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Coyotes' 2021-22 Menu a Buffet of Opportunity

But Tourigny also wants to order up wins

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

Coyotes General Manager Bill Armstrong likes a team with an appetite.

"I (am) asked, 'What type of hockey team did you build?'," Armstrong said, as training camp opened Thursday. "We built a hungry hockey team. Everybody coming through the door has an opportunity to make a positive impact. There are veterans who need contracts next year, there are (AHL) players who want to make the jump. Everybody has something that they're looking to get out of this season, and they're extremely hungry, along with a hungry coaching staff.

"This is all about opportunity. As a player, you've got to be excited about that."

Training camp will run through the club's last preseason game on October 7, when final roster cuts will be made.

Forty-nine players are on the camp roster, comprising 28 forwards, 15 defensemen and six goalies. Only 13 of those players were on the Coyotes roster last season.

André Tourigny is leading his first camp as Coyotes head coach. He has a melting pot of players, and so far, he likes what he sees.

"I've liked the intensity," Tourigny said. "I've liked the energy of the guys, I've liked their smiles and I've liked their attitude. They work hard. They came ready to work and they did it with a smile and a good attitude. So, it's been fun."

The first-year head coach is privy to the Coyotes' long-term, rebuilding plan. However, it doesn't alter his approach to winning.

"I have no clue how to coach not to win," Tourigny said. "Every game we play to win. (This year) it won't be any different. I know we have a lot of players who have a lot of pride, and they want to prove everybody wrong. That's the mindset we have."

Defenseman Jakob Chychrun is coming off a career year in 2020-21, in which he scored 18 goals and 23 assists to record 41 points, shattering his previous career high number.

"I feel good," Chychrun said. "I was playing the last 20 games last year with a hurt wrist, so I had to get that fixed. I'm feeling good. I'm definitely excited to get going. I know it was a shorter summer this year, but it actually seemed like it was going by pretty slowly. It's just nice to be back. I'm really excited to meet a lot of the new faces here."

Chychrun, 23, surprised many last year when he led NHL defensemen in goal-scoring. He feels this Coyotes team can create other surprises. 

"I think we have a real opportunity to turn some heads this year and surprise some people," Chychrun said. "We're really starting to change the culture here and develop that winning mindset. We're obviously a few years out from being where we want to be, but it all starts this year. We can come together as a group and develop our long-term plan."

Like Chychrun, power forward Lawson Crouse also is entering his sixth season with the Coyotes. But in a way, it's a fresh start for the 24-year-old.

"It's a chance to make new friends, new teammates," Crouse said. "All of the new guys here have been great. There are only a handful of us here from the previous years, but a lot of the guys have been here for a handful of weeks already, and it's good to see them getting together and chatting and getting to know each other outside the rink. It's been awesome." 

The Coyotes acquired many key veterans this season, including: forwards Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson, Andrew Ladd and Antoine Roussel, and defensemen Anton Stralman and Shayne Gostisbehere. Beagle and Ladd each have Stanley Cup rings; Roussel has two Finals appearances. 

"There are a lot of veteran guys coming in; guys who have won Stanley Cups, guys who have played a lot of hockey and know what it takes to get there," Crouse continued. "I think that's going to be very beneficial for our group, especially for the young guys coming in and for us returning guys who are going on our third, fourth, fifth, and sixth years. When you have these older guys who have played a lot of hockey and won key situational games, I think that's what we need. I think it's going to be really good."

Christian Fischer, also entering his sixth season with the Coyotes, spoke about the changes.

"Change is scary," Fischer said. "But it's fun to see new faces and new personalities, a new coach, pretty much 'new' everything. It's fun. You get to be a part of something and build something from the ground, from step one."

Fischer likes Armstrong's "hungry team" label. 

"I think it's 100 percent spot on," he said. "We've got a lot of young draft picks and AHL guys, with a lot of roster spots open. For players like myself, who are in the middle of their career, it's a big opportunity. Then there are the veterans, who may only have one more year left on their contract. There's not a person in the room who should be complacent with their situation. There's everything to be had, and that's such a unique situation. 

Fischer continues: "You don't get that opportunity a lot in the NHL to move up two lines, or move up to the power play, or simply claim a roster spot. Usually there are only one, two or three open roster spots open each year on a team, and it can be pretty tough when you're coming to a camp with 60 players. So, it's exciting. Bill's right, we should be a hungry team. We have a lot of veteran guys who know how to play in this league, who have won in this league, and a lot of guys who are entering their fifth, sixth or seventh year. And then there are a lot of guys who are just coming in. So, in my head, it's a very good mix, and we should gel together. Everyone wants something and it seems to be one goal."

Photos Credit: Kelsey Grant - Arizona Coyotes

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