GLENDALE -- Defenseman Kevin Bahl helped the Ottawa 67's roll through the first two rounds of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs.
Bahl, whom the Coyotes drafted 55th overall last year, notched a goal and four assists for Ottawa in its four-game series sweeps over Hamilton and then Sudbury. The 67s will play the Oshawa Generals in the third round of the playoffs starting Thursday.
Ottawa finished the regular season with a league-best 50 wins, tying a club record, and set a team record with 106 points.
Bahl, who stands 6-foot-6, 236 pounds, notched six goals and 28 assists in 68 games during the regular season, his third with Ottawa. His defense was noticeably improved this season; his plus/minus number jumped from minus-21 in 2017-18 to plus-50 this season. Bahl credits the Ottawa coaches, and Coyotes Development Coach Alex Henry, for helping him improve.
"A lot of it is coaching," Bahl said. "They turned around the game for me - the way I play, the way I see the game, positioning. Getting pucks out quick and being on the right side of the puck, just little things like that, add up."
Bahl has been paired primarily with Noel Hoefenmayer, another Coyotes prospect, for most of the season. Their styles complement each other.
"I really enjoy playing with him," Bahl said. "He's more offensive minded and I'm more defensive minded, so we match up well. I've actually been playing with him since my first year (with Ottawa), and this is my third year, so our chemistry is really built up. It's definitely something special night in and night out. We're always putting in the work, and on game nights we're producing and shutting down lines. We have a special duo there."
The 67s outscored opponents, 47-20, in their first eight playoff games.
"Ottawa has really turned it around in terms of how things go and development from my first year," Bahl said. "Everyone has gotten that much better. Especially this year, we're all so committed. On defense, everyone is on the same page, and offensively we have something special in group chemistry ... We don't believe in laying back and letting a team bring the game to us. We go out there and go hard, play fast and take away their soul."
Known for his defense, Bahl produced a goal and two assists in Ottawa's 8-5 victory over Sudbury in Game 1 of that series.
"He's been refining the things that he's already good at while trying to develop his offensive up-side," Henry said. "He's underrated (offensively). He plays on Ottawa's second power-play unit and he has some tools there. He can shoot the puck. He's mobile enough, he just needs repetition and more opportunity, but being hard to play against is what we've been focusing on. Kevin's game, on a team that has been arguably one of the best in the country, is to be a hard-to-play-against defender. His biggest assets are his size and his skating. Those two things combined are a rarity, and that's the part of the game he can hang his hat on and then see how the other things develop."