Saturday we talked about the righties, so naturally today we're talking about the lefties. The Arizona Coyotes have an amazing set of left handed defensemen. And now they have an even better set of left-handed prospects.
With the drafting of Jakob Chychrun and Kyle Capobianco, the Coyotes have young talent that they can mold for the future. If Chychrun has anything to say about it, it’ll be sooner than later.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is the defenseman for the Arizona Coyotes. He’s also one of the top five defensemen in the NHL.
Since Oliver Ekman-Larsson has come up the ranks with the Coyotes and taken over the top left defensive position, the team has been better for it. Having cycled through a few partners in the last few seasons, they seem to have found the perfect partner for him to grow as a player with in Connor Murphy.
Ekman-Larsson posted 21 goals and 34 assists for 55 points last season, a career high. He also had eight game-winning goals, two of which came in overtime. He can find the back of the net easily and his vision gets better every season. He is three years from the end of his contract, which now is considered a sweetheart deal, at $5.5M AAV.
This could be the season where he gets national attention and a Norris Trophy nod. I know it’s a bit early to make this call, but he is that good.
Ekman-Larsson is currently representing Team Sweden at the World Cup of Hockey. He is logging big minutes and is looking great while keeping the Tre Kroner on the winning side. Niklas Hjalmarsson, his defensive partner for World Cup and defenseman for the Chicago Blackhawks had this to say about playing with him. "(But) he is an amazing defender, he is an all around, it would be great fun."
The addition of Alex Goligoski was a shock for a lot of Coyotes fans. The team traded for the rights to negotiate with him then were able to agree to a 5 year, $5.475 million AAV deal. Not bad for a millennial GM.
This is a huge addition to the Coyotes. The team has struggled to find a solid second scoring defenseman since the trade of Keith Yandle to the New York Rangers for Anthony Duclair. Having someone who can assist on the power play and help take the load off of Ekman-Larsson will help make the team better in the long run.
Addtionally, Goligoski gives the Coyotes time to develop their young defensemen. Defenseman tend to develop differently than forwards and having someone there who is hitting their peak while the young players are being worked with is something a lot of teams don’t have.
Last season Goligoski posted 5 goals and 32 assists for 37 points with the Dallas Stars. Having someone who can assist on the power play, which was abysmal last season, will be huge for the Coyotes.
Kevin Connauton found his way to the Arizona Coyotes by being picked up off of waivers from the Columbus Blue Jackets, and it was a great pick up. He played 38 games with the Coyotes last season, and even logged top pairing minutes towards season's end.
When Ekman-Larsson went down with a shoulder injury, Connauton was moved up into his spot and thrived under the pressure. Although he only had four goals and five assists with the Coyotes, he was a great help to the blue line. This was one of the smart moves that former general manager Don Maloney made last season, with perhaps a little help from John Chayka?
It’ll be interesting to see where Connauton fits this season. Having him in a third pairing role with Luke Schenn or Zbynek Michalek is a great option and you have a very good top-six for your defense. He's not likely to leave the lineup any time soon.
Jakob Chychrun (*)
Jakob Chychrun wants to be a Coyote this season, and if he has an impressive camp, it could happen. His draft year was not as strong as many people thought it should have been. He was projected to be the second overall pick at the start of the year, behind fellow sunbelt hockey player Auston Matthews. He had a slow start to his year due in large part to offseason shoulder surgery, and was just a step behind for a while during his season with the Sarnia Sting.
Last season he played 62 games he had 11 goals and 38 assists for 49 points. He has very strong ice vision and is dynamic on both sides of the puck. He has the chance to be a top pairing defenseman in the league, he just needs some time to develop.
But, he could make a push to make the Coyotes roster this season. After falling out of the top 10 to number 16 in the draft, the Coyotes moved up and drafted Chychrun. He wants to prove to himself and others, that he should be in the NHL out of the draft like Noah Hanifin (more on this later this week).
Having watched him at prospect development camp, he is motivated and very smart. He may turn some heads this season and for all the right reasons.
Klas Dahlbeck came over two seasons ago in a trade with Chicago that sent them former Coyote Antoine Vermette. He has been the least effective defenseman, in my opinion, on the roster.
Last season he played 71 games and had two goals and six assists for eight points. With the depth that the Coyotes now have with Goligoski and Connauton behind Ekman-Larsson, Dahlbeck may find himself down in Tucson with the Roadrunners.
If he has a decent camp, maybe he will find a place with the Coyotes, but it’s hard to tell until we hit October 15th.
Tinordi still has games left on his PED suspension from last season. As part of the now notorious John Scott Trade, Tinordi only played seven with the Coyotes before the suspension of 20 games was announced.
If you ask Montreal Canadiens fans, they will tell you that Michel Therrien ruined Tinordi as a player. The Coyotes are a team that (attempts to) rehab players and send them back into the NHL, and maybe this can be the case with Tinordi.
They did re-sign him to a 1 year, 700k contract. This may mean they still trust him to be clean and on the team.
Justin Hache is a 2012 Coyotes 7th round draft pick. He played 67 games with the Springfield Falcons last season with two goals and twelve assists for fourteen points. He’s been in the Coyotes AHL system since 2014-15. He is a steady defenseman who seems to be the stay at home type.
Dakota Mermis came to the Coyotes on an amateur tryout and got a three-year deal with the Coyotes AHL team after winning the Memorial Cup with the Oshawa Generals. He also is familiar with Max Domi and Christian Dvorak as they were teammates in London.
He is a solid defenseman and played 63 games with the Springfield Falcons last season, scoring three goals and netting ten assists for thirteen points. He paired up with Dysin Mayo last year at camp.which could be the pairing he starts with this season in Tucson.
Kyle Capobianco was Arizona's 3rd round selection in 2015. He is a strong defenseman and is going to be heading back to the Sudbury Wolves for another year. Last year in 68 games he had 7 goals and 36 assists for 43 points. He had a decent camp last season and is continuing to develop into a potential NHLer.
Cam Dineen was selected in the 3rd round in 2016, with an extraordinary amount of potential that merits more praise than his third-round selection suggests. He is a smaller defenseman but his defensive partner, Kyle Wood from North Bay is also a Coyote.
He is a skilled, offensive minded defenseman who in 68 games posted 13 goals and 46 assists for 59 points. We’ll see how he does without his gifted partner when he goes back to North Bay this season. Dineen could be one to watch, and he might be coming up through the ranks quickly.
Patrick Kudla is an Arizona State University commit in 2017 and is going to play with the Sun Devils NCAA team. He is currently playing for the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the USHL and converted from forward to defense a few years ago. Check out the feature piece written by our own Taylor Clark for more of his story.
Kudla had the opportunity to develop in the Coyotes backyard and help an up and coming team on the college stage as well.
What Does This Mean?
The Coyotes, for once, are not lacking in the defensive department. If any major injuries they can move players up into the fold and not be majorly affected.
With the asterisk on Jakob Chychrun, he has a chance to prove himself to the Coyotes staff and the NHL community as a whole if he has an amazing camp. He wants to play with the Coyotes as soon as he can. With the quality depth on the left side slightly lowered after Goligoski, he may have a chance. Keep an eye on him in the next few weeks.