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Bahl expects to impress Coyotes with more than size, physical play

Defenseman prospect plans to show he can move despite being big

by Alan Robinson / NHL.com Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Kevin Bahl didn't naturally gravitate to hockey like most athletically gifted children in Canada do.

"When I was 6, I was playing soccer and I ran into a guy head-to-head and I got a bloody nose," the 19-year-old defenseman prospect said during Arizona Coyotes development camp in June. "I told my dad, 'I don't want to play soccer anymore.' Then I tried hockey, but I came off after practice and said, 'My feet are hurting!' My dad said I had my skates on the wrong side.

"My mom put me in gymnastics for a year with my sister, but they said, 'You're already too tall, you're going to have to find something else to do.'"

 

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So Bahl tried hockey again in the youth leagues of Ontario, and it became clear soon after that he'd found his game.

Since being selected in the second round (No. 55) of the 2018 NHL Draft, he has found a style of game that could get him to the NHL quickly.

Bahl (6-foot-6, 230 pounds) is a physical, shutdown-type defenseman, increasingly hard to find at a time when smaller defensemen who can skate with elite-speed forwards are more and more common.

"He's got high upside, and we're excited to keep working with him," Coyotes general manager John Chayka said. "There's nobody else like him in the organization."

That's saying something, too, because Arizona has selected a defenseman in the first round of the NHL Draft three of the past four years, including Victor Soderstrom with the No. 11 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Bahl had 34 points (six goals, 28 assists) in 68 games for Ottawa of the Ontario Hockey League last season and 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in 15 playoff games.

The Coyotes believe he will be a physical force in the NHL very soon. Bahl is confident they're right about that, but he also expects to show he brings more to the ice than size.

"I know my game, I'm going to be more of a defensive player, a shutdown player," Bahl said. "If that's what they want for me, I'm available. I've done that before, and I'm ready for the challenge.

"Being my size, they think it's your physicality, but you have to be able to move. I'm fast and I'm able to move, and I've got that physical aspect. That's one more thing I have on other opponents."

Bahl said he believes the Arizona organization is perfect for him after the Coyotes finished within four points of qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

"Watching last year, you could see the culture and everything going for this team was amazing," he said. "You could really see the urgency in the team to get there and how hard everybody was battling, and it was pretty cool watching them climb the standings. They had a pretty unique group.

"Even if I'm not there (in the NHL) next year, I want to keep in the back of their heads that I'm coming up, and I'm going to be right at the level coming up soon."

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