GLENDALE – The Coyotes dropped the puck on their 2015-16 Training Camp on Friday at Gila River Arena with three separate skates to accommodate the 63 players on the roster.
Antoine Vermette took the ice with the first group to skate at 9 a.m. It was a homecoming for the 33-year-old center whom Arizona traded to Chicago last March just before the NHL Trade Deadline. Vermette, of course, went on to win the Stanley Cup as a member of the Blackhawks.
“It’s exciting,” Vermette said after his first skate since returning to the Coyotes as an unrestricted free agent this summer. “It feels like home, definitely. I’m glad to be back. It’s fun to be back in action with the guys and to get going again.”
|Antoine Vermette. Photo by Norm Hall. |
Vermette’s off-season was much shorter than his teammates but he said he’s ready to go and he’s not feeling complacent having just won the Cup a few months ago.
“You definitely want to do it again,” Vermette said. “There’s no place for (complacency)… It’s a very rewarding feeling when you get the chance to do it, with that being said you want to reproduce it and do it again.”
Vermette notched 53 goals and 58 assists in 215 games with the Coyotes before the trade. He will enter the season with the second-longest active consecutive games played streak in the NHL at 475 behind Andrew Cogliano (622).
► Fans at the early skate also were treated to seeing captain Shane Doan take the ice to start his 20th NHL training camp.
“It doesn’t feel like that many,” Doan said. “They come and go fairly quickly. You sure appreciate them now.”
|Shane Doan. Photo by Norm Hall. |
He added, “I’m excited to play. The best part of our game is the compete and the emotion that goes into it and being able to get out there with guys who are so talented and so good and compete against them and test yourself against them. You don’t get that anywhere else in the world… As long you get the chance to do it, I’m going to keep doing it and enjoy doing it.”
Doan needs just two points to reach 900 in his NHL career. Only one other player in franchise history has reached that mark: Dale Hawerchuk (929).
► While Doan was taking part in his 20th first day of training camp, first-round draft pick Dylan Strome enjoyed his first.
G.M. Don Maloney said Strome impressed the staff greatly in the two Rookie Games at LA earlier this week and, as a result, likely will get a longer look at camp than first anticipated.
|Dylan Strome. Photo by Norm Hall. |
“He’s a really intelligent, clever player and all he does is score points and help teams win wherever he is,” Maloney said. “I’m not getting ahead of myself. We’ve got another few days of practice and then we’ve got preseason games, but he’s done well for himself. He is a guy that people shouldn’t forget about.”
Tippett liked what he saw in LA from the third overall pick in this year’s draft, too.
“His skill, anticipation, stickwork (and) just his poise with the puck is really strong,” Tippett said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
► With pal Mike Smith on the ice at the same time, defenseman Nicklas Grossmann – one of several NHL veterans to join the team - made his first appearance as a member of the Coyotes on Friday.
Seeking more size and toughness on the blue line, the Coyotes added Grossmann to the roster via trade in June just a few hours after the draft ended.
Smith and Grossmann were teammates with Dallas under Tippett and in the American Hockey League with the Iowa Stars in 2005-06, early in their journeys to becoming NHL players.
“He’s a big man,” Smith said. “He’s a big Teddy bear off the ice but he’s a big, mean, solid defenseman on the ice. And I think we’ve lacked a little size and grit back there… To have another big body back there that does a lot of things well defensively just stabilizes our 'D' corps.”
► The Coyotes signed defenseman Stefan Elliott to a one-year, two-way contract. Arizona acquired Elliott from Colorado last week in a trade for defenseman Brandon Gormley. He is expected to be on the opening night roster as the seventh defenseman.