Saturday, July 16, 2011

LA Kings coaches heaping praise at goalie Martin Jones

Martin Jones (photo: Kasey Spatz)
You never quite know what you're going to get with a prospect.

Young forwards usually need to learn the defensive side of the game before being NHL ready. Defensemen tend to mature around the age of 24. Goalies, historically, take a little longer.

As is the case with LA's two Jonathans, Quick and Bernier, Martin Jones is probably a little ahead of the curve.

Only 21, he was signed as a free agent in October 2008. The following season he wrapped up his junior career in stellar style, being named the 2009-10 WHL Goaltender of the Year (behind a 2.21 goals-against average and .919 save percentage).

What did he do for an encore? He turned pro, went to Manchester (AHL) and practically stole the starting job from Jeff Zatkoff. In 39 games played, he posted a 23-12-1 record with a 2.25 goals-against-average and a .924 save percentage. He also was the starting goaltender in the AHL All-Star Game - yes, as a rookie.

Summing it up, he's pretty much sky rocketed to third on the team's overall depth chart in net.

As for his performance at Development Camp this week, here's what Head Coach Terry Murray and (former Stanley Cup winner, now) Goaltending Coach Bill Ranford thought of his performance:

Coach Murray - "This young man, to me, has maybe grown more than anyone on the ice right now (in camp). I've seen incredible change in maturity and composure. In sitting in and listening to the goaltender sessions they had before getting on the ice, he's very astute, very analytical, technical, well-spoken. He's a man. He's becoming a very intelligent person about the game and I think it just translates right into his game on the ice. We're seeing that big body, he's really grown a lot too, in a couple years now. We're seeing a player who's going to keep pushing it up here. He definitely needs more time and needs to be the number one guy in the American Hockey League and all of that stuff. We have a player on our hands here."

Friday, July 15, 2011

LA Kings sign Trevor Lewis, six others - leaving only one

This must be contract week for the Los Angeles Kings.

Fresh on the heals of Brad Richardson signing a two-year contract with the team a few days ago, today it was announced they had reached a two-year agreement with Trevor Lewis and single year agreements with six prospects.

Of course, this also comes after defenseman Alec Martinez signed his own two-year deal last week, avoiding arbitration.

Martinez was leading Manchester (AHL) in points and assists when he was recalled to the Kings in late November. He went on to play 60 regular season games with the Kings (recording 16 points - 5g, 11a) and appeared in all six postseason games.

Richardson, a versatile forward who saw a little bit of time on each line last season, played 68 regular season games (recording 19 points - 7g, 12a). He also appeared in all six postseason games with the Kings, tying a club high with five points (2g, 3a) and leading the team with 17 shots.

Lewis, played in 72 regular season games for the Kings, registering 13 points (3g, 10a). During the playoffs his role with the team increased due to the injury of Anze Kopitar and one-game suspension of Jarret Stoll. He's expected to center the team's fourth line during the 2011-12 season.

Coach Murray on camp performance of Muzzin, Deslauriers

Jake Muzzin, LA Kings (photo: Kasey Spatz)
Sure, nobody won a job or lost a job with the Los Angeles Kings due to their performance at this week's development camp.

However, the annual showcase allows Kings' coaches and management an opportunity to evaluate the on and off ice skill sets of their top prospects.

And when it comes to the team's blueline, they appear to have a depth unmatched in their franchise history.

In fact, part of the reason they were able to trade former first round draft pick Colten Teubert to Edmonton in the Dustin Penner deal was the emergence of two other defensive prospects, Jake Muzzin and Nic Deslauriers (and after all, doesn't everything seem to come back to Penner these days?).

When Muzzin is at his best, he brings a physical element to the ice - something he briefly spoke about during camp this week.

Further, Deslauriers continues to round out that part of his game as well, while simultaneously improving his offensive numbers.

Even with the defensive group in LA pretty much set (Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson, Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi, Matt Greene and Alec Martinez), the Kings still have a pretty deep pipeline, with guys like Muzzin, Deslauriers, Thomas Hickey, Andrew Campbell, Derek Forbort and Kevin Gravel - just to name a few.

For specific comments on the performance of Muzzin and Deslauriers this week, we turn to Kings Coach Terry Murray, who shared the following:

Putting Kozun aside, now it's Tyler Toffoli vs Jake Muzzin?

Toffoli and Kozun (photo: Jeremy Cacal)
The seeds are already starting to be planted for a possible September showdown between Brandon Kozun and Tyler Toffoli - with each seeking to secure that RW3 position (right wing, third line) in the Kings line-up.

However, do we have it all wrong?

Is Toffoli's real battle with defenseman Jake Muzzin?

