GLENDALE -- After earning a spot on the Coyotes’ roster out of training camp last season, forward Lucas Lessio is looking for a repeat performance, with the ultimate goal of sticking with the NHL club this time.
Lessio came into last season’s rookie camp having played just five games at the professional level with the Coyotes’ American Hockey League affiliate in Portland, but after an impressive camp it appeared Lessio could be on the fast track to the NHL as he found himself in the opening night lineup for the Coyotes.
But after just three games and two penalty minutes, Lessio found himself on the way back to Portland where he played the rest of the season.
“Last year I was fortunate to get that chance to make that Opening Night roster, but at the end of the day I didn’t succeed and I didn’t stay up there,” Lessio said on Saturday, after the first day of Rookie Camp. “…So, this year it’s about making the Opening Night roster for one, and if that happens just staying there is another key.”
After Lessio was sent to Portland, he enjoyed success at the AHL level, finishing second in scoring among all Pirates with 29 goals and 25 assists for 54 points in 69 games, including a stretch of 12 points in 12 games in the month of March.
Lessio added that while it’s always disappointing to get sent down, he thinks the move was a blessing in disguise.
“I thought the American League was a great developmental league for me,” Lessio said. “That year really, really helped me a lot. So, hopefully that experience I got last year will help me coming into this camp right now.”
|Lucas Lessio (right). Photo by Norm Hall. |
Turning the page to this season, Lessio knows that the next opportunity for him to make an impact at the NHL level is on the horizon.
General Manager Don Maloney and Head Coach Dave Tippett talked at length on the first day of rookie camp about the ample opportunities that could be available to some of the young prospects, and Lessio is in a small group of players who is being even more closely evaluated to see if they’re ready for the next level.
Tippett spoke after Saturday’s on-ice session about Lessio and what he’s looking to see from him during this week’s rookie camp.
“He was a dynamic player down there (in the AHL),” Tippett said. “The biggest thing with Lucas is that he has to figure out that dynamic of not just playing high-tempo, where he can grab the puck and go forward, but he has to be able to play with other players, play in a structure where everyone can fit into, and young players sometime struggle with that to start. But he’s a year older and hopefully those areas have improved for him.”
Lessio says that he’s not going to let the talk of potential roster spots being up for grabs change his work ethic or how he’ll approach this camp.
“For a player, if there’s zero spots or if there’s 12 spots, you’re obviously going to come in here and give it the best you’ve got,” Lessio said. “So, I don’t think it really changes much, but it’s good to know your hard work could possibly be rewarded in terms of having a job here.”