GLENDALE -- The Coyotes will stage their annual weeklong Rookie Camp this week, but this year's version will feature a new twist.
Instead of closing the camp by playing two games vs. the Los Angeles Kings rookies, as was the case the past few seasons, Arizona will take part in a four-team, round-robin rookie tournament in San Jose vs. the Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche.
"If you look across the League now, quite a few teams are doing it," General Manager John Chayka said of the rookie tournament format. "The logic is we can give our players some structure, but for the most part allow them to kind of show what they've done over the summer and show us whether they're ready to make our team or be a big part of the American League or earn a contract. So, the only way to really judge that is to get them to play games. With LA, it was more one-on-one, this is more of a tournament style in some ways so you can get the competition higher and see different looks and see different teams and see other prospects ... The coaches want to see the players play so it'll be a good opportunity to get them more viewings and for the players to get a true opportunity to show what they can do. We're excited to see how it plays out."
The Coyotes have invited 29 players - 19 forwards, eight defensemen and two goalies - to this year's rookie camp, which will begin with practices for two groups on Thursday at Gila River Arena. The first practice is slated to start at 1 p.m. and the second will follow at 2:30 p.m. Fans are invited to attend at no cost, and should enter through Gate 3 and sit in section 111 or 112.
The rookies will practice again, as one group, on Friday at 9:30 a.m. at the Ice Den in Scottsdale before departing for San Jose later in the day.
Once in San Jose, Coyotes rookies will play Anaheim rookies on Saturday (7 p.m.), Colorado rookies on Monday (7 p.m.), and San Jose rookies on Tuesday (3 p.m.). All three games will be played at Solar4America Ice in San Jose, and will be live streamed at ArizonaCoyotes.com.
"It's going to be a lot more fun to play against three teams this year instead of just one," said forward Christian Fischer, who will be appearing at his third rookie camp with the Coyotes. "It was a little repetitive playing the same team (LA) twice in two days. This way we'll get to see three different teams and players will get more exposure in games. I'm excited to get on the ice and get into a game. It's been quite a while since we've done that."
Fischer is just one of three players who skated for the Coyotes in the NHL last season who will attend this camp. Clayton Keller and Dylan Strome are the others. Nick Merkley and Pierre-Olivier Joseph, both first-round draft picks, also will participate.
"This is my first rookie camp so I'm very excited," said Joseph, whom Arizona selected 23rd overall at this year's draft. "I'm looking forward to being with all the guys and working together to have a good showing in the tournament. I'm sure it will be a lot of fun. I'm also looking forward to gaining lots of experience and learning from the guys who are older than me."
Chayka will accompany the rookies to San Jose for the tournament. Arizona's American Hockey League squad's coaching staff - Mike Van Ryn, John Slaney and Steve Potvin - will be behind the bench for the tournament games.
VIEW ROSTER: Coyotes Rookie Camp