GLENDALE -- Impressed by his performance over his first three dozen NHL games, the Coyotes have secured the services of forward Conor Garland through the 2020-21 season via a contract extension announced Wednesday morning.
"It's nice to get a deal done and be here for two more years on a team that's on the uptick," Garland said. "We're going to be fighting for a playoff spot for hopefully years to come, so I'm excited to be a part of that group ... I'm grateful and thankful that I have an opportunity to play for the Coyotes for the next two seasons. I've been with the organization since I've been 19, so Arizona is starting to become a little bit like home."
The Coyotes recalled Garland, 22, from the American Hockey League on Dec. 2 to help fill in at forward after Michael Grabner suffered a serious eye injury the night before. In 36 games with Arizona, Garland has notched 12 goals and three assists. Only six other NHL freshmen have scored more goals than Garland this season, and all of them have played 52 games or more.
"We had some guys down and we needed some offense," General Manager John Chayka said. "He came in and just played desperate, tenacious hockey and got to the net and scored some goals and brought some life to our group."
The Coyotes drafted Garland 123rd overall in 2015 after he put up eye-popping offensive statistics in junior hockey. That production dropped during his first two seasons as a pro in the American Hockey League, but his evolution from his first AHL game to his most recent NHL game has been astounding and, Chayka said, is a credit to Garland for his willingness to learn how to be a pro and to his AHL coaches who molded him into one.
"He's worked for everything he's got and we're excited to get him signed for two more years," Chayka said. "It's a real success story for our organization. We haven't had many of these later-round picks that have gotten to this stage where they've turned out this well for us. It's an important piece for us and we've got to continue to do this and continue to find ways to create value like this. If we can, then it will be a real major step forward for the organization."
Garland said while he's excited to get an extended contract, it doesn't mean he'll abandon his play-every-shift-like-it's-your-last mentality.
"I just play that style no matter what," Garland said. "I've always played that way, whether I was in junior for my fourth season, already drafted and signed. My game didn't change much. I'll continue to play that way. I enjoy playing in the NHL, obviously, so whatever is going to keep me here is what I'll do."
Garland will enter Thursday's game looking to snap a modest four-game goal-scoring drought. With that in mind, he said scoring goals isn't the only manner in which he can contribute at the NHL level.
"The top players in the League are going to score 25 or 30 goals, so that's a lot of games where they're not scoring," Garland said. "But those guys find a way to help their team win in other ways and that's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to make sure that whether I score or not, I'm playing a fast pace and tracking pucks down and winning battles in our end. So, there's a lot more than scoring, but it obviously helps going on a little bit of a hot streak and putting some goals in."
He added: "There's a lot more for me to learn about the game. It has slowed down a lot since I first got here and I'm feeling more comfortable making plays and stuff, but there's still a long way for me to go to where I think I can be as a player."
Video: Garland Excited To Help Build Winning Culture