When the Arizona Coyotes pulled off a trade with the Detroit Red Wings in 2016 to move up from the #20 overall pick in the NHL Draft t0 #16 so they could select Jakob Chychrun, it seemed like a good move. The Boca Raton, Fla. native was excited to be drafted by the Coyotes. He told the Coyotes staff writer, “To have a team trade up to get you is really special and something that I’m very proud of.”
Jakob Chychrun is Showing Signs of Being a Norris Candidate
Chychrun is tied (as of this writing) with another young budding star defenceman Darnell Nurse of the Edmonton Oilers for the lead in goals scored by a defender with 12. This season Chychrun has played in all 38 games and has 12 goals and 13 assists to his credit.
He burst into the limelight by scoring his first hat trick in his five-year NHL career against the lowly Anaheim Ducks on April 4th. He scored all his team’s goals and practically willed his team to victory with this blistering wrist shot to win it in overtime.
Chychrun’s clutch playing level came at a good time. His team is fighting to stay in the last playoff spot in the West Division. As of this writing, the Coyotes hold a three-point lead over the slumping St. Louis Blues and surging San Jose Sharks for the last playoff berth.
He is becoming a go-to guy on the blueline and has three game-winning goals to his credit. He is a workhorse on defence averaging just over 23 minutes a game. If his play continues at its present pace he most certainly will receive some Norris Trophy recognition.
Injuries Haven’t Stopped Chychrun
Even at his young age of 23, Chychrun has sustained two major knee injuries requiring surgery. During the 2017-18 season he managed only 50 games due to recovery from surgery. Then, during the 2018-19 he participated in 53 games. He is a player who is enthusiastic about training and actually sustained an injury while training too aggressively.
Chychrun is in excellent shape and possesses an amazing three-percent body fat. He eats right, trains constantly and it shows. It has to be part of the reason he has been able to recover from surgery so quickly.
His Play Was Rewarded With a Long-term Contract
The Coyotes recognized that Chychrun could be a valuable ingredient for their blueline. So on 11-13-18 they signed the 6′-2″, 210 pound defenceman to a six-year $27.6 million deal. That will take him through the 2024-25 season. He has four more years remaining on his contract and that’s plenty of time to convince many around the NHL that he can be deserving of Norris Trophy consideration.
The State of the Arizona Coyotes Defence
As it stands now, only Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Chychrun are under contract for next season. Obvisouly, Chychrun’s normal blueline partner Alex Goligoski may not be lining up with him next season due to trade rumuors involving Goligoski. The way Chychrun has been playing it’s almost immaterial who lines up with him, but a stay-at-home type defender would be ideal.
If Jordan Gross re-signs with the Coyotes and he being a right-hand shot, he could become Chychrun’s new blueline partner. The team could also go out and acquire another defenceman to team up with Chychrun.
The Coyotes really do need to look at acquiring a tough defenceman to protect smaller players like Clayton Keller and Conor Garland. A player along the lines of Josh Manson of the Ducks would fit the bill. He is no stranger to the penalty box and at 6′-3″, 224 pounds not many will tangle with him.
The Coyotes also have Victor Soderstrom developing in the AHL. Hopefully he can be ready to stay playing at the NHL level soon. He is struggling a bit getting accustomed to the North American size rink and has only one goal and three assists in 20 contests.
Kyle Capobianco could also elevate to the NHL level if needed. He has accumulated one goal and nine assists in 16 games in the AHL.
The state of the Coyotes’ defence may be in question now, but we certainly know that when Jakob Chychrun is on the ice the team has one of its best competing. He can only get better with time, and has already shown outstanding potential towards winning the big prize as the best defenceman in the NHL.
“He’s just got a great wrist shot,” Tocchet said. “If you watch it, when a goalie moves side to side, he releases that puck and it’s as hard as most of our guys’ slap shots. The guy can bring it. The quickness of it, and obviously finding the holes.
“Those were three major league shots (from Chychrun),” Tocchet continued. “He’s double digits in goals for us. As a defenseman. In 30-something games. He’s having a hell of a year for us.”
That he is.