In the first scrimmage game on Monday, Team White changed their defensive assignments late in the first half. Muzzin was now assigned the primary responsibility of covering the speedy Toffoli.

Instantly it became apparent what type of tactics Muzzin was going to use, as he began playing very physical with Toffoli, including a thunderous check into the boards, down behind the goal line.

When I asked him about his rough play Muzzin was rather clear on his motives - "Because I don't like Ty," he began, while trying to maintain a straight face.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Interview - Brandon Kozun on challenges of physical game

Brandon Kozun (photo: Kasey Spatz)
For those who don't follow Kings' prospect Brandon Kozun on twitter, he's a bit of a chirper. Supposedly, he's also known as quite the prankster in Manchester - according to some of the other Monarchs players.

So, it seemed like a natural place to begin when talking to Kozun at this week's Kings Development Camp.

On Martin Jones saying Kozun tried, but failed to get any of his pranks over on him because he's 'wittier' - "I don't know about that. Jonesy tends to to think that he's smarter than everyone else."

On Linden Vey succeeding him as the WHL scoring champion - "I congratulated the kid. He did a good job there. Good for him. Obviously if you put up that many points you're going to have a lot of (skills) that can translate to the next level. He has a good work ethic and hopefully it works out for him.'

From there, things progressed into a series of more hockey-related questions...

On the overall camp experience and any differences compared to prior Kings camps - "It's nice to come here and work with the developmental team and work on your game. We have one of the best staffs in the league and it's nice to get a chance to access them...It's similar (this year). It's kinda one step above for the guys who have been here. There's two groups and the guys who came before have done a little different stuff, a little bit of a higher pace, higher competition. It's been good though. It's fun to come out here and see yourself get better."

Kings coach Murray on Toffoli, Kozun camp performance

Prospects, prospects, prospects.

They're something the Los Angeles Kings have a plethora of now, after decades of trading away young players and draft picks for aging veterans.

For the last few years, GM Dean Lombardi has been stockpiling prospects with the hope they would someday fill holes in his roster - either by becoming NHL players (see Kyle Clifford, Jonathan Bernier, etc.) or by using them as assets to acquire key pieces (see Brayden Schenn, Colten Teubert, etc.).

When Rookie Camp opens in September, one of the stories expected to steal many of the headlines is what should be the hotly contested battle between Brandon Kozun and Tyler Toffoli.

Each are coming off impressive seasons and eager to make a jump to the next level. After Tuesday's scrimmage, Kings Coach Terry Murray shared what he had observed from both players during the just completed Development Camp...

On Toffoli - "Big difference from last year. I'm seeing a player who has dedicated himself to getting in better shape. We see a guy who has a high-end skill level. He's a big goal scorer, he won the scoring title in the Ontario Hockey League. Now, he's playing the pace of the game for the 60 minutes and on both sides of the puck. He's really working hard to do the right things without it, so he can get it back on a stick again and attack. I just like (his) commitment and dedication over the last year. Again, he's starting to emerge. He's starting to become a guy that's going to be, hopefully, what you want him to be (with) the scoring and being able to play at the pro level, at the high pace."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Murray 'starting to see some signs of progress' from Penner

Earlier today I posted extended comments from Dustin Penner following the Kings Development Camp in El Segundo. He was at TSC working out and shared a ton of thoughts on summer conditioning, next season...and offered up plenty of one liners.

Later in the afternoon Kings coach Terry Murray weighed in on Penner's commitment to showing off more of his talents next season...

On Penner's commitment to summer workouts - "I'm really about that. This goes back to a conversation we had, right at the end of the year. It's important to know who we are as an LA King and become part of our team and our culture, our structure and to be a player that I expect him to be. To play upwards of 20 minutes a night in a game, it's going to demand a lot on the physical part of it. He's been here from the end of the season (at TSC). He's worked very hard with Tim Adams and we're starting to see some signs of progress."

Was it pride that got to him, hearing all of the criticism? - "I hope that's the right way to define it, to term it. 'Pride' is a very good word. I think sometimes as coaches and people in management, even the media, we have a tendency to go that direction to see if there's going to be a response. Definitely there's a reaction here and it's a positive reaction. We need him to just follow through with what he's been doing so far (over) the rest of the summer. It's a big, big push. He's got some catching up to do, I know. This last couple of months here is going to be critical and important, so that I can use him in those situations - and live up to the expectations of being the player he knows he can be."

Welcome to the Dustin Penner Comedy Hour

Dustin Penner is in shape. We're talking lean, mean, wrecking machine.

And that's not the joke here.

In fact, physical conditioning was about the only thing Penner was serious about during an extended conversation at the Kings training facility today, as Development Camp wrapped up. The talk went on so long they were literally shutting off the lights above the rink as we covered everything from his off-season workouts to NHL marketing strategies.

