Thursday, August 26, 2010

OHL GM speaks out on Kings prospects

If you like GMs that aren't afraid to speak their mind, leaders like Dean Lombardi and Brian Burke, then you'll probably love Dave Torrie.

For the last seven years he's been at the helm of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL.  Although he could be described as an Ontario, Canadian hockey lifer, his ties to Los Angeles are extremely strong.  When you look down the list of current Kings prospects, he's played a role in the development of many, including Kevin Westgarth and Jake Muzzin.

Then, there's this guy named Wayne Simmonds.  Torrie was so high on him, he once made a three-for-one swap to acquire him in a 2008 trade-deadline deal. 

There is no doubt Torrie knows his hockey too - he's been a scout, an owner, a coach, a director of player  personnel...and the General Manager of the 'Hounds since 2003.  We covered a lot of ground, so it's best to split this up into two parts. 

First up, let's get some thoughts on a few Kings prospects and that big trade he made to acquire Simmonds...

Late in the '08 season you traded for Wayne Simmonds.  What was it about his game that made you want him for the 'Hounds playoff run that year?

At that time we were one of the top four or five teams with a legitimate shot at the OHL Championship.  We felt Wayne was probably the most impactful player that was going to be available at the trade deadline, so we worked hard to get a deal done. He's a guy who came into the OHL late, but very quickly developed a reputation as an impact player by contributing good offense, along with great aggressiveness and great energy.  Looking at him you thought 'When the games get tough, he'll be the type of player that will help your team win those one goal games.' We paid a big price in the package we sent to get Wayne and we eventually lost in the Conference Final to Kitchener.  But in the end, no regrets. He brought a lot of attributes to our team.

What do you think of his game today, has it progressed like you thought or is there still some upside left?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Welcome to LA - 10 Tidbits on Willie Mitchell

It's been an interesting summer for the LA Kings in terms of roster moves.

While the July headlines were dominated with news on various left wingers, August will certainly be remembered as the month of D.

Just weeks after word surfaced that Matt Greene could possibly be out until November recovering from a shoulder injury, the Kings once-deep prospect pool suddenly thinned as reports indicated Colten Teubert and Vyacheslav Voinov were hurt as well and would not be ready to start the season.

Enter Willie Mitchell.  Earlier today the Kings signed the unrestricted free agent to a two-year contract...beating out the San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals among others.

Here are 10 Tidbits on the rugged defenseman...

* Mitchell was voted the Vancouver Canucks best defenseman in the spring of 2008 and 2009. He wasn't able to achieve the hat-trick this year after being forced to miss the second half of the season due to a hit from the Penguins Evgeni Malkin in mid-January.

*  He openly criticized the NHL for their response to the hit that left him with post-concussion syndrome, saying “I'm not happy with the hit I took. We're taught from a young age that you don't hit from behind. I had my numbers facing a player in a dangerous zone, a dangerous spot, and he hit me. More than that, I'm disappointed in the league, disappointed in Colin Campbell."  He went on to say that he thinks Campbell often "hands down suspensions and fines (based on injuries), and I think that's the wrong thing to do. You rob a bank and there's $50 million in there or rob a bank and there's $5 in there, you're going to jail for the same amount of time. (Campbell) saw me get up off the ice and didn't make any ruling on it.”

Monday, August 23, 2010

NHL Summer School with Ambroz and Nieto

When Brendan Shanahan was first hired as the NHL's new VP of Hockey and Business Development last December, many wondered exactly what his role would be. Sure, he was a three-time Stanley Cup champion and an Olympic Gold Medal winner. But, just how did the league plan on utilizing him in this new capacity?

If last week's Research, Development and Orientation camp was an early indication of what Shanny has been up to, the league is headed in the right direction. He organized an on-ice think tank, if you will. While most of the changes will not be implemented anytime soon, maybe even never, taking a proactive approach towards exploring ideas is what keeps many businesses successful over the long run.

Shanahan acknowledged such in his opening remarks to kick things off, "We're happy with the way the NHL game is. But you shouldn't wait until something is broken to examine it."

So, the NHL invited 33 top prospects (listed here) from the 2011 draft pool to an R&D camp in Toronto.  The group was divided into two teams, headed by former Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock and current Phoenix Coyotes assistant Dave King.

Nearly every NHL team sent at least one representative to observe and comment on what they saw.  A full list of the rule changes tested and comments from General Managers like Brian Burke, Joe Nieuwendyk and Dale Tallon can be found on the blog located here.

We decided to go a different route and hear from two of the players that were actually on the ice, experiencing the proposed ideas.  If you're a regular reader of MayorsManor, you're already familiar with Seth Ambroz from a feature piece we did on him last month.  He's currently projected as a top-five pick in the draft.  The 6'3" forward plays for the Omaha Lancers (USHL), a team partially owned by the Kings Luc Robitaille.

Our other guest is Matt Nieto, a southern California native who grew up as a die-hard Kings fan.  He's headed to Boston University this fall, one of the top college hockey programs in the country. 

Both also have ties to Team USA - Ambroz just returned from the Ivan Hlinka tournament in the Czech Republic, where the U.S. picked up the silver medal...Nieto is a two-time gold medal winner at the U-18 World Championships and he recently participated at the evaluation camp for the World Jr. team. 

MM:  There wasn't a lot of prep time at this camp, you guys hit the ice to start the testing soon after arriving.  Before we talk about the actual rule changes, which team were you on and who were some of the guys with you?