Phil Kessel is looking to contribute in new ways as he begins his tenure with the Arizona Coyotes.
Kessel, who will turn 32 the day before Arizona begins its 2019-20 campaign, told NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman he is “looking forward to” taking on a leadership role with his new team.
“I haven’t really got to have that in my career,” Kessel said. “I think it’s going to be great. I’m going to do whatever I can to help these guys win and help them improve. [If] the young guys have questions or anything they want to talk about, I’m there to talk about it. Try to get our team better and them better.”
“He’s going to accept the role of trying to help young guys, take the young guys out for dinner,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet, who coached Kessel in Pittsburgh, told Kimelman. “It’s a wider range of leadership for Phil coming here because it’s a different dynamic, a different team (than the Penguins). But I still want him to be who he is. I don’t want him to come in here with a hammer and say, ‘I’m going to lead these guys.’ I just need him to be a calming influence. Because I think he’s got some good hockey knowledge that can help the young guys.”
The two-time Stanley Cup winner, three-time All-Star and 2007 Masterton Trophy winner said he plans to lead by example.
“I’m not a rah-rah guy, to say the least,” Kessel told Kimelman. “I just want to be a good guy. Guys can relate to me, and I like to have fun. If they want to talk hockey, I like to talk hockey, too. But all in all, just enjoy ourselves first and foremost because if you enjoy yourself you can play your best. Be loose and be prepared to play.”
“Everyone leads in their own way, and Phil can be a leader in the sense of grabbing young players and talking to them about those situations, what he sees, how he creates offense, how he’s done it over a number of years, been one of the most successful guys in the league at doing that,” Arizona general manager John Chayka told Kimelman. “That was a big part of it. We wanted someone that has Phil’s mind for the game and can help our young players in that sense.”
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Kessel’s 82 points last season (27 goals, 55 assists) tied for the second-most in a season for his career. He was traded to Arizona on June 29 with Dane Birks and a 2021 fourth-round draft pick for center Alex Galchenyuk and prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph.
“You never know you’re going to get traded, (but) you can always sense when your time maybe has come to an end,” Kessel said. “I had a great four years there (in Pittsburgh). But I’m really looking forward to the opportunity in Arizona, looking to prove myself again, show people what I’ve got. You always want to prove yourself and have a good year and have a big year, and hopefully we can do great things.”
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