Like he talked about in an exclusive MayorsManor interview (linked here) a few weeks ago, since the season ended he's been training extensively with Kings strength and conditioning guru Tim Adams. For more on what that means exactly, take a look at what Penner shared today...

On coming to El Segundo for the workouts - "I bargained for three days a week, to save money on gas and save the environment because I'm going green. So, I come up here for the big days - Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Usually, I'm up around quarter to seven and it takes about an hour to get here and then I'll work out from 8 am to, between 11:30 and 1, depending on what type of workout it is.'

On the type of workouts - "First, there's a 'warm-up' - and I'd put quotations around that. It's about 15 exercises and 50 reps each exercise, one to three times though. That's just 'warm-up', so that can take an hour. And then you go to the track, the soccer field or the beach, which we did for the first time today, and do lunges. We do different variations - like after that you rotate it 45-degrees and step out, and do that backwards."

More on the lunges - "The funny thing is we started at about 1,000 (yards of lunges) the third week of May. I said 'Are you kidding me?' He said 'Just wait until July and we'll be doing 2,000 a day.' I can't wait for 1,000 again."

More post-scrimmage comments from Kozun, Vey, Lowry

Los Angeles Kings Development Camp recap, day one...

Here are a few more comments from some of the prospects following yesterday's scrimmage:

Question - Were there any takeaways from the first game?

Brandon Kozun - "It's tough, it's July and you jump right into that - you get right into a game. But, it was still fun to get back into that competitive spirit and play a game."

Joel Lowry - "The speed is definitely pretty high. You don't have too much time out there to make a play. So, tomorrow (Tuesday) I'll just try to make quick plays, I guess - puck on-your-stick and off-your-stick kind of thing.

Michael Schumacher on how he held up against the competition in Monday's scrimmage - "It was my first game this year, so I did OK. I think we deserved to win the game. You know, that was a bad penalty there (in the final few minutes of the game)."

Linden Vey on if any of the new faces in camp this year have stood out to him yet - "It's tough, it's a short camp and you're really focusing on what you're doing. But, I came to the (rookie) camp last year with (Tyler) Toffoli and we got together a little bit at World Junior camp (for Team Canada) and I got to know him. He had a great season as well last year - when you score 57 goals in the OHL it's a good year. He's having a really good camp (here) as well."

Game two is today at 9:30am PST.

Links to several of the MayorsManor EXCLUSIVE pre-camp interviews can be found below.

The Mayor


EXCLUSIVE: Pre-camp interview with Tyler Toffoli - 2011 OHL scoring champion

EXCLUSIVE: Pre-camp interview with Jordan Weal - talking Manchester, Kings camp, etc.

EXCLUSIVE: Kings prospect Brandon Kozun says 'I'm ready for the NHL' - also talks Toffoli

EXCLUSIVE: Pre-camp comments from Kevin Gravel - talking USA hockey, Forbort, Kings, etc.

EXCLUSIVE: Monarchs LW Ray Kaunisto talks Clune, Kozun, Dev Camp, tough guys and more

EXCLUSIVE: Pre-camp interview w/ Kings 2011 draft pick Michael Mersch - talking Shore, Forbort, etc.

EXCLUSIVE: Invitee Interview - conversation with David Friedmann

Monday, July 11, 2011

Kings Dev Camp: Detailed Black v White scrimmage notes

Throughout the day today at Kings Development Camp I tweeted various notes from the scrimmage and quotes from several players.

For those who like a little more detail, below is a semi-thorough recap. Special thanks and a major stick tap to Scott Coffman of The Fourth Period for the assist here:

First Period Highlights

Team Black started Martin Jones in net and Team White went with Matej Machovsky (camp invitee from Brampton, OHL)...Team Black also includes Tyler Toffoli, Linden Vey, Michael Schumacher, Derek Forbort, Andrew Campbell and Nic Deslauriers...Team White also includes Jordan Weal, Ray Kaunisto, Brandon Kozun, Nic Dowd, Nick Shore, Jake Muzzin and Kevin Gravel.

Michael Kantor rocks Gravel, who skates back to the bench very slowly...Team Black is on the board first when Toffoli looked like a missed play by defenseman Alex Roach, allowing Toffoli to bang home a jam play...minutes later Machovsky makes a big save on a breakaway against Toffoli, don't think Toffoli got the shot he wanted...half way through the first period and it's all Team Black, very little offensive pressure from Team White.

LA Kings Dev Camp 2011 - comments from Martin Jones

During the regular season I usually don't post game recaps. However, given the interest in Development Camp this summer, I'll have a full game report from today's scrimmage posted later tonight (link).

First though, here are some comments from Kings goaltending prospect Martin Jones.

