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Jakob Chychrun: Starring in 2021

Young defenseman emerged as a captivating Coyote

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

As the off-season commences, General Manager Bill Armstrong and a number of Coyotes players held exit interviews Monday to review the 2020-21 season, discuss summer plans, and look ahead.

Bill Armstrong: Finally, Time May Be on His Side

Conor Garland: A 'Primary' Source of Offense

Michael Bunting: Proved He Belonged

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Jakob Chychrun's star qualities shone bright this season. 

The defenseman compiled a brilliant season as the Coyotes' second-leading scorer, with 41 points. He ranked second on the team in goals, with 18, and assists, with 23, and his name emerged in the Norris Trophy candidacy conversation.

In fact, Chychrun likely will finish as the NHL's top goal-scoring defenseman. Edmonton's Darnell Nurse is the only other blue liner challenging Chychrun. Nurse has 16 goals, and the Oilers have two regular-season games remaining.

Chychrun recorded nine, multi-point games. Only Phil Kessel (12) and Conor Garland (10) had more. 

He also was one of only five Coyotes to play in all 56 games, which he does not take for granted.

"I think this was my first season playing in every game," Chychrun said. "That's something I'm proud of, something I've been wanting to do. It definitely feels good to have a healthy season. So, I'm happy with that.

Healthy enough to play, at least. He gritted through some pain, playing through a lingering wrist injury suffered in late March prior to the season-long, nine-game road trip.

Chychrun, who is awaiting further evaluation on his wrist, scored half of his goals while toughing it out, including a hat trick in Anaheim on April 3. Chychrun's hat trick was just the second by a defenseman in franchise history.

Video: ARI@ANA: Chychrun powers Coyotes' win with hat trick

"I think it was a good year for me," Chychrun said. "It was a step in the right direction for my personal growth. I felt my game took a good step. I think my game really benefited from having a good summer of training, and just working on my game and being healthy."

For now, rest is the priority. Shutting down for a bit is a plan Chychrun has folded into his off-season regimen. It is a challenge.

"Rest is definitely a weapon," Chychrun said. "At the end of the year, you're always a little banged up. It's really important to just kind of give the body time to just recharge and get back to neutral. For me, I've really found that it has helped me a lot. Once the year's done, just take a good month off. I feel like my body thanks me when I do that. Sometimes it's tough, you want to get right back into it. I've always done that my whole life, and sometimes it's not easy to just sit around. But it's important and something I've kind of learned over the last couple years."

The following Q&A is from Chychrun's exit-day media interviews: 

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How would you assess this season from a team perspective?

I think we're probably having this (end of season) talk a little too early. It sucks to not make the playoffs. That was disappointing. But I think we're all going to do our best to learn from it and have a good summer. We just have to be better. We're getting to the point where we don't have many excuses. We had plenty of opportunities down the stretch where we could have strung some games together and we weren't able to do it. From a team perspective, it's obviously tough. When you don't accomplish your goal, it sucks. I think we just need to continue to push forward and come back better from it. 

What aspects of your game bloomed this year?

The offensive side of my game took a big step this year. I think a lot of people were surprised by it, and to be honest, I think that's just a part of my game I knew was going to come for me. I wasn't really satisfied or happy with where that side of my game was in my first few years, and I've always had that side to me. So, it was just nice to be able to show that a little bit this year. Off the ice, I feel I've matured and grown and gotten myself into more of a vocal leadership role for this group. That's something I take a lot of pride in.

There's always room for growth. That's always the way I think. I never feel happy with myself. I'm never satisfied. You're always looking for things to work on and continue to grow. For me, it's all over the ice. There's not one or two things I'm going to really focus on. For me, it's all three zones -- that's kind of the way I like to play. I love playing in all three zones. So, for me, I'm always working on the 200-foot game.

Do you feel like you've developed into more of a leader? 

I always feel like I have more to give with that side of things, but you can't jump the gun too early with that. You've got to earn your teammates' respect, and respect from everyone. I think over this past season, I was able to take a step in the right direction with that. I'm definitely looking to continue to do that next year.

How close do you feel this team is to making the playoffs?

I think we're right there. I mean, I really do. We have the core guys in here to break through. I think we're close, I think we're really close. It's just a matter of getting the last few pieces together for us. This group definitely has what it takes to be contenders every year. I think we can continue to grow and keep the core here. I think the future is really bright. It's exciting, and I'm excited to be a part of that. We just need to continue to stick together. I think we have a good chance to break through soon. We're gaining more experience every year, so I definitely think that the potential is there for us.

I think the future is bright here. When you look at our core guys, not many teams in the league have a group of guys who have been together from their rookie years up until now -- year three, year four, year five. Me and (Dvorak) are going into year six. We're growing together and maturing together, and I think it's time for us to really take that next step and have that kind of breakout year that we're looking to have. It's an exciting core that I'm excited to be a part of.

There could be some significant off-season changes to the defensive corps. How have the veterans helped your development?

Your teammates are everything to you. It's never easy this time of the year, saying goodbye to guys, not knowing who's going to be back. It's never easy. You just have to cherish the time that we all had together. And I definitely enjoyed my time with everybody in that room. There's obviously going to be changes. We'll see how things play out. I have a lot of good memories with all of those guys in that room, and it definitely is tough saying goodbye.

Do you know your off-season plans? 

Not really, no. I don't. Everything happens quickly. We're playing one day, and then the next, you know, you've got a whole summer to plan out. I really haven't given it much thought. Obviously, we're still living in a crazy world, so I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I usually go to my cottage in Canada, but obviously Canada is very restricted right now. We'll see. I'm just going to kind of play it by ear and we'll see what happens.

Photo Credits: Kelsey Grant - Arizona Coyotes

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