Saturday, September 10, 2011

Kozun vs Toffoli, round one - Kings Rookie Camp notes

Following the morning skate that officially kicked off the LA Kings 2011 Rookie Camp, here are some comments from the two guys who are front and, a smidge of Ray Kaunisto.

"I'm feeling pretty good. It's nice to be back out there and get into the hockey season a bit," began Brandon Kozun. "It's been a long summer and it's nice to get back on the ice."

He hasn't felt much of a rivalry with Tyler Toffoli just yet though. "Everyone is coming into camp with one goal and that's to make the team," said Kozun. "So, you're not competing with one guy - you're competing with everyone. You want to go out there and show your stuff and you hope (the coaches and management) like what they see."

If he finds his way onto the Kings' roster this season, it would mean a little more than it normally might, because - in his words - "The Kings are a very good team and a Stanley Cup contender. It would be exciting to be part of something like that."

Kozun said he felt comfortable in camp today, especially because Mark Morris (the head coach in Manchester) was running the drills.

However, fellow Monarch Kaunisto may have been the one thing he didn't enjoy about today.

Ranking the LA Kings top 10 prospects - who's #1 now?

By now you know, Brayden Schenn has been traded.

The most talked about Kings prospect in years, perhaps ever, is no longer part of the organization - having been shipped to Philadelphia for Mike Richards.

Essentially, the GM Dean Lombardi swapped Schenn for the guy many people hoped he would become, Richards - who already is himself!

You still with me?

His departure creates a need to reset the rankings. Sure, this naturally happens every year, with certain players moving up or down based upon their prior season. However, the Schenn trade had one of the largest impacts on the rankings, as he was ranked the #1 prospect in all of hockey on most lists - not the Kings #1 prospect, but the entire NHL.

Enough about Schenn though, that's last year's camp news.

In about an hour, nearly all of the top prospects who one day may call Los Angeles home will hit the ice to kick off this year's Rookie Camp.

With that, below is the debut of the MayorsManor prospect rankings.

Many of you just skipped ahead and aren't even reading this paragraph, but here goes anyway... Understand that people use different criteria when putting a list like this together - i.e. the player closest to making it to the NHL gets ranked first, the player with the most upside or even the player who fits the team's needs best.

The following rankings are based on if I was a GM. In my opinion, these are the players who I see as having the most overall value. A very simple, watered down explanation would be this - all things being equal, I would take a goaltender first if building a team. The only exception would be if there was a Crosby or Ovechkin-like talent available. Things become a little dicier from there because trying to compare the value of a defenseman over a forward is like comparing apples and apple juice. Your body needs both, but for different reasons.

After an initial run at it, I went back though and where needed, gave a slight bump to guys who were probably more NHL ready, thus they are further along in the development curve - so, their skill set is a little more 'real' as opposed to pure 'potential.'

Friday, September 9, 2011

LA Kings 2011 Rookie Camp Primer - the goaltenders

Given Dean Lombardi's mandate to 'build from the net out' when he took over as GM of the Los Angeles Kings five years ago, perhaps we're doing this in reverse order.

Earlier today we posted key news and notes on the 13 forwards and eight defensemen who will attend tomorrow's Rookie Camp.

Let's now head to the crease and take a look at the four netminders who will try to stop the barrage of pucks thrown at them over the next five days...

Jean-Francois Berube - 6-foot-1, 168 lbs - some might say he's exceeded expectations since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2009 NHL Draft - he had an exceptional year last season, posting a 2.60 GAA and .902 save percentage in 50 games - he was near the top of all key statistics in the QMJHL and was even better in the playoffs - nicknamed 'Hollywood,' he's most likely bound for Ontario (ECHL) for the upcoming campaign - we've featured his mask designs several times on MayorsManor (I personally liked the one with UFC fighter Georges St-Pierre on it) - if you'd like a sneak peek of the brand new mask he'll be debuting this weekend, click here - plus, here are some thoughts from JF earlier this summer, including notes on his recent hip surgery - check my twitter tomorrow for updates on his health

LA Kings 2011 Rookie Camp Primer - the defensemen

Can you believe summer is officially over tomorrow?

Thankfully, the Kings rookies will take to the ice in El Segundo and we can back to the business of talking non-stop puck.

