The newest member of the Pittsburgh Penguins had a message for assembled media after skating with his teammates for the first time Thursday.
Kessel was acquired by the Pens in a blockbuster summer trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Kessel spent the summer training with fitness guru - and one-time Penguin - Gary Roberts, and it was reported earlier in the week by Canadian media that the right winger, one of the best goal scorers in the NHL, dropped 13 pounds.
"Same as I've always been," Kessel denied. "Maybe a little bit."
Kessel's listed at 6-feet and 202 pounds on the NHL's website.
Roberts chimed in, too, but said it wasn't about a number on the scale, and more about the time and effort Kessel put in, especially as he ages and approaches 30 (he'll be 28 on Oct. 2).
Is he lighter? I know he’s lighter. We weigh him in. I’m not going to get into if he thinks he lost weight or not. It really doesn’t matter. The fact is he was there. He was part of the program. I think he’s prepared for a good year in Pittsburgh.
I think Phil is at a stage in his career where he’s 27 years old. He realizes that he needs to do more than just be a hockey player to be successful.
I think everybody in general is seeing that at (age) 30 a decline in players’ performance if they’re not doing the right things off the ice. I think Phil recognizes he needs to do a little more off the ice in order to keep him healthy and to give him (a chance) to be an elite player for a long period of time. I think he’s leaner. I think he’s in better condition than he’s been.
Roberts speaks from experience. His commitment to fitness kept him in the league much longer than anticipated, and he was a 20-goal scorer at 40.
Kessel admitted he changed his eating habits.
I think I ate a little healthier this summer. Training-wise, I don’t think I did anything crazy different or anything like that. Gary’s a great guy, and I had a lot of fun there.
Just ate kind of different meals. Nothing really changed that much to be honest.
Roberts added that Kessel's agency reached out to him three weeks before he was traded by the Leafs - this was the plan all along, for Kessel to commit more to his fitness and conditioning.
Roberts thinks Kessel will do big things in Pittsburgh, where he's expected to play with Sidney Crosby. And Kessel's on the same page.
"I expect to do well here," he said.