"I'm looking forward to it," Kessel said of taking on a leadership role with his new team, according to NHL.com's Adam Kimelman. "I haven't really got to have that in my career. I think it's going to be great. I'm going to do whatever I can to help these guys win and help them improve. (If) the young guys have questions or anything they want to talk about, I'm there to talk about it. Try to get our team better and them better."
Even though he's just 31 years old, Kessel is already a grizzled NHL veteran who's just four games shy of 1,000 for his career. Despite that experience, he's never had a letter on his jersey for an extended period of time - even when he was a face of the Toronto Maple Leafs for six seasons.
"I'm not a rah-rah guy, to say the least," Kessel said. "I just want to be a good guy. Guys can relate to me, and I like to have fun. If they want to talk hockey, I like to talk hockey too. But all in all, just enjoy ourselves first and foremost because if you enjoy yourself you can play your best. Be loose and be prepared to play."
While Kessel is said to be popular with teammates, he's had run-ins with coaches. Former Leafs bench boss Ron Wilson called Kessel "uncoachable" and a reported rift with Pens coach Mike Sullivan was apparently what triggered the end of his tenure in Pittsburgh.
But in Arizona, Kessel will be coached by Rick Tocchet, a former Penguins assistant with whom Kessel had a strong rapport.
"He's going to accept the role of trying to help young guys, take the young guys out for dinner," Tocchet said. "It's a wider range of leadership for Phil coming here because it's a different dynamic, a different team. But I still want him to be who he is. I don't want him to come in here with a hammer and say, 'I'm going to lead these guys.' I just need him to be a calming influence. Because I think he's got some good hockey knowledge that can help the young guys."
General manager John Chayka, who surrendered forward Alex Galchenyuk and defense prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph to land Kessel back in June, is also excited about the presence of the two-time Stanley Cup winner.
"Everyone leads in their own way, and Phil can be a leader in the sense of grabbing young players and talking to them about those situations, what he sees, how he creates offense, how he's done it over a number of years, been one of the most successful guys in the league at doing that," Chayka said. "That was a big part of it. We wanted someone that has Phil's mind for the game and can help our young players in that sense."