To start the 2023-24 campaign, the Arizona Coyotes have already faced a myriad of injuries and adversity. Currently, they have Jack McBain and Barrett Hayton out for multiple weeks, which stings considering how much they provide to the team. They almost lost Matias Maccelli for an extended period of time, but it was not as serious as originally thought. On the other side of the puck, they have been without Travis Dermott for the past week and will also be missing Jusso Välimäki for an extended period of time.
With that, the Coyotes have enough depth to hold their ground with the injuries they’ve sustained. They have Josh Brown, although he hasn’t been the best this season, causing turnovers and becoming a liability in the defensive zone. However, Michael Kesselring, who got a look last season and is back up with the Coyotes, is making a case to stay in the NHL. In the two games he’s played this season, he’s shown poise and confidence all over the ice, which is why his stay should be permanent.
Kesselring Had Quite the Journey to the Coyotes
Kesselring’s journey to the NHL hasn’t been smooth sailing by any means. It started with the Des Moines Buccaneers in the United States Hockey League (USHL), where in three seasons he amassed just 36 points in 78 games. Shortly after, his career took a twist as he moved on to the NCAA, playing for Northeastern University. Kesselring spent only two seasons with the Huskies before being drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the sixth round. Clearly, expectations for the defenseman weren’t high, as nobody knows what each prospect will amount to.
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He then jumped into the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Bakersfield Condors to kick off his professional career. He took a step forward with his development and showcased his scoring touch, which wasn’t previously there when he was younger. However, with an extremely competitive Oilers team, he never got a chance at the NHL with them, as they didn’t have room for him on the blue line.
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He was then traded to the Coyotes, where he got the opportunity to showcase his abilities at the NHL level.
Kesselring Brings Sustainbilty to Coyotes’ Defense
For the 2022-23 season, the Coyotes were in the midst of another rebuilding season and didn’t have anything to lose. So, they brought Kesselring up to the NHL to give him a glimpse of what the NHL has to offer. He played just nine games, recording three points, and while he showed skill, there was room for improvement. So, heading into his 2023-24 campaign, there was much uncertainty about where he would play, but it was likely he’d start with the Tucson Roadrunners.
What was assumed took place as Kesselring started the season with the Roadrunners, who are coached by Steve Potvin. In six games, he showed vast improvements and much more poise than last season. Injuries then rattled the Coyotes, and the Manchester, New Hampshire native was called back up to the NHL. So far, he has brought his offensive spark and, for the most part, is making the simple plays the team needs. He’s not forcing plays and is using his height as an advantage.
It’s unclear how long Kesselring will be up with the Coyotes, but he’s certainly going to make his case to remain for the entire season.
What Does the Rest of 2023-24 Look Like for Kesselring?
With Kesselring in the NHL for the foreseeable future, how could the rest of the season pan out for the 23-year-old? The first and most likely option is that once Välimäki and Dermott return, Kesselring will be sent back down to the Roadrunners. This is probably best for his development, too, as he’ll have every opportunity to learn the system even further. It would also be a big win for the Roadrunners as they’d be regaining an experienced defenseman back into their system.
The second is that general manager Bill Armstrong decides that he is ready for the NHL, burning a season off his entry-level contract (ELC), and keeping him up throughout the season. An entire season could allow the staff to dive deep into his play and see what he needs to improve at the NHL level. If things go well, he could be the fifth or sixth defenseman on the Coyotes for the remainder of the season.
Whichever way the Coyotes go, Kesselring has a bright future ahead and is finally getting the shot he deserves in the desert.
Bright Days Ahead for Kesselring
When Kesselring played for the Oilers franchise, he never got a look at the NHL. With the Coyotes, he is getting exactly that chance, and so far, he’s shown why he should stay up in the NHL. Yes, the Coyotes have a multitude of injuries, and Kesselring could find himself back with the Roadrunners. Although he’s shown he can handle the NHL’s pace and speed of play. The young defenseman has a long road ahead of him, but he’s getting his look with the Coyotes and isn’t shying away from it.
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