‘Ice rink, dining hall, back to the rink’: Coyotes rookies all business in Vegas

Sep 7, 2018, 6:38 PM

Los Angeles Kings' Adrian Kempe, left, is pressured by Arizona Coyotes' Kyle Capobianco during the ...

Los Angeles Kings' Adrian Kempe, left, is pressured by Arizona Coyotes' Kyle Capobianco during the second period of an NHL preseason hockey game Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

SCOTTSDALE – The Arizona Coyotes are headed to Las Vegas, but not for a typical weekend getaway. The team is flying deeper into the desert with one focus: hockey.

“Ice rink. Dining hall. Back to the rink,” said Tucson Roadrunners coach Jay Varady, who is coaching the Coyotes in Las Vegas.  

The Coyotes are scheduled to take part in the inaugural Vegas Rookie Faceoff this weekend, an opportunity for the team’s prospects to face NHL competition and show why they deserve a spot on the regular-season roster.

“The things I’m looking for is, I’m looking for players who compete,” Varady said. “I’m looking for players who make plays, and I’m looking for players to grow throughout the course of the week.”

The weekend event will host six NHL teams and their prospects, who will each play a three-game schedule. In place of a traditional rookie camp, this Rookie Faceoff provides a way for teams to see their prospects play in real-game situations, against a comparable level of competition.

The Coyotes will compete in Vegas with other Western Conference franchises: the Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights.

Coyotes defenseman Kyle Capobianco, as the lone member of the rookie camp squad with any NHL experience, understands the importance of making an impression in camp.

“Everyone’s excited here. You got a chance to make the team,” Capobianco said. “In the last couple years, one of these guys from camp has made the team.”

This is an especially important slate of games for rookie Barrett Hayton and second-year player Pierre-Olivier Joseph, where a good showing in Vegas could earn them a spot on the regular-season roster.

The Coyotes selected Hayton fifth overall in the 2018 draft, and although he is only 18, the team is betting on the center’s long-term potential.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for me to show what I bring as a player and earn a spot on the team,” Hayton said.

“At the development camp we all got a feel for each other at the practices and the game at the end of the week,” Hayton said. “But I think it’s good to have the culmination of all that and really take it and compete against other teams.”

Joseph, the defenseman the Coyotes selected in the first round last year, is excited to get back on the ice and play alongside new teammates. Having gone through rookie camp before, he knows the process and can help the first-year players adjust.

“Well, it’s always easier when you have one year in the back of your pocket,” Joseph said. “Just seeing the new guys, a bit nervous, we were all like that our first year, so, just showing them the right way and showing them it’s going to be a fun week. Teaching them that it’s all about competing and getting better every day. And we all want to go there and have fun and win as well.”

The Coyotes will face San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim in their three games during the Faceoff, all of whom share the Pacific Division with the Coyotes.

“Tough competition,” Capobianco said. “They’re in our division, all those teams, so we’re going to be playing them for the next 10-15 years, those guys, even in the AHL.”

The four-day event goes from Saturday to Tuesday and is hosted by the Vegas Golden Knights at their practice site, City National Arena.

“It’s always fun to compete against the best prospects from other teams,” Joseph said. “We might play against these guys for the rest of your life, so, it’s good to start young going out there with maybe your next, and future teammates as well.”

Veterans training camp begins Thursday for the Coyotes and their regular season starts Oct. 4 on the road against the Dallas Stars.

“We’re trying to prove that we have the best prospects in the Pacific Division and in the whole NHL, we just want to go out there and compete,” Joseph said.

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‘Ice rink, dining hall, back to the rink’: Coyotes rookies all business in Vegas