The Coyotes' power play dazzled from the outset Saturday afternoon as the team's prospect pool opened the 2019 Anaheim Rookie Faceoff tournament with a 5-4 loss to that of the San Jose Sharks at Great Park Ice in Irvine, CA.
Showcased early -- and often -- was the grouping of Brayden Burke, Nick Merkley, Barrett Hayton, Tyler Steenbergen, and Victor Soderstrom - of whom operated together as the roster's top power play unit.
BOX SCORE: ARI (4) vs. SJ (5) - GAME #1
Steenbergen scored twice on the man advantage in the first period as a result of the unit's cohesive work.
Forward Jan Jenik , the Coyotes' third round selection from the 2018 NHL Draft, added two goals of his own, first on a redirect from a Cam Dineen shot late in the second, his encore tally coming via a solo drive to the net midway through the third.
San Jose struck twice in a 1:09 span in the first period off of caromed pucks and rallied for three goals in a 4:30 timeframe early in the third period.
Soderstrom finished the day tied for the team lead in shots with five. Hayton, Merkley, Burke, and Dineen each finished the afternoon with an assist. Steenbergen, credited with the assist on Jenik's second goal, recorded a team-high three points (2G, 1A).
Erik Kallgren stopped 28 of the 33 shots he faced.
Victor Soderstrom, on playing in his first rookie tournament game:
"It was a good experience, I think I had an alright game, I had a lot of shots, should've scored some goals, but I thought our power play played well, we scored some goals there. Overall, I think it was a good first game."
Soderstrom, on quarterbacking the top power play unit:
"You want to start the game off simple to get into things. We had a good power play, both me and my linemates had a lot of chances there, so I think that's where I was able to create the most this game. That's where I'm comfortable and that's the kind of player I think I am, I think I am that kind of defenseman that should be creating offense to help the team."
Jan Jenik, on his overall thoughts of the tournament opener:
"I think it was a pretty good game from both sides, I thought we did a pretty good job, they just had a little more luck today, and we expect to do better tomorrow. I think we were a little too excited for the first game of the season and our coaches were trying to just make our game simplified and aggressive, hard on the forecheck, backcheck, and stuff like that."
Jenik, on the personal and team strengths from the game:
"I like the way I'm playing when I'm in front of the net, be a little bit annoying, and try to do those things that create scoring. I think our goalie played really well, he kept us in the game many times. We have to play an aggressive game; forechecking and a lot of skating."
Tyler Steenbergen, on how he viewed the game from start-to-finish:
"I thought we came out strong, everyone was moving their feet and we were sticking to our system. I think our whole game in general was a little inconsistent, we had some really good highs, and we had some lows. We took about five minutes off [in the third period] and that cost us the game, we were trying to climb back the rest of the way. Moving forward, we've just got to stay consistent the entire time and stick to what we know, we'll be fine."
Steenbergen, on the power play's performance:
"We got out there early and we stuck with it, we had some good puck movement, and for me, I was just trying to survey the ice and get into those little spots where those other guys can feed you, [Burke, Hayton, Merkley, and Soderstrom] they're all unbelievable playmakers and unbelievable passers, so if I put myself in those positions where they give me those nice, easy little passes, I should be able to put them in. It was a good start to the camp for our power play."
Steenbergen, on where he sees room for improvement:
"Playing to our systems, I know we're not all familiar with it all, there's a bunch of new guys in here, so learning the systems in three days is pretty tough. I think if we can dial that in we'll be better, that was our biggest thing, we weren't playing as a whole unit out there at times, so if we dial that in I think we'll be good to go the rest of the tournament."