GLENDALE, Ariz. — When Kyle Capobianco received word from Tucson Roadrunners coach Mike Van Ryn that the Arizona Coyotes had recalled him on Monday, his first two calls went out to his mom, Julie, and his dad, Tony.
By the time he got around to calling his uncle, former Roadrunner goalie Randy Exelby, he was more in control of his emotions.
“You could tell he was trying to be cool, but he was pretty excited,” said Exelby, who lives in the Valley and owns Behind the Mask, a chain of hockey equipment stores. “He asked me, ‘Do you want to go to dinner tonight?'”
Exelby figured the Roadrunners were practicing in town, as they had done earlier this season, but Capobianco delivered the news and the two made plans to eat at their usual spot, Jalapeño Inferno, in Scottsdale.
“The last time we were there it was Taco Tuesday and he had eight giant tacos,” Exelby said, laughing. “Luckily, it wasn’t a Tuesday. He wasn’t too quick to pull out his wallet so I paid — again.”
The Coyotes selected Capobianco with their second third-round pick in 2015 (63rd overall). He was expected to make his NHL debut in Boston when the Coyotes face the Bruins at TD Garden on Thursday.
Capobianco is no stranger to the Valley. He used to come to Arizona every summer to help out at Exelby’s hockey school. During this season’s training camp, he lived with Exelby.
“The only advice I gave him is ‘You’ve worked your entire life to get here so have fun, take in every minute and learn from it,” said Exelby, who played a pair of games in the NHL with Montreal and Edmonton. “Whether he does or doesn’t play it’s about the experience.”
Capobianco was third on the Roadrunners in points as of Thursday with two goals and 12 assists.
“He’s playing really well down there,” coach Rick Tocchet said. “He’s a puck-moving defenseman. He can join the rush. He thinks the game really well — all the attributes of a good defenseman to play in today’s NHL.
“I think it’s important for those guys to come up and travel with us, practice, see the pace of what it takes to be in the NHL.”
Capobianco said Van Ryn has been letting him play his offensive game, but it’s the other side of the puck where the coaching staff has focused.
“It’s the same things all defensemen work on, and especially young defensemen,” he said. “Boxing out and getting sticks up. The guys at the next level are so good at tipping pucks and getting their sticks in the right area.
“I’ve got to dial it in and stick to some details and clean it up a bit.”
Capobianco said he has no great expectations for his first call-up and his first NHL action.
“Just to get a taste of the NHL and have a good showing and hopefully stick around,” he said. “I’m going to try to carry my game up here, do the same things I was doing well down there.”