With that in mind, earlier we took a long look at the 13 forwards...and below we have news and notes on the eight blueliners attending camp:


Nicolas Deslauriers — 6-foot-1, 200 lbs, drafted in 2009, third round - in three years from now, he just might be the best of the 'next' defensemen coming up through LA's system - I've been singing his praises ever since first seeing him on the ice - his skating his smooth, his vision is great and he put it all together last year, posting more points in the QMJHL playoffs than any other defenseman (while playing for the Gatineau Olympiques) - he also had 43 points (13 goals, 30 assists) in 48 regular season games - he showed up at Dev Camp in July with added muscle too - he's been on MayorsManor many times over the last two seasons, here are some thoughts he shared heading into the playoffs

Kings prospect Brandon Kozun goes high, low and yard

After hearing about it all summer, it's finally here - the Brandon Kozun vs. Tyler Toffoli showdown.

On the eve of this year's Kings Rookie Camp getting underway, Kozun returns to MayorsManor once again - this time, he's talking playoffs, the NHL, baseball and a little more.

"There were some highs and lows during my first year in Manchester, for sure," Kozun said when reflecting back on his first season in the AHL. "Coming in as a rookie you don't really know what to expect and there were some bumps along the way. The start of the year was tough because I was doing well and then some guys got sent down and I started to not get as much ice time and really started to have to pay my dues. Another low would probably be losing in the playoffs. We had Bingo (Binghamton) on their heels and we stepped off the gas."

Flipping the coin though, he also saw the positive in last season - "Some of the highs for me personally were mostly in the second half. I started to get more opportunity and started to produce. I really feel that with last year under my belt, as a pro, I really learned a lot about the pro game and what it takes and I think I'm a better player today because of it."

Originally drafted by the Kings in 2009 while playing for the Calgary Hitmen, he still spends quite a bit of time back in Alberta.

"This summer was pretty good I had a chance to relax get some golf in and take part in several charity events," said Kozun. "The most exciting thing was being part of the home run derby in Calgary against Jose Canseco and a couple of NHL players. It was a lot of fun and Canseco is an absolute monster! I can see why that guy hit so many jacks."

LA Kings 2011 Rookie Camp Primer - the forwards

Business is about to pick up...

Fresh on the heels of yesterday's official release of the Kings 2011 Rookie Camp roster and schedule, below is some additional information to get you primed and ready to go.


Andy Andreoff – 6-foot-1 center, drafted in 2011, third round - played 66 games for Oshawa (OHL) last season, scoring 33 goals and was impressive at the Kings' July Development Camp - if he a signs pro contract, could end up in Manchester this season - his most recent MayorsManor interview was just yesterday morning, linked here

Robert Czarnik — 6-foot forward, drafted in 2008, third round - originally was at the University of Michigan, then 'transferred' to the Plymouth Whalers (OHL) - scored 33 goals and 44 assists last season - most recent MayorsManor interview went up yesterday also, linked here

Ray Kaunisto — 6-foot-3 left wing, signed as a free agent in 2010, following his college career at Northern Michigan - played 57 games for Manchester last season - one of the best (and most respected) chirpers among the prospects - gave an epic interview on MayorsManor earlier this week, where he provided his 'bucket list' - check it out here

Brandon Kozun — 5-foot-8 forward, drafted in 2009, sixth round - has proclaimed he's 'ready for the NHL' - played 73 games for Manchester last season (23 goals, 25 assists) - expected to get a long look by the Kings leadership group at this year's camp - frequent guest on MayorsManor, with his most interview posting later today (in what will be a partial follow-up to Kaunisto's bucket list)...update: it's been posted, link here

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Robbie Czarnik, the somewhat forgotten LA Kings prospect

Czarnik at Kings DevCamp (photo by K. Spatz)
Earlier today we took a look at Kings prospect Andy Andreoff and his possible move from the OHL to the AHL this season.

You can definitely count on fellow Kings prospect, Robbie Czarnik, leaving the OHL though - he's out of junior eligibility.

The 6-foot center was originally selected by Los Angeles in the third round of the 2008 NHL Draft.  He began playing college hockey at the University of Michigan - who gave him a full scholarship at 15 years old - before moving on to play for the Plymouth Whalers.

Last season you didn't hear much about him though, given that Tyler Toffoli was running away with the goal scoring title and Russian superstar-to-be Maxim Kitsyn came over to play in the OHL after the World Junior Championships in January.

