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'We Weren't Leaving Without Him': Chayka Assertive To Select Soderstrom

by Arizona Coyotes @ArizonaCoyotes

Trading up three spots Friday night, John Chayka pulled the trigger on selecting Victor Soderstrom in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft - a two-way defenseman with a celebrated stride and offensive upside.

Chayka acquired the Philadelphia Flyers' #11 overall selection in exchange for the Coyotes' original #14 and #45 second round selection.

"We weren't leaving the draft without him; we were going to do whatever it took to get him."

When reading reports, there is no shortage of accolades paid to the 18-year-old's game, though when specific, scouts are quick to pinpoint the defenseman's knack to move the puck with superb passing vision, his skating ability, and dynamic offensive flash.

"Anytime you get a premium player at a premium position, that's kind of what we were after," Chayka noted. "He's a right-shot defenseman, moves the puck, he can play against top lines, play on the power play and play on the penalty kill - you can't trade for that. Obviously for us, we have a lot of defensemen, we think it's the foundation of our team, and [Victor] just makes that better."

Soderstrom, who attended the draft with his family, didn't hesitate when describing the emotions he felt after hearing his name called by Coyotes' Assistant General Manager and Director of Scouting Lindsay Hofford.

"It was an awesome feeling, today is the best day of my life, you can't really put it into words," he remarked with a grin. "It's an incredible feeling, it's special that they traded up to get me too."

A native of Skutskars, Sweden, Soderstrom sees the Coyotes' roster as one that's trending upward with a promising future in sight, and one that features two fellow countrymen in Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Niklas Hjalmarsson.

"I know that the team is a talented team, a young team, and they have two Swedish defensemen there as well," he added.

"Ekman-Larsson, he's a good two-way defenseman and he's very good offensively too, so he's a guy that I watch because we're kind of similar. And Hjalmarsson, he's a very good defensive defenseman, a good two-way game too and I think he has a really good first pass."

While communicating with Soderstrom prior to the draft, which included plenty of dialogue -- and dinner -- during the NHL Scouting Combine in May, Chayka noted that he and his staff were intrigued by the young blue-liner's maturity, his ability to observe and learn.

"I think Victor is a great character guy, he'll learn a lot from [Ekman-Larsson and Hjalmarsson] as well, he's a sponge," Chayka said. "Training with those guys and seeing them on the ice is only going to make him better. I don't think he's far away from playing, so we'll see how it evolves from here, but he's a special product."

Core players aren't easy to come by, and with assertiveness, the Coyotes acted on their opportunity.

"This guy's a foundational piece. We see him as a future leader of our team for a long time."

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