If all goes right, Christian Fischer’s next appearance in Tucson will also be his last.
Fischer, who spent most of the 2016-17 season with the Tucson Roadrunners, is looking to solidify a spot on the Arizona Coyotes’ opening-day roster.
Fischer will return to town Monday when the Coyotes face the Anaheim Ducks in an NHL preseason exhibition at Tucson Arena. The game starts at 7 p.m.
“It was a great season down in Tucson,” Fischer said. “Obviously the first season in a city has a lot of ups and downs, but it was fun. It will be nice to have another game here because it’s been a while for myself.”
In what was somewhat of a tumultuous debut season for the Roadrunners, Fischer served as a consistent presence.
The 20-year-old forward started nearly every game, leading the team in goals before being called up to the Coyotes in late March.
“It was obviously a dream come true to play my first couple NHL games up there,” he said.
Fischer is looking to guarantee himself a spot on the Coyotes roster. So far, so good, as Fischer survived the first round of demotions. The Coyotes trimmed their training camp roster by 11 players Sunday, nine of whom will begin the season with the Roadrunners.
Left wing Michael Bunting headlines the list, having played the season last year in Tucson.
Bunting, who is entering his third year with the Coyotes organization, tied for fifth on the team in points but also led the Roadrunners in penalty minutes.
Right wing Conor Garland is also back with the club after playing 55 games in Tucson last year.
Other players slated to begin the year in Tucson include defensemen Kyle Capobianco, Dysin Mayo, Jalen Smereck, and Joel Hanley, as well as center Lane Pederson and wings Michael Sislo and Jens Looke.
The Coyotes training camp roster now stands at 37 players; only 23 will make the NHL roster.
Goalies Adin Hill and Marek Langhamer, who served as the primary backstops for the Roadrunners last season, are among those fighting for a spot with the Coyotes.
Otherwise, the Roadrunners will feature an almost exclusive slate of fresh faces.
“I think we had one of the youngest teams in the AHL (last season),” Fischer said. “You look at the potential who could be down there and once again it could be really young.”
Among the nine players already slated to begin the year in Tucson, only Sislo and Hanley are above 22 years old.
The influx of youth transcends to the coaching staff. The Coyotes organization ousted Mark Lamb over the offseason and replaced him with Mike Van Ryn, a 38-year old former NHL defenseman. Van Ryn spent the previous season as the Coyotes’ development coach.
The youth wave reflects a Coyotes organization on a rebuilding path.
General manager John Chayka has wasted little time restructuring the club into a younger mold. The Coyotes all but forced beloved veteran Shane Doan into retirement this offseason, a signal that the old realm is out. With that means a host of opportunities for the franchise’s younger prospects, who may soon become familiar names around Tucson.
Monday’s game offers local hockey fans a snapshot of where the Coyotes stand heading into the 2017-18 season, as well as an early chance to become acquainted with some of the franchise’s rising stars.
The Roadrunners start their season with a home game against the San Diego Gulls on Oct. 7.