Kessel on joining Golden Knights: Nice playing for a team that wants to win

Posted: 26/08/2022 in NHL
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New Vegas Golden Knights forward Phil Kessel didn’t give the most glowing review of his tenure with the Arizona Coyotes.

After three seasons with Arizona, he signed a one-year pact with the Golden Knights worth $1.5 million on Wednesday night.

“It’s tough. I came in there in a different direction. They said we were gonna win; we’re gonna try to win and compete,” the veteran said Thursday during his introductory press conference with the Golden Knights. “Obviously, that’s not what happened. It’s gonna be nice playing on a team that wants to win. When you want to win, and everyone on the team wants to win, it’s a different feel and a different vibe.

“Arizona, they had great guys. All the players, they’re great kids. … But when you don’t want to necessarily win and contend, it becomes difficult as a player, especially when you came from Pittsburgh, and I wanted to win.”

Kessel helped the Pittsburgh Penguins capture back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2016 and 2017. The Penguins traded him to the Coyotes in June 2019 as part of a package for Alex Galchenyuk and Pierre-Olivier Joseph.

Since Kessel’s desert debut in 2019-20, the Coyotes amassed a record of 82-105-21 and failed to qualify for the playoffs in the past two seasons. Arizona finished second-last in 2021-22 and mustered a league-worst 206 goals.

Though Kessel put up 52 points in 82 games this past season – his highest total since the 2018-19 campaign with the Penguins – the 34-year-old said he feels as though he has “a lot to prove” after his time in Arizona.

“Obviously, I think, you know, over the last couple of years, you get lost here,” Kessel said. “People don’t view you anymore like you used to be viewed, and I don’t think that’s the case. I’m very motivated to come in here and help this team try to contend. … I think I’m going to have a great year.”

Over his three seasons in Arizona, Kessel ranked third on the team with 42 goals and 133 points in 208 games.

Kessel has also suited up for the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. The fifth overall pick in the 2006 draft, Kessel has 399 goals and 557 assists in 1,204 career games.

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