Saturday, November 20, 2010

Super Series - WHL Report with Linden Vey

When you're hot, you're hot.

And Kings prospect Linden Vey is more than warm right now. His November already includes back-to-back Player of the Week honors from his junior team, the Medicine Hat Tigers. Plus, he was named the WHL Player of the Game in the just completed Subway Super Series.

His scored a goal in the second game of the WHL vs. Russia portion of series (Russia had previously played a pair of games against both the QMJHL and OHL). That meant four of the five Kings prospects had goals in the tournament. Of course, that excludes their sixth prospect (goalie JF Berube) for obvious reasons - as in, he was busy guarding his own net, not trying to score in the other one.

Vey, a 6-foot right wing taken in the fourth round of the 2009 NHL Draft, came into the series following a four point night for Medicine Hat (1g, 3a) - which topped his three point effort the game before (1g, 2a).

As hot as he was though, it was the cold that almost kept him from playing against Russia this week. In the interview below he tells us all about what happened and provides some thoughts on a few other Kings prospects, his play so far this year and the upcoming World Junior Championships...

MM:  This was your second time playing in the tournament. Overall, how would you compare last year's experience to this year - better, worse or just different?

Buffalo's Lindy Ruff the original Rob Blake?

Relax, this isn't an article designed to bash Rob Blake.

Nor is it a story about the Kings 4-2 loss in Buffalo last night.

It is about the Sabres though. More specifically, their coach and his parallel to Blake.

Let's begin with a preamble...

Rob Blake was a great player for the Kings for more than a decade during his first stint in Los Angeles. He was part of the NHL All-Rookie Team, won the Norris Trophy and put up numbers that make him one of the best defenseman in the history of the franchise. He went on to win a Stanley Cup and is without a doubt a first ballot hall of famer.

Now, that said, there was one move that will forever cause some controversy in LA. Prior to the Kings first pre-season game in September 2000, mired in a contract dispute, Blake resigned the captaincy after receiving what he believed to be a take it or leave it offer from the organization.

After giving up the 'C' Blake told the LA Times "I take a lot of pride and responsibility in being the captain, and when you are told you might not be around for the whole season, it's extremely difficult to do the job. Rather than it being a distraction later on in the season, it's best that someone take it on now."

That's not exactly how I'd put it. And that's not what I expect from a captain. But, maybe that's just me. Different conversation for a different day.

With that quick back story in place, here's the connection...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Future Fridays - Interview with Matt Nieto

Matt Nieto grew up in Long Beach, CA as a huge LA Kings fan.

So, it was a little ironic for him when his teammate (Derek Forbort) was selected by the Kings in the first round of the draft this past June.

Perhaps it's something he'll get to experience himself though in the not too distant future, as just a few days ago he was one of only three college forwards to be given an 'A' rating by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau for the 2011 NHL Draft. followed up that information by releasing their initial mock draft results.  For what it's worth, they had the Kings taking him in the first round next summer.

Already a two-time gold medal winner at the U-18 World Championships, Nieto could also possibly be selected by Team USA for the upcoming World Junior Championships - which would raise his profile even further.

As part of our Future Friday series we spoke with the Boston University freshman about everything he has going on right now and where hockey may be taking him...

MM:  You started out by playing roller hockey at the YMCA, is that right?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Super Series Report - Interview w/ Maxim Kitsyn

When it comes to prospects, people like to talk about the 'buzz' factor. Some guys have it, others just can't seem to catch it.

Right now, the name Maxim Kitsyn is being spoken by nearly everybody who follows Canadian junior hockey.

Drafted by the LA Kings this past June, he's usually referred to as power forward - words that aren't said very often when describing Russian born players. Known more their skill, scouts say he's a good skater with speed, acceleration and balance. Oh yeah, and toughness.

Although some teams were leery of taking him because of his contract situation back home, the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors (OHL) scooped him up in the Import Draft this summer. He's yet to play for the team though. But, more on that later.

His four goals led all players at last year's Super Series - the annual six-game tournament pitting a team of Russian junior level all-stars in two games each against the QMJHL, OHL and CHL. He followed that up with three assists and many head turning plays at the World Junior Championships last winter.

More recently, just a week before heading back over to North America, he scored his first hat trick as a professional (for Metallurg Novokuznetsk in the KHL).  His hot streak continued when he came out in game one of the Super Series and scored two goals, plus picked up an assist. Since then, he's added another goal, an assist and scored in the shootout.

With the help of Team Russia's translator we spoke with Kitsyn this afternoon as he gets ready for tonight's final game of the 2010 Super Series...

MM: You're obviously having a strong tournament. Did you come into things with a little extra confidence after your performance in the series last year?

Kings to Honor Three '70s-Era Legends

Did you like those vintage purple and gold jerseys the Kings wore on opening night?

Well, they'll be making their Staples Center debut on Saturday, January 15th when the Kings host the Edmonton Oilers for Rogie Vachon Night.

As noted in the press release - Vachon was the first player to have his number retired by the Kings and amassed several records while tending net for the team from 1971-78, including becoming the all-time leader in games played as a goalie (389), wins (171) and shutouts (32).  He also was named The Hockey News Player of the Year for the 1974-75 season, after posting a 27-14-13 record (including six shutouts) and a 2.24 goals-against-average. After retiring, he eventually served as the team's General Manager for eight-plus seasons.