So, I asked him, does he feel like the forgotten prospect?

"No, not really," he said. "I don't really look at it that way. They're goal scorers, but I put up points too and I have another side of my game. I'm excited that I’m a two-way forward."

When he was in LA for Development Camp in July he says there wasn't one particular part of his game he was trying to show off. Instead, he wanted the coaching staff to see that he's continued to make improvements in his all-around game - including "puck protection, competing at all times and defensive-zone coverage."

Once Dev Camp was over though, he headed to Miami for a little R&R.

"My girlfriend lives down there," he explained. "So, I went and visited her for a little bit. She goes to Michigan with me. I had never been down there before, but it was a good time. We went to the beach and spent time in downtown Miami, South Beach and then went to the Keys for a few days."

Yes, even though he took his hockey game to the OHL, he still takes classes at Michigan.  Czarnik says he has no ill feelings towards the school - in fact, he loves it. He just felt he could better develop his skills in the OHL.

Czarnik also likes to pester his girlfriend on twitter. Earlier this summer he tweeted quite a few 'Go Mavericks' blats during the NBA Finals.

"I don't really care that much for basketball," he admitted.  "I was constantly giving her a bad time when they were playing Miami and she wasn't too happy about it. I went against the Heat because she's obsessed with the team. So, it was just a funny thing I would play with her about."

He also likes to tweet about some of his favorite TV shows - like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Dexter, American Idol and Gossip Girl...wait, what?

LA Kings 2011 Rookie Camp - full roster and schedule

The Los Angeles Kings have announced the official roster and schedule for this year's Rookie Camp, which is set to begin on Saturday at their training facility in El Segundo, CA.

Camp itself will consist of four-days of on-ice activities and then culminate in the fourth annual Rookie Tournament vs. the Phoenix Coyotes.


Sat, September 10: On-ice practices from 10 a.m.-Noon; 4-5 p.m.

Sun, September 11: On-ice practices from 10 a.m.-Noon; 4-5 p.m.

Mon, September 12: On-ice practices from 10 a.m.-Noon; 4-5 p.m.

Tue, September 13: On-ice practices from 10 a.m.-Noon; 4-5 p.m.

Wed, September 14: Pre-game skate from 9 a.m.-10:15 a.m.; Game at 6 p.m.

Thur, September 15: Game at 2 p.m.

note: all times are subject to change


LA Kings prospect Andy Andreoff pushing for Manchester?

Andreoff at Kings DevCamp (photo: K. Spatz)
Kings GM Dean Lombardi had a bit of a reputation for loving guys from the WHL just a few years ago. Yet, the tide has turned.

Most recently, he's been stocking up on American-born players and more specifically, U.S. college players.

Then there's the OHL factor. Three of the team's prospects to not only make the club over the last few seasons, but have a significant impact, all come from the Ontario Hockey League - Drew Doughty, Wayne Simmonds and Kyle Clifford. And Tyler Toffoli is right behind them (more on that later though).

Hoping to soon follow in their footsteps is Andy Andreoff, a 6-foot-1 center the Kings picked up in the third round of the NHL Draft this past June.

While it's unlikely he'll make the main roster out of camp, Andreoff is in a bit of a unique position compared to most other junior players who will be attending Rookie Camp this weekend - he already has four years of OHL experience under his belt.

He was first draft eligible two years ago, but went unnoticed by NHL teams.

Digging into his stats, it's not hard to figure out why. Let's just say, he takes 'slow starter' to a whole new level. During his first year in the OHL he registered one point, an assist, in 25 games.

Over the next few years, he picked up his game dramatically, to where he served as an assistant captain last season for the Oshawa Generals, while posting 75 points (33 goals, 42 assists) and earning a plus-34 rating.

Some scouts project him as a future power forward and he certainly showed a nice level of grit and determination when he attended the Kings Development Camp in July.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

POLL: Looking forward to what at LA Kings HockeyFest?

HockeyFest 2011 is this Sunday and it marks the official end of summer...or more importantly, the return of hockey!

Now, I didn't include 'the announcement of Drew Doughty signing' in the poll because I'll assume that would be the winner - in a landslide.

Instead, selecting from the events actually on the schedule (published earlier today here), what are you most excited about at HockeyFest this year?

