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Phoenix Coyotes coach Tippett on Connor Murphy: ‘He’s a smart player’

LISTEN: Dave Tippett, Coyotes head coach

Phoenix Coyotes 20-year-old defenseman Connor Murphy has seen more time on the ice lately and appears to be earning the trust of head coach Dave Tippett.

While on The Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta on Friday, the Coyotes coach praised the physical and mental talents of the 2011 first-round draft pick.

“He’s a smart player,” Tippett said. “Smart player. And he’s tall, but he’s not thick yet. I think he’s got a lot of room to thicken up. But really smart player. Plays an aggressive game. He takes time and space away very well.”

Tippett said the Coyotes’ most recent game — a 2-1 shootout loss Thursday to the Toronto Maple Leafs — was in a tough place to play, and that Murphy “played a whale of a game” in the absence of Zbynek Michalek. Murphy played more than 22 minutes Thursday, his sixth-straight game of 20 minutes or more on ice.

On the offensive side, the 6-foot-5 defenseman has posted one goal and three assists in 11 games this season.

“He’s still young and got a lot to learn. But, boy, we really like what we’ve seen so far,” Tippett said.

While Michalek was sidelined against Toronto, the Coyotes saw the return of veteran defenseman Derek Morris, who hadn’t played since Dec. 4 in Calgary for personal reasons. Morris played more than 26 minutes and took six shots on goal Thursday.

Tippett emphasized how important the 15-year veteran is to the team.

“Real solid veteran presence. And, you know, everybody’s kind of feeling for Derek; he’s gone through a couple of tough weeks,” the coach said. “I think he was glad to be back and around the team. And (he) jumped in the game and he played very well.”