Coyotes prospect Jan Jenik set for NHL debut in San Jose on Friday
The Arizona Coyotes don’t have much to play in the last two games of the regular season, having been eliminated from the playoffs on Wednesday. But that doesn’t mean these games don’t matter, especially for young players like Jan Jenik.
The 20-year-old center from the Czech Republic is in line for his NHL debut Friday night against the San Jose Sharks in Calif. Raised from AHL Tucson, Jenik was first placed on the taxi team on Thursday.
Injured at two crosses, Nick Schmaltz and Johan Larsson, Jenik received the call. He’s produced 11 points in 27 games at Tucson this season, including a two-goal, three-point game on May 1 against San Diego.
Larsson wasn’t permanently out for Friday’s game, but head coach Rick Tocchet planned to activate the taxi squad ahead of Hudson Fasching and Michael Chaput. Defenseman Victor Soderstrom was also due to play for the Coyotes on Friday for the first time since late January, after which he was sent to Tucson for more playing time.
âI’m really happy and grateful to be able to be here, and I’m really excited,â Jenik said.
Jenik said his game has improved this season, despite all the challenges of COVID protocols and a condensed schedule.
“I feel like everything has improved a lot, not just with the game, but in my lifestyle. I think I’ve grown a little bit more, I’ve become more mature and I think that’s is what helped me a lot, âsaid Jenik, adding that the faster puck movement and working in the defensive zone required the greatest adjustments from the junior level to the pros.
He scored a goal in an intrasquad scrum at training camp in January and was praised by Tocchet for his game.
Jenik is a former third-round pick for the 2018 Coyotes, and he was signed to a three-year entry contract in March 2019. Immediately he showed a talent for scoring.
Jenik played 27 games with Hamilton of the Ontario Hockey League (Canada) for the 2018-19 season and scored 13 goals and 17 assists.
The following season in Ontario, he scored 22 goals and 34 assists in 27 games before an injury while playing for his homeland in the 2020 World Junior Championship tournament ended his season.
âHe’s just a guy who will do anything to be in the NHL,â Tocchet said. “He’s an abrasive kid. He’s a guy who learning center position at this level is going to be tough. That’s why playing him (Friday) and getting him reps is really important.”
Schmaltz has not made the trip and will probably not play again this season. He had 10 goals and 22 assists.
Forward Lawson Crouse (13 points in 51 games) also played his last game of the season with the Coyotes after being injured in the third period on Wednesday. Crouse’s lower body injury could lead to rehabilitation that lasts until the summer.
The Coyotes enter the final game weekend with a number of individuals potentially playing out their contracts. Defenders Jason Demers and Jordan Oesterle were frequent in good health this season and could be directed elsewhere as free agents.
Alex Goligoski and Niklas Hjalmarsson are two defenders who were invaluable to the team for their shot blocking, special teams play and Goligoski’s attack, but both are in their 30s and had two of the top three defenders’ salaries. of the team. season.
Goalkeeper Antti Raanta has been hit with injuries again this season and as a future free agent he might have played his last game in the Coyotes jersey.
Forward Derick Brassard played on a one-year contract, but was an alternate captain this season. And forward Michael Bunting looks set to return with a contract for next season after scoring nine goals in 19 games.
There are also a number of players who are expected to be restricted free agents during the offseason, including Conor Garland, Dryden Hunt, John Hayden and Adin Hill. These players may receive offers from other teams, but the Coyotes have the right to match those offers.
Garland (10 goals, 25 assists in 47 games) and Hill (two shutouts, eight wins) stand out as players who have performed well this season, and Hunt and Hayden have contributed when given the opportunity.
Tocchet said his approach to the last two games has been about individuals trying to work on their game and the team generating an attack.
“People are watching. Who knows where everyone is going to be?” Tocchet said. âSo why not make it look like you’re a guy who doesn’t quit.
“You have to play hard, because if you don’t play hard you might get hurt there.” Tocchet added. âNumber two, some guys have a lot more to play than others. Some guys it doesn’t matter. So as a coach you just hope they show up, play hard … no matter what, it will be after. “