On February 26th the jerseys will return for the second Legends Night, this time honoring Bob Berry. He spent seven seasons in LA, including the 1974-75 season when he played in all 80 Kings games while that club earned a record 105 points and 42 wins. Later, he coached the team for three seasons.

The final Legends Night will honor Bob Pulford at the March 19th game vs. the Anaheim Ducks.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

DIY Surgery An Option For Scott Parse?

Getting away from the Xs and Os of hockey for a minutes, we've stumbled onto something rather interesting.

Yesterday it was announced that Kings left wing Scott Parse needed surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip. The operation will be performed Dr. Byrd (Nashville, TN) - the recognized leader in hip surgeries for athletes and the man credited with pioneering the technique for performing arthroscopic surgery on the hip.

However, perhaps Parse should just opt to do it himself.

It seems for the paltry price of $191 you can purchase Dr. Blum's double-DVD instruction manual. Simply add it to your Barnes & Noble cart by clicking here.

The product description promises to "guide users from fundamentals through complex interventions." Need more motivation?  How about this - "The goal is to provide an independent study program that will advance users along the learning curve of hip arthroscopy."

Sounds easy enough, doesn't it?

One thing is for sure, if Parse opts for this 'alternative' form of treatment, we are definitely going to have to update the 10 Tidbits on Scott Parse article.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Super Series - OHL Recap with Tyler Toffoli

Prospects, prospects, prospects! They're everywhere to be seen in the Subway Super Series - both recently selected and soon to be drafted players.

The annual tournament began back in 2003 and features a team of Russian junior level all stars traveling throughout Canada to play two games each against the QMJHL, OHL and WHL. The event also serves as an evaluation for the management team assigned to prepare Canada's roster for the upcoming World Junior Championships.

Last night, the middle portion of the series - two games vs. the OHL - concluded with another win for the host country. After picking up a 4-0 victory on Thursday, they capped things off with a 2-1 shootout win last night. The sweep runs their record to a perfect 16-0 vs. the Russians all-time.

Prior to becoming NHL players, Drew Doughty and Wayne Simmonds had represented the OHL in the Super Series.  This year, that responsibility fell to Ottawa 67's forward Tyler Toffoli, the Kings second round selection at this past June's NHL Entry Draft.

On the other side of the ice was Russia's Maxim Kitsyn, another 2010 Kings draft pick.

Last week we posted interviews with Kings prospects Nic Deslauriers and JF Bérubé, who represented the QMJHL in the opening two games. 

Now, let's see what Toffoli has to say about the OHL's pair of games versus Russia...

MM:  This was your second time playing in the tournament.  Last year you had two goals in two games and you picked up an assist in the game last Thursday.  Aside from the statistics, how was this year different for you and how would you rate your performance versus last year?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Manchester Mondays with Muzzin

Saturday night Jake Muzzin played over 16 minutes against the Islanders, the most ice time he's seen so far in his brief 10-game career in the NHL.

He's expected to have some increased responsibilities on the blue line over the next few weeks while the Kings wait for Willie Mitchell to heal up. Yet, that's didn't stop Jake from agreeing to be our unofficial Manchester reporter.

Although he's currently with the big club, the young defenseman has been sent down and called back a few times over the first month of the season. So, we're leaning on his point of view for this week's Manchester Mondays report...

MM: Let's start with Colten Teubert. He's still out with a wrist injury, right?

JM: Exactly. He's practicing, but he has the yellow jersey on (non contact). So, I think he should be back shortly.

[update: per a team press release late this afternoon, Teubert has been activated from IR]

From Thomas Hickey on down, nearly all of the Kings top prospects on the defensive side of things are in Manchester this season.  Any other updates from the blue line?

It's a healthy competition right now.  They have seven 'D' that are playing well and when Teuby gets back there's going to be another one.  It's a good competition.  It's a good problem to have for the team because when one sit out one guy he's going to work that much harder to get better and get back into the line-up.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Whiskey In The Morning

No, that's not Davis Drewiske sportin' some new ink.

That king tattoo belongs to Josh Todd, lead singer for Buckcherry.

If you've never heard of them, you're probably at least heard them - provided you've been to Staples Center this season and returned to your seat prior to the end of the second intermission. Right before the players come out for the third period, blaring through the speakers is a newer track from the the L.A.-based rock group.

However, many years ago, they released a tune titled 'Whiskey in the Morning.'  Which is, of course, only appropriate considering we have some comments from Drewiske to share...

MM:  Even though the season is still young, the defensive pairings have gone through some changes at times, first with (Drew) Doughty and (Matt) Greene out and now Willie Mitchell.  Any thoughts on how it's coming together with all the moving pieces around the blue line?

SP:  You know, I think pretty well.  So far, certainly Quicky (Jonathan Quick) has been pretty good - which has helped.  So, we're kinda mixing and matching throughout the game.  But, for the most part, we're doing a good job of keeping things on the perimeter.  We're not giving up a lot of goals.  I think that has a lot to do with the way Quicky is playing.  There's still room for improvement, but there's some stuff to build on.

Room for improvement?  The guy seems to be giving up just one goal a game, especially at home.  Yet, there's still room for improvement?