Niklas Hjalmarsson may be the defenseman that the Coyotes have been looking for, for many years.
The team is used to having a defenseman who sacrifices the body and blocks all the shots, but Zbynek Michalek isn’t an option anymore. Hjalmarsson has always been the type to sacrifice his body for the team and control the game with his playing.
Let’s hear some someone who watched Hjalmarsson for years, Sam Fels from FaxesFromUncleDale.com
"For Hawks fans it's going to be hard to remove the emotion from trading away Niklas Hjalmarsson. He was a young contributor to the first Cup winner, and then for the next two he and Johnny Oduya took the Kamikaze shifts, seeing the top lines and starting in their own zone almost exclusively. It allowed Duncan Keith to run wild against lesser competition, which has inflated his value just a touch. Though Hammer has never been the greatest skater, his first step or two was always in his mind and he was almost always in the right spot to block a shot, close a lane, poke check. After getting the yips for a couple years, which you lot would have seen a ton of in 2012, Hammer's calm on the puck behind his own net might be his greatest attribute. He could diffuse threats and opponent possession with a simple, blind, five-to-ten foot pass to the middle of his own zone to a waiting center. And he never missed with it. This is probably his most under-appreciated skill.
"The problem is that his days as a top pairing d-man might be over, and if they're not the end is certainly coming quickly. Hammer didn't have a step to lose, and all the playoff miles and shots to the body appeared to catch up to him the second half of last year. Whereas you never saw him beaten to the outside before, it was a constant feature especially against the Preds. Hammer never ducked contact from rubber or opposing bodies, and at 30 with nine years in the league it may be catching up. The aging curve for this kind of stay-at-home, physical d-man is not pretty, and Hammer may be on the wrong side of it already. I'm sure he could be a great model for the Yotes young d-men... I just would have thought Murphy would have been #1 on that list. And by the time the Yotes are really ready to make some noise, I fear that Hjalmarsson may be pretty close to dust."
If you’re looking for an offensive defenseman, that is not what Hjalmarsson is. He is your classic ‘stay at home’ defenseman who controls the game. Hjalmarsson has a career total of 23 goals. Yes, you are reading that correctly, 23. Last season he set a career high in goals in a season with five. He contributes ‘more’ with assists, in which he has 120 over his career and 13 of them were last season.
Hjalmarsson has played within the same system his whole career but has also played with Oliver Ekman-Larsson before internationally at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the World Cup of Hockey. Yes, Hjalmarsson would be playing on his off-side with Ekman-Larsson (who traditionally plays best with a right handed partner), but handedness of a defenseman sometimes doesn’t matter. He also played on his off side for most of his career in Chicago, so he’s no stranger to it.
When you look at Hjalmarsson’s skater vs archteype, he fits fairly close to what a number two defenseman should be. Most astounding are his shot suppression numbers, which is a huge part of his game.
When you look at Michalek’s stats from when he was good in 2014-15 vs Hjalmarsson’s 2016-17 numbers, you have a pretty similar player. Hjalmarsson’s shot impact per hour is still on the rise, while Michalek’s completely peaked in 2014.
I think Hjalmarsson will bring the experience and stability to the Coyotes blueline, even if he plays up and down the line-up at first.
I will leave you with two fun videos.
This was made when the Blackhawks were just coming into being good. I think it was in 2009.
In which he actually makes meatballs.