Friday, September 17, 2010

Camping Guide 2010 - Interview with Brandon Kozun

Too small. Too short. Not big enough.

Listed at 5' 8", Brandon Kozun has heard it all before. Yet, it hasn't stopped the 20-year old right winger from putting together an impressive hockey resume.

He's coming off back to back 100+ point seasons for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. Last year he led all of junior hockey with 107 points (32g, 75a). And he was a top player for Canada at the World Junior Championships over the winter.

That certainly doesn't sound like a guy that should have fallen all the way to the sixth round before being drafted in 2009.

I'm sure scouts did their normal level of prodding and investigation before the draft. However, one thing that may have gone overlooked astrological sign. Serioulsy.

Born March 8th, he's a pisces.

For those unfamiliar, let's review a few of their characteristics...

Pisces are said to long for movement and/or be extremely restless. If you've ever seen this kid on the ice, you'd understand. His feet never stop moving. Ever!

People born under this sign are always trying to adapt themselves to the situation they're in.  Perhaps that's what makes him so coachable.

Additionally, the symbol of a pisces depicts duality, a struggle between one's spiritual soul and it's physical body.  Simply put, his small frame is struggling with his inner player.  His heart and drive - and fearlessness - don't match up with his smallish frame.

Finally, what about their natural ability to imitate or mirror another person?  While many people in Southern California will be quick to compare him to Mike Cammalleri or Paul Kariya, I'd say he's shooting more for Theo Fleury.

Enough of the Miss Cleo type hockey analysis though.  See what Brandon has to say...

MM:  Take us back in time a week or so. When you came down to LA for the start of rookie camp, where was your head? Do you come in super confident, saying 'I'm going to make the Kings roster this year.' Or did you come in with tempered expectations, thinking about probably going to Manchester, just trying to learn and soak in as much as you can?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Camping Guide 2010 - Interview with Jordan Nolan

Some players have a very linear path to the NHL. They play for one junior team, get drafted, make a brief stop with that team's AHL affiliate and then eventually make their NHL debut.

Jordan Nolan isn't one of those players.

His story reads more like the tough luck, work extremely hard for everything he's earned path.

At the 2005 OHL Draft, John Tavares was taken first overall by the Oshawa Generals. He just completed his first year with the New York Islanders. Three future members of the Kings organization were also taken in that first round - Drew Doughty (Guelph), Jake Muzzin (Sault Ste. Marie) and Michael Pelech (Kitchener Rangers).

Two rounds later, with the 50th overall selection (3rd round), the Erie Otters did the tried-and-trued hockey thing, they went the bloodlines route...taking Jordan, son of former NHL winger, turned coach, Ted Nolan.

Since then, it's one big wild ride for the big forward.  He played just one season with the Otters before ending up on the Windsor Spitfires for the next two seasons.  At that point, he requested a trade and was sent to the Soo Greyhounds.

Near the end of his first season in the Soo he was suspended 20 games.  Many felt that would be the end of his junior hockey career, as it would extended into the following season - forcing him to miss nearly one third of his over-age year in the OHL.

That didn't stop the Kings from drafting him in the seventh round just a few months after the suspension was announced (2009 NHL Draft).  They liked what they saw in the 6' 3" center-left wing.  He brought good physical presence to the organization.  Something sorely laking at that point in time.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

LA-PHX Rookie Game #2 Preview with Corey Elkins

Game one is in the books, with the Kings picking up a 5-4 win in overtime.

A few hours from now the two-game series wraps up with a matinee affair in Glendale, AZ.

For some players this will be it, their final game in a Kings jersey. For many others, they'll be returned to their junior teams over the next week or so and won't be seen again until next summer's Developmental Camp. For Corey Elkins, rookie camp will just be the end of another chapter.

His hockey travels have taken him to the USHL, to a top college program, and last season to the Manchester Monarchs - where he led the team in goals and points, as a rookie.

This Saturday, he'll be one of just a handful of players at the Kings training camp with a legitimate shot at earning a place on the team for the upcoming season.

Today, he helps us get ready for the second and final game in the LA-Phoenix Rookie Series...

First off, the ankle - Muzzin hit you with a puck the first day of camp and you were pretty bruised up - how are you doing now?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What to do with Martin Jones?

One game doesn't make a career. He isn't a bust. The Kings shouldn't trade him.

Just sayin' - he sure hasn't risen to the occasion when there's a crown on his chest.

I interviewed over a dozen players selected at this past June's NHL Draft. Every one of them who played in the WHL listed Martin Jones as the toughest goalie they had ever faced. His teammates from the Canadian contingent at the World Junior Championships sang his praises. In April he was crowned the WHL goaltender of the year.

Rewind to last September, when the Kings met the Coyotes in game one of their annual two-game rookie series. Final score, 6-1 Phoenix. Jones suffered the loss and gave up all six goals.

After that game, he had the following to say of his performance "It’s hard to bring a bunch of guys together and try and get them game ready in a week and try and get chemistry going...In a game like that you need your goalie to make a save, keep you in it early and I don’t think I did that tonight".

Fast forward twelve months, this time it was the late saves.

In game one of this year's doubleheader between the same two teams, Jones gave up four goals - including three in the third period...with the final one inside of two minutes left in the game.

LA-PHX Rookie Game Preview with Kyle Clifford

Cross referencing the Phoenix Coyotes rookie camp roster with the database, there doesn't appear to be anybody who's had an official scrap with the Kings Kyle Clifford.

In just a few short hours, that should change.

For the past few years the Kings and Coyotes have made it a point to test each other's rookie squads with a few "games" near the end of the camp.  Don't think for a minute though these are just glorified scrimmages.

Coach Ray Edwards was on the Coyotes website earlier today talking about how serious they're taking these games, saying "We want to win."  And that's all nice and dandy.  However, a few of the Kings kids may have more on their mind that just a simple victory.  They were embarrassed last year in a 6-1 loss when the Coyotes came to LA (the series alternates location each year).

Clifford may be just the guy to help them out.  The former second round draft pick is coming off back to back OHL seasons with at least 110 penalty minutes.

He's not solely an enforcer though. Last season he had 57 points in 58 games (28 g, 29 a).

In the annual OHL Coaches Poll a few months ago, he was voted the best defensive forward in the Eastern Conference and second in the 'Hardest Worker' category. 

Currently, he's fighting for a shot to make the Kings roster this season - something many people believe he'll do.

With game one of the two-game rookie series set to take place later tonight, we checked in with Clifford to see how camp is going so far and talk about the team's preparation for the Coyotes.

MM:  How did things go over the weekend for you, getting back on the ice with all the other prospects?

Monday, September 13, 2010

10 Tidbits on HockeyFest 2010

Over the weekend, the Kings held their second annual HockeyFest. While the new end-of-summer tradition was scaled back from last year's grand event, a sold-out crowd of 2,000 fans seemed to enjoy it just as much.

Like last year, by far, the most popular activities at the event were the speaker sessions. Fans were treated to current and former players sharing stories and answering questions.

And it all kicked off early Saturday morning - too early - with Dean Lombardi, Ron Hextall and Jeff Solomon giving a State of the Franchise.

Using our popular 10 Tidbits format, here are selected highlights from the event...

1.  Goalies - The unintentional funny quote of the day came from Hextall when he said "Bernier hasn't made the team yet." Um, ok.  I guess that gives hope to three of you that previously purchased Ersberg jerseys.  To end any possible controversy heading into camp, he also said "Jonathan Quick is our #1 goalie" about 32 times.  Regarding Niemi - "We didn't even talk about it. Our goaltending is solid."