ARIZONA COYOTES

Forward Drake Caggiula excited to join Arizona Coyotes’ youthful roster

Dec 23, 2020, 7:45 AM

Arizona Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta (32) reaches out to catch the puck as it gets by Edmonton O...

Arizona Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta (32) reaches out to catch the puck as it gets by Edmonton Oilers left wing Drake Caggiula (91) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

National Hockey League veteran forward Drake Caggiula’s first reaction to signing a one-year deal with the Arizona Coyotes was one of relief.

Caggiula, who was introduced as the newest member of the Coyotes roster on Tuesday, said the offseason seemed especially long this year after the Chicago Blackhawks decided not to tender the 26-year-old a contract in October.

The sixth-year forward said he’s excited to get to the Valley and start working with the team’s roster of young talent.

“Honestly it’s a big relief, it’s a weight off the shoulders,” Caggiula said. “Obviously there was a time period there where not much is happening and you’re kind of wondering what’s the next plan for me to find a new home and a new job and still be able to play the game of hockey that I love.

“It’s obviously a great thing for me and for my family and I’m looking forward to the opportunity and joining an organization with a lot of talented players and a lot of young players to grow with and I’m very excited about the opportunity.”

Caggiula said he’s especially excited to reunite with his former college teammate at the University of North Dakota, Nick Schmaltz, who has been a member of the Coyotes since 2018.

He said that Schmaltz called him over the weekend to give Caggiula the lowdown on the Coyotes organization, which convinced him that Arizona was the right franchise to sign with.

“I asked about the style of play and it seemed like it suited the way that I approach the games. And I had some conversations with [Schmaltz] and just kind of confirmed with him what he thought and he said that I’d be a good fit within the organization with the way that I play,” Caggiula said.

“I’m looking forward to joining the organization and playing a hard-nosed game and an aggressive game as well.”

Caggiula believes the Coyotes cast of young players could serve them well in the coronavirus-shortened season, as they have the energy and wherewithal to withstand such a gauntlet.

He added that the NHL’s plan to hold a 56-game season, down from the league’s typical 82-game setup, will create a special atmosphere around each contest.

“It’s a short season and it just goes to show that every game is important,” Caggiula said. “Everyone’s got to come out of the gates running because if you fall behind the eight-ball early there’s not a lot of time to to catch up.

“So you’re going to feel that playoff atmosphere right from the get-go and teams that are prepared to go early on are teams that are probably going to be there at the end of the year.”

Above all, Caggiula is excited to join a team that plays a brand of smash-mouth hockey that pressures opponents for 60 minutes from blue line to blue line.

He is confident that the Coyotes can contend in the newly-rearranged West division, against teams like Colorado, Las Vegas and St. Louis.

“They play a hard and aggressive game. They play a 200-foot game, and it’s something that I take pride in,” Caggiula said. “There’s tons of talented players on the team and I’m looking forward to being part of that.

“The opportunity to step into this lineup and play a style of hockey that really fits my style is something that I can look forward to.”

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