Former Edmonton Oilers defenceman Jordan Oesterle has found a home in the desert

Anaheim Ducks center Carter Rowney (24) shoots in front of Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jordan Oesterle during the third period during an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. Arizona defeated Anaheim 6-1. Rick Scuteri / AP

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GLENDALE, ARIZONA — Under fish that got away, we bring you defenceman Jordan Oesterle.

Not a whopper but a significant one.

Oesterle, 26, is playing 19 minutes a night for one of the most surprising NHL teams, Arizona Coyotes, currently in the second-wild card spot with 13 wins in their last 17 games.

Over the last half of last season he was partnered with Duncan Keith in Chicago before the Blackhawks included him in a deal with Arizona in July 2018, along with Vinnie Hinostroza, so they could dump Marian Hossa’s contract.

He couldn’t make Edmonton Oilers, though. They made no effort to sign him when he became a UFA in 2017 and he signed in Chicago.

“They had (Matt) Benning and basically the same defence they have right now and (Eric) Gryba as their No. 7,” said Oesterle, who signed out of Western Michigan University in 2014, playing for former NHL head coach Andy Murray.

Murray liked him in college.

“His skating’s exceptional, he’s got good vision, he’s a smart player and he competes hard defensively,” said Murray when the Oilers signed him. “He needs to put on a little bit more muscle mass to play in the NHL.”

OK, he didn’t have to do that. He’s 182 with gusts to 185.

“I tried to play one year at just 200 in Edmonton and didn’t feel good for the first month of the season, so dropped that down,” said Oesterle.

He’s made them pay since they let him get away. He got his first NHL goal against his old Edmonton Oilers team and his third and also has one this season in three games and another that might have been going in but pin-balled off Conor Garland’s face and into the net in case you’re keeping score.

He has 11 NHL goals, three against Oilers, and should be on their blue line but the Oilers also didn’t sign puck-mover Erik Gustafsson, who’s in the first defence pair in Chicago. They could use them both, or at least one of them.

“They (Oilers) kind of went a different way with the defence … there was a logjam there,” said Oesterle, who played 25 NHL games over three seasons, but only two in 2016-2017, spending 99 per cent of it in the AHL.

He sat out for most of the first two months in Chicago in 2017-2018 but when he got with Keith he was very good. Joel Quenneville, always tough to please if you’re a kid, liked him. He liked the way his shots got through to the net, felt he was certainly capable defensively, for his size.

“I was kind of shocked I got traded (Arizona) because at the end-of-year meetings, Chicago seemed happy with me and thought I’d take on a larger role but when the dust settled and I saw how they planned on using me here, I was super excited,” said Oesterle, a left-shot D who can play easily play right and who just signed a two-year extension for $1.4 million a year.

“It doesn’t hurt (being able to play both sides) because you can keep playing in games and you look at forwards and if you can play all three positions, that’s valuable,” said Oesterle, who’s played first pairing with Oliver Ekman-Larsson and third with either rookie Ilya Lyubushkin or Jakob Chychrun.

“The one thing I like about Jordan is he can beat a forecheck … I love those kinds of defenceman,” said Arizona coach Rick Tocchet. “They can wheel around the net and don’t have to rim it off the glass. He can beat two guys, pass the puck and be up in the play. Nowadays if you don’t have that sort of player in your lineup, it’s hard to win.”

“If you’re only rimming pucks, you’re just giving it back to (Connor) McDavid and (Leon) Draisaitl, You don’t want to do that.”

His size isn’t a problem at all to Tocchet because that’s the way the game is now.

“They always say a defenceman has to go in first to get the puck, but if it’s a 50-50 battle against (Milan) Lucic — I’m just using him as an example — you have to use your hockey IQ. Look at some of the best defenceman (NHL), they’re smart and they’re quick,” he said.

Tocchet, one of the game’s most competitive, fiery players, would have forechecked defenceman like Oesterle to death.

“Yeah, but different rules in my day. You were allowed to grab guys, but I also wasn’t catching Paul Coffey. Charlie Huddy was my speed,” kidded Tocchet.

E-mail: jmatheson@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @NHLbyMatty

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