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J.J. Moser: From surprise draft pick to top four defenseman with the Arizona Coyotes

The Swiss blueliner has been a pleasant surprise for the Coyotes.

NHL: NOV 21 Coyotes at Predators Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When the Arizona Coyotes were called to make their selection with the 60th overall pick of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, they took a gamble on an overage defenseman who had already been passed over in two previous draft classes.

By the time Janis Jérôme Moser’s name was finally called, having witnessed 492 other players achieve their dreams of being drafted by an NHL team since he first entered the 2019 Draft, he was already 21 years old. He had represented Switzerland internationally at every age group, including at both the World Championships and World Juniors twice.

He had amassed 47 points (11 goals, 36 assists) in 133 regular season games for EHC Biel-Bienne in the Swiss National League, where he had been named team captain during his 30-point final draft year.

Seeing Moser’s growth and international pedigree, the Coyotes took a risk by using a relatively high pick on him. However, the selection looks to have been a stroke of genius by general manager Bill Armstrong, as he is so far the only player outside the first round of the 2021 Draft to have featured in the NHL to date.

Moser was put on an obvious development route after being selected by the Coyotes. He impressed the team in the rookie camp enough that they decided he belonged in the AHL with the Tucson Roadrunners rather than heading back to Switzerland.

What the team likely didn’t expect, however, is that he would flourish almost instantly, registering 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in just 18 games. His strong skating and impressive two-way style of play helped Moser immediately, and as with many Roadrunners last season, with the Coyotes looking to bottom out as best as possible, he earned himself a chance to impress the NHL coaching staff.

In what likely started out as a simple audition, Moser ended up finishing the season with 43 NHL games under his belt, ending the 2021-22 campaign with four goals and 15 total points, with 55 blocks and 32 hits while averaging a very respectable 18:42 while on the ice.

Suddenly, the risk the Coyotes took looked like he would turn out to be a respectable NHL defenceman. That is coming to fruition in full force this season, with Moser making the NHL roster out of camp and already building himself into an ideal top-four player for the team.

Moser is just three points away from equalling last season’s points total with two goals and 10 assists, having played in 19 games for the Coyotes so far. His ice time has also lept considerably, with the now-22-year-old registering 23:40 a night on average while continuing to start most of his shifts in the defensive zone - 63.3% on average so far in his career.

He already has 39 blocks and 18 hits on the season and has shown chemistry with several teammates, playing alongside Joshua Brown, Dysin Mayo, and Juuso Välimäki in the past three games. His efforts have helped the Coyotes begin the year far more respectably than the team likely imagined, holding a 7-9-3 record after going 4-13-2 over the same stretch just a year ago.

The sky appears to be the limit for Moser, who is sadly ineligible for the Calder Trophy after playing too many games last season. The Coyotes look to have a key piece to the blueline puzzle already in place as they progress through their rebuild.

With how Moser has settled into his role with the team, he figures to be a fixture in the desert for many years to come and will hopefully get to witness success once the team come out the other side and have all of their top prospects graduate into NHL regulars.