GLENDALE – It’s three months away, but Coyotes defenseman Michael Stone already is eager for the 2013-14 season.
“I’m excited to be with the team for another three years, and happy to see what the team is doing and just excited now to get going,” Stone said Friday after signing a three-year contract extension.
Stone, 23, has been training this summer with Coyotes Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Tommy Powers in the Calgary area. The goal is to become stronger, more agile, etc., so he can continue to evolve into complete NHL player.
“I think I grew a lot as a player last season and I made the next step toward being more of a regular in the lineup,” said Stone, who notched five goals and four assists in 40 games for the Coyotes – all career-highs – in 2012-13. “I think I have more work to do, but now I feel as if I’ve gotten my foot in the door.”
He added, “There is only up for me to go, but I gained a lot of confidence and feel as if I can play regularly now. I’m not going to look back now and hopefully I can keep moving forward.”
Stone did not contribute offensively in his first 10 games with the Coyotes last season and was minus-5 in those games. As a result, he was assigned back to the American Hockey League for two weeks before being recalled in late February.
“When I got called up that second time, I said to myself ‘Hey, this doesn’t happen all the time so I’d better do something about it.’”
In his first game back, Stone scored a goal against Calgary. He added four more and four assists over the rest of the season, and was plus-7 in those games. He also ended the year with 50 shots on goal.
“I think I need to be a combination of an offensive defenseman and a shut-down defender,” Stone said. “I have some offensive talent but if I just want to do that there are guys who are better than me at that and I don’t think I’d be able to stick around. I think one thing that benefits me is that I can be relied on defensively and also contribute offensively. That’s what I’m going to have to be and that’s what I am working on.”
Stone added that it will be nice coming to training camp in September with the confidence he gained from the end of last season.
“I just need to come in and act like I belong and go from there,” Stone said. “Obviously, I can’t rest on what I did last year. I need to keep working and keep establishing myself as an everyday player.”