One big reason for that is the play of the Coyotes defense and they’re not lacking in quality along the blue line throughout the organization.
Taking a look at their top performers last year, the two who stand out most are 26-year-old Keith Yandle and 21-year-old phenom Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Yandle led the team in points with 30 while Larsson played the most minutes and still finished just six points back of Yandle.
It’s not just the offensive ability of their top defensemen that get it done, however. Larsson’s minutes played show he was more than that, but guys like Rostislav Klesla and Zbynek Michalek helped pick up the defensive side of things while Derek Morris, David Schlemko, and Michael Stone rounded things out.
Those guys were good for steady play, but there’s help waiting in the wings for a shot to prove themselves.
David Rundblad (he of the new two-year deal and 2009 first-round pick of the Blues ) and 2010 first-round pick Brandon Gormley had big seasons in AHL Portland last season. Rundblad was the top defensive point man with 39 while Gormley put up 29 of his own in his first professional season.
When you throw 2011 first-round pick Connor Murphy into the mix (he’ll make his pro debut this season), you’ve got a lot of potential and guys itching to make the NHL right away. It’s a good problem for coach Dave Tippett and GM Don Maloney to have.
When you consider the Coyotes needs up front for scoring forwards, you can’t help but think there’s a trade to be made here some day. For now, they’ll be eager to see what the competition for starting spots turns out to be when camp opens in September.