Arizona Coyotes: Training camp begins with new faces

The Arizona Coyotes began their training camp today under the tutelage of head coach Rick Tocchet. The team invited 55 players to participate in the camp.

Reporting from Gila River Arena

The players were split up into Team A and Team B, with Team B out first, working on drills from 9 am for an hour. Then Team A got out on the ice and a scrimmage game began. This differed from former head coach Dave Tippett’s camps. Tippett’s first day of camp consisted of drills and rushes down the ice. Tocchet had the one team do drills, and the other team came out for a scrimmage game.

I’m sure players prefer that format because drills are boring and they are all there to win a job on the club. This indicates that Tocchet being a former player knows how players think and what motivates them.

Playing in a game… even a scrimmage game. They played two periods, with two referees and one linesman. No penalties were called, and just icing and offsides were whistled down. There were some missing faces from the first day of camp. Clayton Keller, Louis Domingue, Tobias Rieder, Brendan Perlini, Nick Cousins, Alex Goligoski, Luke Schenn and Ryan MacInnis were not at this session as they were part of Team C.

It was interesting to view Tocchet’s approach on the ice instructing players as to what he wanted to be done. He is definitely the man in charge and is part of the extreme make over this team underwent over the summer. It was fans first look at Tocchet as well as new players Niklas Hjalmarsson, Antti Raanta, and Derek Stepan.

In the drills, it was apparent that Derek Stepan is an outstanding skater, and passes and shoots with the best of them. Antti Raanta also showed some signs of quickness and vision on the ice. Niklas Hjalmarsson was a stable, experienced player in his own zone.

Let the scrimmage game begin

In the first period, Anthony Duclair showed he is trying to recover from his horrendous season last year by scoring a goal. He released a quick wrist shot from the slot area that got by Raanta. It didn’t take long for Kyle Wood to tie the game up with one of his blistering shots from the point. The kid has significant velocity on his shot and is difficult if not impossible to move off the puck.

Stepan showed why he would be a welcome addition to the desert by displaying some awesome skating ability, and net presence. He hung around the net in the second period until the puck wound up on his stick at which point he planted a sneaky backhander by goalie Adin Hill before he could react. Stepan was on a line with Max Domi, and the two seemed to click rather well.

Nick Merkley was playing right wing on that same line and had a couple of good rushes up ice.

Duclair was included on a line with Christian Dvorak since he was not on the same team as Stepan and Domi. He again showed his excellent skating ability when he rushed down the right wing doing a spin-o-rama past the defender. He looks ready to impress this season, and after signing just a one-year $1.2 million contract he realizes he must perform this season.

Another line for the Team B was Dylan Strome, Christian Fischer, and Emerson Etem whom the Coyotes picked up over the summer. Strome seemed invisible at times, having maybe one good opportunity to score. There was nothing notable about his play, which means he really needs to step up his game. If he can’t perform in a training camp scrimmage game, what will he do when the games count?

Tyler Gaudet also tallied a goal in the second period. Gaudet played 62 games on the AHL Tucson Roadrunner’s team last season with six goals and 16 assists to his credit.

Other impressions at the camp included the play of goalie Hunter Miska. He seemed very stable and cool in the crease, which is a good sign for the future of the Coyotes’ goaltending.

Raanta also exhibited a quick glove as he had a player wide open on his glove side, only to rob him of a goal.

Final thoughts

Seeing consistent, fast skating Domi back on the ice was a particular attraction. He’s shaved off his beard after conducting a fundraiser if he did shave it, for his favorite charity diabetes. He was able to collect $70,000 for the charity. Max has a whole new look this season after shaving off the facial hair and getting an entirely new haircut to add to his appearance.

The scrimmage game was great to watch, and it was even more pleasurable to see the boys back out on the ice.

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William Grigsby

I have been a hockey fan since I can remember. I grew up in Chicago, so I followed the Blackhawks.  When I moved to Phoenix, AZ  I became a Coyotes' fan. There's no other sport like NHL hockey!