Coming off an impressive first year in Manchester - where he went 23-12-1 in 39 games, with a 2.25 goals-against-average and .924 save percentage - he looked strong again in net today. He played the first half of the scrimmage (20 minutes of running time), gave up zero goals and stopped a flurry of activity in front of his net during the final two minutes of the half.

Afterwards, he answered some questions...

What do you see for yourself going into this fall's camp?

MJ: I'm going to work hard throughout the summer and I'm going to try and make the team. Obviously, with the numbers that they have, with (Jonathan) Bernier and (Jonathan) Quick coming back, it will be a tough task. But, my mindset is just going to be 'make the team.' From there, wherever I play it's just going to be a great experience and I need to make the most of it...This upcoming year I'll probably be back in Manchester, but it's not going to change my mindset.

What are the benefits of this camp for you personally?

Monday: Live reports from LA Kings Development Camp

Need your hockey fix?

Well, as you (should) know by now, the Kings annual summer Development Camp will be in full swing today at their practice facility in El Segundo this morning.

The basic schedule is as follows:

Group A – Practice, 8:00-9:15 a.m.
Game – 9:30-10:30 a.m.
Group B – Practice, 10:45-Noon

Tomorrow will follow the same agenda.

All of the Kings younger prospects - junior players, college players and kids from Manchester - will be on the ice. Some of the names attending include Tyler Toffoli, Brandon Kozun, Derek Forbort, Jordan Weal and Martin Jones.

I'll have live reports today and tomorrow at  and on facebook. If you can't come down and take in some of the action, don't worry - MayorsManor has you covered.

In addition to all the pre-camp interviews that have been posted over the last week or so, we'll have plenty of new interviews following the on-ice sessions today and tomorrow.

If you missed any of the conversations with various prospects, coaches and GMs that went up over the weekend, check out the links below.

The Mayor


Kings prospect Brandon Kozun says 'I'm ready for the NHL' - also talks Toffoli

Monarchs LW Ray Kaunisto talks Clune, Kozun, Dev Camp, tough guys and more

Invitee Interview - conversation with David Friedmann

Pre-camp interview with Kings 2011 draft pick Michael Mersch - talking Shore, Forbort, etc.

Dev Camp 2011:  pre-camp comments from Kevin Gravel - talking USA hockey, Forbort, Kings, etc.

Pre-camp interview with Tyler Toffoli - 2011 OHL scoring champion

Pre-camp interview with Jordan Weal - talking Manchester, Kings camp, etc.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kings prospect Brandon Kozun says 'I'm ready for the NHL'

Brandon Kozun, 2009 Kings draft pick
If you're a prospect in the Kings organization right now, it's probably best to be a forward.

The goaltending situation in LA is set with Jonathan's Quick and Bernier. Manchester is even solid there too, with Jeff Zatkoff and Martin Jones.

Defensively, the Kings top-6 are arguably the best unit in the Western Conference and with Alec Martinez just inking a two year deal - well, that group seems to be set for next season.

Now, at forward, it's a different story. After the signing of Simon Gagne and the trade for Mike Richards, the first two lines are set. However, things are little more murky after that. Jarret Stoll, Trevor Lewis and Kyle Clifford are guaranteed three of the final six spots. Who will be playing with them is still yet to be determined though.

If you ask Brandon Kozun, he's highly confident he'll be one of them.

Check it out for yourself...

MM: As you look back on your first year in Manchester, what would you say you were able to learn from the coaching staff?

Invitee Interview - David Friedmann talks Kings Dev Camp

Friedmann, Team Canada
Of the 35 kids participating in the Kings annual Development Camp, only one player - David Friedmann - still calls the OJHL home. It's a junior-A hockey league, one step below the more well known major-junior leagues, like the OHL and WHL.

Back in the day, reigning NHL Rookie of the Year, Jeff Skinner, wore an OJHL sweater - long before anybody knew him as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.

And another Kings camper, Andy Andreoff - fresh off of being drafted in the third round two weeks ago, also spent some time in the league a few years ago. He played for the Pickering Panthers, his hometown team, before moving on to the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.

Soon, Friedmann will be taking his skills elsewhere too, as he'll eventually head off to Robert Morris University.

However that's another year away.  This season he'll be back in familiar territory. He was traded this past season from his long-time team, the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, to the stronger Georgetown Raiders.  Yet, it was a short term deal that called for him to return to the Canadiens once the season ended.

Before that part of his life resumes, he'll be taking part in the Kings Development Camp. In the interview below he talks about how that all came together for him, which player he's already met, playing oversees, Sidney Crosby and much more...

MM: Let's talk stats. Your numbers saw a huge spike up at the start of this season - going from four goals in 47 games two seasons ago to 16 goals in 33 games before the trade. What changed for you?