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Summer with Stanley

Tocchet ready for challenge of coaching Coyotes after day with Cup

Former Penguins assistant looking forward to task of molding young talent into winning team

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J . -- Rick Tocchet has been coach of the Arizona Coyotes since July 11, but Sunday felt like his unofficial final day with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Tocchet, who hosted a Stanley Cup party with friends and family at the Wild Wild West at Bally's Hotel and Casino, had been an assistant with the Penguins the previous three seasons.

"It's a hard feeling because I love that organization, had a lot of success there, a ton of friends," he said of leaving the two-time Stanley Cup champions. "But it's closure for me. Now I'm an Arizona Coyote. Now it's time to really put my thoughts and try to be part of that organization."

With the start of training camp a little more than two weeks away, Tocchet said he's happy with how things have come together. He's hired John MacLean and Scott Allen as assistants and spoken with every player on the roster. He's also had meetings with general manager John Chayka and owner Andrew Barroway, and started to learn who's who in the organization.

Tocchet said he and his staff have discussed potential line combinations and defense pairings but said training camp will determine how things shake out.

"We played around last week, we had coaches' meetings," he said. "But there's nothing set in stone. I really don't know at this point. That will play itself out. Training camp you want to put stuff together. We want to play fast, so you want to make sure you play fast guys with fast guys."

Video: Elliotte Friedman on the Coyotes hiring Rick Tocchet

Among his fastest guys will be some of his younger players, a group that includes age 22 and younger forwards Max Domi (22), Christian Dvorak (21), Brendan Perlini (21) and Lawson Crouse (20), and top prospects Dylan Strome (20) and Clayton Keller (19).

"I want to help their process to becoming great NHL players," Tocchet said. "When I see the enthusiasm of those guys, watching video of those guys, meeting some of them, these guys are sponges. … We want them, when they come to the rink, to act, play like pros. That's something the coaching staff really has to preach and pass that on to these young kids.

"I like the young kids. Don't get me wrong, I love the older guys too. But it's really nice to be able to mold a team. You look at some of the great [recent] teams, the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, they had a young nucleus and they molded these guys. They stuck with the process. Everybody always says that but I think it's important as an organization that you stick with the process."

Tocchet said it will be more than just the coaches that have to help with the molding, pointing to center Derek Stepan and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, acquired in offseason trades.

Stepan, 27, has seven seasons of NHL experience and helped the New York Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. Hjalmarsson, 30, helped the Blackhawks win the Cup three times (2010, 2013, 2015) in 10 seasons.

Video: Breaking down the 2017-18 Arizona Coyotes

"These guys are like an extension of the staff a little bit," Tocchet said. "We don't have a lot of older guys on the team. I don't want them to put on too much pressure that they have to lead all the time, but what I like about talking to those guys is they're excited about being leaders on this hockey club."

Tocchet also is excited about having another chance to run a team. He coached the Tampa Bay Lightning for two seasons (2008-10), going 53-69-26 in 148 games and missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs in both seasons. He worked in television broadcasting before being hired as an assistant by the Penguins in 2014.

"It's a privilege to coach in this League," Tocchet said. "I didn't know if I would get the opportunity again. I had the best assistant coaching job in sports with the Penguins. This opportunity arrived, it's a tough decision in some ways, and in some ways it isn't because to be a head coach in the NHL is a privilege. I owe a lot to the organizations of the Coyotes and the Penguins for getting me this job."

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