Peter Chiarelli I’m really proud and excited to announce today the signing of Phil Kessel. He’s agreed to a multi-year contract with us. When I came on board to the Boston Bruins, I talked about adding speed, puck pursuit, offensive skill and offensive grit, and I believe in every sense of those words, that we’ve got someone like that in Phil. I’m real excited to have him on board. I talked to him briefly at Lake Placid and he’s a very fine young man. I’d like to make that announcement and I’ll turn it over to you Phil.
Phil Kessel First off, I am very happy to be a Boston Bruin. It was a tough decision, but I think it was the best decision for me in my hockey career. I’m looking forward to the start of training camp.
Question Can you address your expectations for Phil going into his first training camp here?
Peter Chiarelli We have a certain level of expectation for Phil. He’s got world-class speed and a variety of offensive skills. He’s got things to learn like everyone else has, but we expect for him to compete for a spot and he’s going to make it very, very interesting.
Question In the 1980’s, it was pretty commonplace for teenagers to come in and have an impact and then it sort of stopped. With the new rules last year we saw a lot of rookies, teenage rookies have impact. Do you think the game with the new rules is more conducive to allowing a younger player who lacks experience to come in and be able to shine quicker?
Peter Chiarelli That’s an interesting question. I guess there’s the element of maybe physicality that’s not there as much or the tugging and grabbing. Those that can skate, especially someone like Phil, are able to compete better and not be worn down. I guess that has a part to do with it.
Question Phil what is it that you think makes you ready to take that next step into the NHL versus staying another year at the University of Minnesota?
Phil Kessel I got a chance to play versus pro players in the World Championship this year. I think I adapted well to playing with them, and from that, I think I am able to step in and immediately make an impact this year in the NHL.
Question Phil at what point this summer were you convinced that it was time to leave college and that it was just a matter of getting the numbers right and the conditions right on the contract?
Phil Kessel I’ve always dreamt about playing pro hockey. I never dreamt about being a college player, I always dreamt about playing pro hockey. It just became more clear to me this summer that I wanted to play pro hockey and then it was just a numbers issue I guess.
Question I read somewhere about you being concerned with the opportunity that would be there if you went pro this soon. I’m wondering what elements there were to that decision about opportunity. Was it about making the varsity roster because I heard this was a two-way contract or was it ice time? What were your concerns in making this decision?
Phil Kessel A lot of new people are coming into the Boston Bruins organization. For me it was a good time to step in and try to be a bruin. I think there’s a lot of opportunity there for me to make the team. I’m just going to go into training camp and work as hard as I can to try and make the Bruins squad this year.
Question You were back-and-forth wavering this summer. How hard was this decision? Like you said, you always wanted to play pro, you dreamed about playing pro as opposed to playing college. You must have formed some relationships back in Minnesota. Was it kind of hard to leave those behind or was this just the obvious next step for you?
Phil Kessel It was really hard for me to leave behind because some of my best friends go to Minnesota. Today, I talked to Ryan Stoa and it was hard to tell him that I was leaving because he’s one of my best friends. I’ve grown close to a lot of people there and it was really tough for me to say goodbye.
Question I was wondering if you could give us your reaction to the ESPN The Magazine article which cast you in a less than favorable light.
Phil Kessel That was really tough because that’s not me. It’s hard to deal with, especially in a big publication like that. I’m kind of an emotional person and when something like that comes out about you and it’s not true, it hurts.
Question It seems that as long as we’ve been hearing your name, whether it’s the World Juniors or when you were touring around with the development program and then when it came down to the recruiting war, it seems like everything that has gone on without you has been played out in public to the degree that we really haven’t seen. How tough has it been on you to have all these things going on in public in recruiting that really took place in public more than we ever saw for a college player and this decision that you had to make this summer about whether you were going to stay or go? How tough has it been on you to have so much attention focused on you when you’re trying to make these decisions?
Phil Kessel It’s been pretty tough because I’m not a guy that likes all the big hoopla and all of the attention. If it comes with it, I’ll deal with it. It’s been tough having to deal with so many criticisms and stuff throughout the last couple of years, but I guess I’ve learned to deal with it and I think I deal with it pretty well.
Question How do you expect to go from that level to the expectations and the attention that is going to be focused on you in Boston?
Phil Kessel I’m going to go out and try my best and play as hard as I can, and hopefully, that will be good enough for everyone.
Question Just wondering how you would categorize your year with the Gophers? Obviously from a points standpoint you had a good year. A lot of things went on, on and off the ice with the program. How do you characterize the whole thing?
Phil Kessel I think the year went pretty well. Off the ice I think hurt our team. I guess we dealt with it pretty well. It ended in disappointment. I think that was the year. We won the WCHA title, but you always want to make it to the Frozen Four and it was tough this year to lose in the first round.
Question How about yourself personally? You’re a guy that believes in yourself and your abilities and that there was a sense that maybe you felt like you could have been used more. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
Phil Kessel I thought I had a pretty good year. Maybe there were times when I felt I could have been used more, but I think everyone feels that way. I guess I thought the year went pretty well, just ended on a disappointing note.
Question Peter, going out to see Phil at Lake Placid recently. When you went out there, did you have an idea that would like to try to sign him before that or did you go out there thinking I’d like to see this guy and then make a call then? Did Lake Placid influence what’s happening today?
