this season, unlike last year when injuries posed a serious test to the team's depth. This season could be very exciting for the Coyotes as well as the Tucson Roadrunners defensively. Growing the defensive corps is how strong teams make playoff runs, which is what the Coyotes are finally doing after years of neglect.