Jakob Chychrun earning more opportunity with Coyotes
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jim Playfair wants to clear up a misconception about the way he and Dave Tippett coach the Coyotes’ young defensemen.
“There’s this belief that we just want to hammer home the defensive details of the game and hold back our guys from creating offense,” said Playfair, the Coyotes’ associate coach. “That’s completely wrong.”
For proof, just ask the youngest defenseman of them all, 18-year-old Jakob Chychrun.
“They want me to be a good defender and that’s been a big focus, but they’re giving me freedom to do whatever I want when we get out of the D-zone,” Chychrun said. “The whole game is read and react. It’s about percentages and risk-reward and knowing the game situation; whether there’s an opportunity to jump or whether you might not want to jump up that particular shift.”
Chychrun should get more and more opportunities to flex his offensive muscle as the season winds down. He was one of the players coach Dave Tippett was talking about when he noted the trade deadline moves were executed to allow the team’s young players to grow.
With Michael Stone traded to Calgary, Playfair said Chychrun would get more power-play time, more penalty-killing time and more of a chance to cement his place as an NHL defenseman.
“I think he took a major step this year and it wasn’t a successful splash where you’re going ‘oh my god, if we can just get him back to that level then he’s going to be a good player,'” Playfair said. “He’s made excellent, step-by-step development, he’s learned to train better and handle himself better with teammates and the media and travel.”
“He understands when we look at details on videotape that it’s not a beat-down, it’s not ‘here’s where you’re wrong;’ it’s ‘here’s our process and here’s how you can be successful.’ He enjoys sitting down to gather information because he believes in the process.”
When the season began, Chychrun (five goals and 14 points) was simply hoping to earn a roster spot. With about five weeks left in the season, he has altered his goals, albeit privately, as he grows more comfortable in his role.
“There are so many things you have to learn and experience once you’re here. You kind of learn on the fly and every game, you take in more information,” he said. “It’s all about reps, doing things over and over. When you do them right you know how to do them. When you do them wrong after you’ve done them right you know exactly what you did wrong so you know how to fix mistakes on your own. If I feel out of position, I know exactly why I feel that way; I’m able to fix it my next shift.
“That’s all hockey sense and that’s something I have a good feel for. It’s a big part of my game the way I think and the way I process things on the ice, making a good read.”
Contrary to perceptions about the Tippett-Playfair philosophy, Playfair wants Chychrun to maintain an aggressive mindset throughout the game.
“Why would we want to hold him back?” Playfair asked rhetorically. “He’s got a great offensive upside, he can carry the puck, he can see the ice, he can move pucks up the ice and he’s got 100-percent freedom to go be creative. If he can make a read at the offensive blue the line then go be creative. There’s zero hold-back on that, but there has to be a real consistent focus on the defending details.
“He embraces the idea that everything about his defensive game starts at the offensive blue line. Is his gap correct? Is he inside the dots? Is he reading through the rush? Is he recognizing what’s coming? Is he gathering enough information that he can make an informed, confident, aggressive decision when its time to make the defensive play? That’s where we want to get more consistency in his game.
“Your offense will get you into this league, but your defense will keep you in the league. If you’re not committed to becoming a better defender how can you play in the playoffs, in a 2-1, or 1-0 game?”
As Chychrun grows in all those areas, he will force the Coyotes to make some decisions about usage on their left side, which also boasts Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Alex Goligoski. Playfair doesn’t worry about that.
“If that’s our biggest problem then we will have really good problems,” Playfair said.
Senators at Coyotes
When: 7 p.m., Thursday
Where: Gila River Arena, Glendale
TV: FOX Sports Arizona
Radio: ESPN 620 AM
Records: Senators — 37-22-6. Coyotes — 23-35-7.
Season series: Ottawa leads, 1-0.
Injury report: Coyotes — D Kevin Connauton (upper body) and C Alexander Burmistrov (concussion) are day to day. C Brad Richardson (broken right tibia and fibula) is on injured reserve. Senators — LW Clarke MacArthur (concussion), RW Chris Neil (finger) and RW Bobby Ryan (finger) are on IR. C Kyle Turris (finger) is day to day but likely to miss this game.
Scouting the Senators: Ottawa has won four straight games and is 8-3 in its last 11 to climb within four points of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead with two games in hand. … D Erik Karlsson leads the team with 47 assists and 58 points. C Kyle Turris, a former Coyote, and RW Mark Stone leads the team with 22 goals apiece. … The Senators have the worst possession stats of any current playoff team in the Eastern Conference.