Peter Chiarelli Well it did, but it certainly wasn’t his on-ice performance. There’s no question there. I wanted to talk to Phil and look him in the eyes, make sure he was ready, motivated and enthused to make the commitment to pro hockey. He came through with flying colors. As I said earlier, he wants to play. He loves to play. He’s enthusiastic on the ice. He competes. But it wasn’t so much the on-ice, because we know what Phil is all about there. We drafted him fifth overall. It’s more his mindset and his willingness to come out and he did.
Question You used an interesting term in your introduction, offensive grit in addition to plain grit. What is offensive grit and how does Phil show that?
Peter Chiarelli His drives to the net. You can drive to the net with world-class speed and on speed alone you can succeed and create chances or you can pursue pucks deep in offensive zones. There’s a level of competition that you can see that someone really wants the puck, or wants to finish that drive, and finish that chance. You can see through that in his speed and skill and that’s what impressed me.
Question I spoke to your coach in Minnesota today, Don Lucia. He was just talking about all the pressure and you handled it last year and he felt that you had a much better second half. Looking back, is there a turning point where you were able to just put everything aside and do your thing on the ice?
Phil Kessel I think the whole year I felt that way. I think I was more comfortable after I came back from World Juniors. Once I was back from the World Juniors, I felt more confidence with my game and I went out and tried to show it.
Question Phil, considering the changes the Bruins have gone through and the performance that they had last season, do you think that makes it more likely that you’ll be able to come in and contribute right away?
Phil Kessel I’m just going to go in there, in training camp, and work as hard as I can and hopefully, I have a chance to make the team and that’s all I’m looking for right now.
Question I was wondering if you have discussed at all or looked into when Phil is in town, his living situation and whether he might live with a billet family or perhaps with someone on the roster or perhaps someone off the roster as a possible mentor for Phil?
Peter Chiarelli I haven’t discussed it with Phil, but it’s something I will discuss in short order.
Question Peter, I was wondering about the timing of the negotiations. Did these negotiations get wrapped up last night? Were you involved with them last night at all?
Peter Chiarelli It was more of a decision making process for Phil. I wouldn’t characterize them as true negotiations, because as you know in the salary cap world, these entry-level contracts, there’s not a lot of leeway. Phil really had to be set in his own mind that he wanted to do this. But it came up right until last night.
Question As a follow up last night, I saw you at the Red Sox game. Were you actually negotiating? Did you do any negotiating while you were at the Red Sox game over the phone?
Peter Chiarelli (Laughs). No, I was trying to call Phil to congratulate him but he was sleeping because he had his wisdom teeth pulled.
Question So you had actually already wrapped it up by the time you went to the Sox game?
Peter Chiarelli Yeah, and the Sox won also, but I guess Phil is a Yankees fan so we’ll have to convert him. Sorry fellas, I let the cat out of the bag.
Phil Kessel Yeah, wonderful.
Question Last year there was a lot of build up towards the whole recruiting process with going to the Gophers. In hindsight, that decision that you made to attend the University of Minnesota, do you think that was the right decision? What did you take from your learning experience playing under Coach Lucia and playing with the Gophers for a year?
Phil Kessel To me, personally, it was the right decision. I’d never regret the decision I made. I had a lot of fun there in Minnesota last year and I made a lot of good friends. I thought we had a good season last year. I would never regret going to Minnesota.
Question As a follow up, what did you take as a learning experience learning from Coach Lucia and playing in the college environment?
Phil Kessel You just have to work hard day-in and day-out and be the player you can be.
Question You’re coming to this city where there is a large deal of media spotlight. Some of the other questioners have asked about that. Do you feel as if you have a responsibility to the public to be a role model?
Phil Kessel Always when you’re in professional hockey or in a professional status, you always feel like you have to be a role model to kids and do the right thing. I think I will have to be a role model out there in Boston and do the right thing.
Question Peter, you mentioned that these first round draft picks there isn’t a lot of movement in terms of the money. First of all, we’re often accused of having unrealistic expectations for kids coming in, so I’d like to know what your expectation is for Phil here, in terms of making the roster, what he can do? And then if he doesn’t make it, what are the ramifications financially if he’s in the A?
Peter Chiarelli Well, as far as expectations on making the roster, as I said earlier, Phil’s got a lot of talent and skill that’s world-class. He’s got some things to learn, but I think he’d admit that too. We expect him to compete for a spot and I hope that he gets a spot, because I’d love to have his skill and speed and as I talked about earlier, offensive grit as part of roster. As to the second part, it’s a two-way contract. If he doesn’t make the team, then he’s got a minor league salary, but that’s what everyone has.
Question When you say everyone has it?
Peter Chiarelli Entry-level players.
Question Is that a standard percentage of the contract or is that a negotiated amount?
Peter Chiarelli It’s negotiated, but the variance is quite small.
Question When did you call Coach Lucia? If you could just talk a little bit about how that conversation went.
Phil Kessel I called him this afternoon to tell him that I was turning pro. I thought it went pretty well. He wished me good luck and we just basically had a nice little chat.
Question Peter, just curious, obviously Dave Lewis is going to determine the line assignments. In your mind, what kind of role do you see Phil playing right away this year? Do you see him getting major minutes up on a scoring line or can you see the team taking him along a little slower maybe not quite as many minutes right away if he makes the team.
Peter Chiarelli I’d have to see how he adapts and starts. I expect him to make strides along the way. I can’t answer that now. A player of his caliber, and projection and ability, you’d expect to play on the top two lines, but you also have to remember his age and his inexperience. He’s overcome a lot and his skill and his speed and his talent will help him along the way. I really can’t give you a definitive answer on that.