Courtesy of Point Park University

Kessel ‘very excited’ to join Coyotes, Tocchet


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Phil Kessel. -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Phil Kessel is moving from a team that won Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017 to one that hasn't made the playoffs in the past seven seasons and has made it past Round 1 of the postseason just once since relocating from Winnipeg to Arizona in 1996.

And he seems genuinely happy about it.

Not necessarily that he's pleased to leave the Penguins, who dealt him, minor-league defenseman Dane Birks and a fourth-round draft choice to the Coyotes for forward Alex Galchenyuk and defense prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph Saturday.

Fact is, Kessel spoke quite warmly of his four seasons with the Penguins.

"I had a great time there," he said. "The city and the fans were great to me. All the guys, I'm going to miss them. They're great guys, and a great group.

"I have a lot of good memories. Two Cups. ... There were a couple of years there, I'll remember those forever, and those guys."

His fond recollections of the championships and his teammates aside, Kessel seems uncharacteristically enthused about playing in Arizona, where the Coyotes have been collecting young talent for several years and seem poised to make a move in the Western Conference.

"I'm very excited to be part of the Coyotes," he said. "I'm looking forward to doing great things in Phoenix. ... They're a good up-and-coming team. I think they have a lot of great pieces in place, a lot of good players. I'm looking to try to help them along and take the next step."

Kessel said he was teammates with Arizona defenseman Alex Goligoski, another Penguins alum, at the University of Minnesota, but he doesn't have any particular relationships with anyone else on the Coyotes' roster.

One guy he does know is coach Rick Tocchet, with whom he grew close when Tocchet was an assistant with the Penguins.

"I'm excited that he's going to be my coach," Kessel said. "Obviously, he's a friend of mine. He's a great coach and a good person. I want to help him succeed."

Tocchet's prospects for doing that should be enhanced if Kessel produces points at his customary pace. The Coyotes were offensively challenged in 2018-19 when Kessel, in what was considered a somewhat disappointing season, put up 27 goals and 55 assists in 82 games.

Those 82 points are 35 more than the Coyotes' leading scorer, center Clayton Keller, generated.

"I think it's a good fit for me," Kessel said. "I think we can take the next step. You watch them last year, they were a good team. They're just improving, and I want to be part of this organization."


[caption id="attachment_849203" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Phil Kessel -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

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