Vincent Trocheck, his wife, two children and two dogs settled into their life in New York, but when the veteran center hit the ice with the Rangers – the third team of his nine-year NHL career – for training camp Thursday afternoon at the MSG Training Center in Tarrytown, he said he felt an unexpected nervousness mixed with excitement.
His excitement, however, was apparently the main emotion Trocheck gave off. Stepping straight into the No. 2 center role alongside one of the NHL’s most dynamic wingers in Artemi Panarin will do that for a player. The fact that head coach Gerard Gallant had already given the opening spot in the top power play unit, which was vacated by Ryan Strome, to Trocheck certainly added to the thrill.
“It’s a really cliched response to say that I’m really excited to play for this team, but I feel like it’s a whole different level of excitement that I’ve had coming into the season with a team that’s as good as this and has expectations as high as us,” said Trocheck, who signed a seven-year contract with Rangers as a free agent this offseason. “Having played with a few players in this room who are just spectacular hockey players and such firepower, I’m excited for the next level.”
The Rangers brass got their first glimpse of Trocheck and Panarin during the tag team scrimmage, in which the newly formed duo skated with Vitali Kravtsov and spent a lot of time competing against the Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad unit – Sammy Blais. The lines will likely be shuffled several times during camp and preseason, but Trocheck revealed in his introductory press conference that playing next to Panarin was discussed before he even signed for $39.375 million.
Trocheck said he had already begun searching for Panarin’s brain, uncovering his tendencies, and understanding what the two wanted from each other.
“I played against him for many years,” Trocheck said. “Sometimes you play against him, sit on the bench and kind of sit and watch like a fan. It’s kind of crazy to watch what he’s doing there. Things I wouldn’t even think of doing.
“He’s a special talent and I see myself there getting passes that I’m not even ready for because he just gives them to you when nobody expects him. Fun to play with.
Gallant, who coached Trocheck for a three-year stint in Florida, said the 29-year-old played in the Hurricanes’ top power-play unit last season, recording 12 power-play points. The previous season, he had 18, the second most of his career after the 27 he posted in 2017-18.
Highlighting Trocheck’s deflection skills and his shot from the slot, Gallant seemed confident in his ability to replace Strome on a power play unit that had great success last season.
“He’s a good hockey player,” Gallant said. “He plays a 200-foot game, he kills penalties, he plays on the power play. He’s a competitive guy, he’s a fiery guy. He really wants to win hockey games. I love it. He is a good talented player. When I got him, he was a young boy in Florida and his game developed really well.
The last time Trocheck moved to a new team was midway through the 2019-20 season, when the Panthers traded him to Carolina at the trade deadline. Having time to settle in and acclimate to the team this time around has been beneficial, he said.
Additionally, Captain Jacob Trouba gave Trocheck a warm welcome by inviting him to a Harry Styles concert at Madison Square Garden this summer. Rangers are hoping Trocheck can put on his own show on the Garden ice.