Arizona feeling like home for hard-working Carcone
27-year-old Michael Carcone is having a breakout season with the Arizona Coyotes in his first full-time NHL campaign.
Feature photo: Getty Images
Not a day goes by where Michael Carcone does not reflect upon his journey to the NHL.
The path that has led him to a full-time, leading role as a member of the Arizona Coyotes was hardly a traditional hockey route.
Going undrafted would be the first of many obstacles in Carcone’s nomadic hockey life.
“It is certainly not like most guys that make it to the NHL,” Carcone told NHLPA.com. “There are moments when you wonder if you will ever make it here, but you always hold on to that hope.”
The 27-year-old forward, who hails from Ajax, Ontario, just east of Toronto, signed a three-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks in July 2016 as a free agent.
Over the next few years, he suited up with several American Hockey League affiliates but despite his strong play at the AHL level, finding stability in a hockey city to call home proved elusive for Carcone.
In 2021, however, his fortunes would change.
On Feb. 5 of that year, Carcone was loaned to the Tucson Roadrunners, the AHL affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes.
The forward made an immediate impact in Tucson. In 35 games, he scored 15 goals and totaled 25 points.
“Hockey is always about being able to contribute, doing what you can to help the team find success. The more you can do that, the more confidence you have,” said Carcone.
That belief in himself soon paid dividends.
Carcone got his first taste of NHL hockey during the 2021-22 season when he skated in 21 games with the Coyotes. His first NHL goal came on March 25, 2022, against Calgary after his debut Dec. 28, 2021.
“That first game was everything that I dreamed it would be. To finally get that chance, it was so amazing to take that all in and enjoy every second of it.”
Carcone appeared in nine games with Arizona in 2022-23 and 65 games with the Roadrunners, where he recorded 31 goals and 85 points to earn the John B. Sollenberger Trophy as the AHL’s leading scorer.
This June, he signed a two-year contract extension with the Coyotes. The deal included an invitation to Arizona’s training camp, his first opportunity in two years.
He would make the most of it and then some.
Through his first 32 NHL games this season, Carcone has recorded 14 goals, tied for the team lead in the category, along with 19 points.
“Everything really clicked when I played those 21 games a few years ago, just knowing that I could play. There was doubt at some points, but once I met the guys and played a bit, I realized how special the room was and how everything just seemed to fit.”
October 30, he scored his first NHL hat trick in a win over Chicago.
“Knowing that I could play, that I could hang with players like Auston Matthews, Nathan MacKinnon and other top guys, that I could be on the same ice sheet as them – it is a great feeling.”
Seven-year NHL veteran Alex Kerfoot had lofty praise for his teammate.
“Michael is an elite scorer and has elite speed,” said Kerfoot. “He’s a hard worker who has earned everything he’s got.”
Although Carcone might have reason to have a chip on his shoulder or an “I told you so” attitude, it is quite the opposite.
Instead, the father of two is grateful for the chance to skate amongst the best players in the world and to share the experience with his family.
“I think the most rewarding part is sharing this moment with my kids,” said Carcone.
“When you have kids, it’s kind of cool – my kids are two and four – to have them at the game and share the moments with them. To see them at the glass during warmup and all the guys saying hi to them, it makes me happy to see that. Obviously, family is very important.
That sentiment extends beyond his own home.
Carcone has not forgotten the sacrifices his parents made to help him fuel his love for the game and further his hockey career.
“My parents were young when they had my oldest brother. My dad was working two jobs to make ends meet. He owned his own business when I was growing up and to see his work ethic, how he worked so hard to help us have a good life, it means more and more as you get older, and you appreciate everything that was done for you. All three of us, my brothers and myself, were playing rep hockey, which is very expensive. My mom and dad did everything they could for us.”
They also gave Carcone and his siblings an abundance of advice over the years.
“Working hard was always the main thing, the one thing that you can always control. That is something that stayed with me and kept me driven.”
Life could not be much better than it is for Carcone.
“I don’t take any of this for granted. It’s a blessing. I have been with four or five organizations, and this is the first one that feels like home for us. It makes a huge difference when you feel wanted and that’s how I feel.”