Vincent Trocheck, his wife, two kids and two dogs have settled in to their New York life, 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 MSG Training Center in Tarrytown, he said he felt some unexpected jitters mixed in with the excitement.
His excitement, however, was seemingly the primary emotion Trocheck exuded. Stepping right into the No. 2 center role next to one of the most dynamic wingers in the NHL in Artemi Panarin will do that to a player. The fact that head coach Gerard Gallant already bestowed the opening spot on the top power-play unit, which was vacated by Ryan Strome, to Trocheck certainly added to the thrill.
“It’s a really cliché answer to say I’m really excited to play for this team, but I do 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 we do,” said Trocheck, who signed a seven-year deal with the Rangers as a free agent this offseason. “Getting to play with a few players in this room that are just spectacular hockey players and such high firepower, I am next-level excited.”
Rangers brass got its first look at Trocheck and Panarin during the team scrimmage, in which the newly forged duo skated with Vitali Kravtsov and spent a lot of time competing against the Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad-Sammy Blais unit. The lines will likely be jumbled several times over as camp and preseason unfolds, but Trocheck revealed during his introductory press conference that playing next to Panarin was discussed before he even signed for $39.375 million.
Trocheck said he already started picking Panarin’s brain, finding out his tendencies and figuring out what the two expect from one another.
“I played against him for a lot of years,” Trocheck said. “Sometimes, you’re playing against him, sitting on the bench and kind of just sit back and watch as a fan. It’s kind of crazy to watch the stuff that he does out there. Things that I wouldn’t even think about doing.
“He’s a special talent and I see myself out there getting passes that I’m not even ready for because he just gives them to you when no one’s expecting it. Fun to play with.”
Gallant, who coached Trocheck for parts of three seasons in Florida, pointed out that the 29-year-old played on the Hurricanes’ top power-play unit last season, collecting 12 points with the man-advantage. The season before that he racked up 18, the second most of his career next to the 27 he posted in 2017-18.
Highlighting Trocheck’s deflection skills and shot from the slot, Gallant sounded confident in his ability to replace Strome on a power-play unit that had a lot of success last season.
“He’s a good hockey player,” Gallant said. “He plays a 200-foot game, he kills penalties, he plays power play. He’s a competitive guy, he’s a fiery guy. He really wants to win hockey games. I like him. He’s a good, talented player. When I had him he was a young kid in Florida and his game has developed really good.”
The last time Trocheck transitioned into a new team it was in the middle of the 2019-20 season, when the Panthers traded him to Carolina at the trade deadline. Having time to settle and get acclimated with the team this time around has been beneficial, he said.
Plus, captain Jacob Trouba gave Trocheck a warm welcome with an invitation to a Harry Styles concert at Madison Square Garden this summer. The Rangers hope Trocheck can put on a show of his own on the Garden ice.