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Van Ryn's Role is to Develop Defensemen

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALE – After selecting just four defensemen in three NHL drafts from 2013-15, the Coyotes shifted strategy this year and selected five.

Enter new Prospect Development Coach Mike Van Ryn, whom Arizona hired last month to assist Director of Player Development Steve Sullivan, with an emphasis on blueliners.

“If you look at the prices teams are paying to acquire defensemen, it would be nice if we could grow some of our own and not have to go out and acquire guys,” Van Ryn said.

Mike Van Ryn. Photo by Getty Images.

Van Ryn, 37, comes to the Coyotes after serving as head coach for the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League last season. Under his leadership, Kitchener posted a 44-17-5-2 record and reached the second round of the OHL playoffs. The Rangers allowed just 197 goals in 68 games, the fifth lowest total among the league’s 20 teams.

Van Ryn resigned after last season and now finds himself back in the NHL where he played 353 games as a defenseman for St. Louis, Florida and Toronto from 2000-09 after being drafted 26th overall by New Jersey in 1998.

“I wanted to get back to the NHL and I’ve always enjoyed the developmental aspect of things,” Van Ryn said. “Being able to go to an organization like Arizona was a no-brainer for me. If you look at all of the draft picks and prospects that we have in the AHL, and the young guys we already have on the NHL team, it’s an extremely exciting team to be involved in.”

Van Ryn said he expects to spend at least one week per month working with defensemen playing for Arizona’s new American Hockey League affiliate in Tucson. He also plans to travel with the Coyotes as needed and, at other times, he’ll be working one-on-one with the team’s defensive prospects in junior and college hockey.

Mike Van Ryn. Photo by Getty Images.

The Coyotes selected Jakob Chychrun 16th overall on the first day of this year’s NHL Draft, then drafted defensemen Cam Dineen, Patrick Kudla and Dean Stewart on the second day. They also traded for young defenseman Anthony DeAngelo during the draft. Other defensive prospects the team recently drafted include Connor Clifton, Dysin Mayo and Kyle Capobianco.

“I get to work with a whole bunch of young defensemen that I believe are very talented,” Van Ryn said. “I’m extremely excited to have the opportunity to help them become NHL players.”

He added: “It’s a tough position to play. It’s one that takes a lot of time to develop. Anyone that’s been around the NHL for a while will tell you that it takes time to develop defensemen and it’s a process. I think our scouting staff has done a very good job of identifying players who have talent and of finding players with hockey IQ for us to work with.”

Van Ryn and Coyotes General Manager John Chayka have a relationship dating to Chayka’s days with Stathletes Inc., a hockey analytics firm he co-founded.

Chayka said he believes Van Ryn is the perfect choice to help the Coyotes develop NHL defensemen.

“If you look at the game now and the value of defensemen, it just keeps getting higher and higher,” Chayka said. “If I had a young defenseman as a son, I would want him to be working with Mike Van Ryn. I think Mike’s got a great perspective having been a player, and he’s still young enough that he could still be playing if not for his injury issues. We’re ecstatic to have Mike on board. He’s going to be a big component of what we’re doing moving forward.”

Before turning pro, Van Ryn played for the University of Michigan, and in 1997-98 he helped the Wolverines win the National Championship. He made his NHL debut on Oct. 5, 2000 for St. Louis in a game played vs. the Coyotes in downtown Phoenix.

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