GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Kevin Bahl could not have predicted the NHL evolving into a league so predicated on speed, but a decision the 18-year-old defenseman made when his teenage years began proved critical in his ability to keep pace at Arizona Coyotes development camp in June.
"Being 6-[foot]-6 gives you more natural ability in terms of reach, height, but the biggest thing with being that big is you've just got to keep on working on mobility," said Bahl, selected by the Coyotes in the second round (No. 55) of the 2018 NHL Draft. "You're bigger so you need to put on more muscle. You need to put more hours in the gym until you're finished growing at 18 or 19. A lot of big guys don't have that. You see the bigger guys in the League that can move, they've got a lower-body base like nobody else."
Bahl, who weighs 230 pounds, never relied solely on size or strength to carry him. He devoted time to mobility, working with skating coach Dawn Braid in Toronto.
"A lot of young players wait to work on their skating until they go through a growth spurt and then it becomes difficult adjusting to their body," said Braid, who has worked with several NHL players, including Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares. "He was doing the skating during that crucial time.
"One of the big things we run into is stability through the hips. You get a lower, more compact player. You're not dealing with that issue, but when you get that extra height, all of a sudden you're dealing with all this extra leg [push] they've got to bring under the body. You end up having a lot of moving parts and it's more noticeable."
Bahl's combination of mobility and size made him attractive to the Coyotes. General manager John Chayka said his staff had Bahl ranked No. 20 on its draft board.
Video: Bahl Reflects on Draft, Camp
Arizona's system is stocked with the types of smaller, mobile defensemen that are populating NHL rosters.
"It's obviously trending that way, but there's still an element of size and physicality that translates in this game," Chayka said. "We feel he brings that element. We felt like this guy gave us a more diversified approach."
Bahl loves being physical.
"I definitely like to blow up guys once in a while," he said. "When you're being physical, guys don't want to come into the corner with you. They don't want to battle with you. They don't want to get hurt."
Bahl had 18 points (one goal, 17 assists) in 57 games with Ottawa of the Ontario Hockey League last season. He will return to the OHL for at least another season to continue developing his offensive game. He also vows to further improve his mobility.
"If you're a great skater and you're a big guy, there's nothing [opponents] can really do to overcome that," he said. "If every big guy moved like [San Jose Sharks defenseman] Brent Burns or [Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman] Victor Hedman, I don't think you'd see a guy under 6-foot-5 in this league. It would just be a bunch of basketball players out there."