SPECIAL NOTE: There's still time to enter the Drew Doughty contract contest! If you want to win a free t-shirt just by making a simple guess, click here.

The Mayor


HockeyFest 2011 full schedule and notes on previous events

10 Tidbits on HockeyFest 2010

HockeyFest 2009 - Day Two review - Triple Crown, Grimson, Norton, Ferraro, Hrudey

HockeyFest 2009 - Bob Miller seminar review

HockeyFest 2009 - Saving the Best for Last - with Nicholls, Hardy and Robitaille

Shop for Los Angeles Kings Gear at Shop.NHLcom!

LA Kings HockeyFest 2011 - schedule and past notes

For the third straight year, HockeyFest is on the move.

And if it's anything like the prior two, this is a can't miss event for Los Angeles Kings fans.

Each year the event has been tweaked slightly, largely based on feedback by fans and players attending the event.

What started out at LA Live in 2009, then moved to the team's training facility last September, and now returns to downtown LA - this time at Staples Center.

Regardless of location though, fans have come away each year raving about the festivities - with much of the praise being directed at the players, who have been very engaging.

Key highlights of the activities scheduled for this Sunday's HockeyFest include:

Remembering Pavol Demitra - as exciting as they come

It's perhaps what every athlete, their families, front office personnel, team owners and sports fans fear most...a plane crash.

In what was absolutely devastating news to the hockey world today, we all learned that a tragic accident occurred in Russia - killing more than 30 members of the KHL’s Lokomotiv organization.

Among the lives lost was former LA King Pavol Demitra.

It's interesting when you think about it, some players are part of a team for years and really don't make much of an impression. Others, in a relatively short time, can become very memorable.

Demitra was the latter.

He played only 58 regular season games for the Kings, during the 2005-06 season. However, he posted 62 points - third best on the team - and was the only point-a-game player on the roster. Additionally, his 25 goals were just one shy of leader Mike Cammalleri - who played in 80 games.

Demitra also led the team with a plus-21 rating. And a remarkable five of his 25 goals were scored short-handed.

Needless to say, when he was on the ice, fans and opponents paid attention.

From his spectacular head-fake shootout goals, to scoring a hat-trick on hat night, he knew how to make an impression on those watching the game.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

LA Kings prospect Ray Kaunisto submits his bucket list

Kaunisto in his pre-prospect days
If you're a hockey fan on twitter, you know all about @BizNasty2point0. And if you're a Kings fan, you should definitely be following @RayK71.

Signed as a free agent in March 2010, Ray Kaunisto might not be one of the more ubiquitous prospects in the organization - like Tyler Toffoli, Martin Jones, Derek Forbort, etc. Yet, more people should be paying attention to him, even if only for his world class sense of humor.

During his inaugural season in Manchester last year, the 6-foot-4 left winger posted eight goals and 50 penalty minutes in 57 games played.

He also routinely chirped his teammates and other hockey related personalities on twitter. He's also not afraid to tweet about his personal life...

For example, he openly bragged about playing on the Kings top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin video games.

About a month ago he updated readers on his hunting adventures...chasing coyotes with a hockey stick.

If it's 'in the know' lingo you're after, he'll school you on all things Yooper...for the city folk out there, that's a person from the Norther part of Michigan.

When the Kings traded for Mike Richards back in June, what's the first thing he wanted to know...was Richards really a red neck or did he just include that in his twitter profile to get more followers?

Even though Kaunisto has own blog, he recently submitted his personal bucket list to MayorsManor.

Like any good 'live life to the fullest' person, he's had to update it a few times recently, as he was able to scratch off one of his items during his recent honeymoon (go scuba diving).

In reverse order, here are the next 12 things he'd like to do...

Monday, September 5, 2011

VIDEO: 'LA Kings players' sing an American classic

On a day like today, there are few things more American than baseball.

Well, maybe hot dogs. And the video below touches on that too.

Enjoy a partially animated Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Dustin Penner, Jack Johnson and Jonathan Quick as they temporarily trade in their Kings sweaters for some Los Angeles Dodgers gear.

SPECIAL NOTE: There's still time to enter the Drew Doughty contract contest! If you want to win a free t-shirt just by making a simple guess, click here.

Finally, several Dodger players stopped by MayorsManor this summer - including Matt Kemp, James Loney and Tony Gwynn - to check out what they had to say about the Kings and hockey in general, click here.

The Mayor

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