Saturday, September 24, 2011

Date Night with your Los Angeles Kings

What started as an innocent conversation with Kings prospect Jake Muzzin quickly spawned an idea for an article.

Life as an NHL prospect probably isn't as glamorous as it may seem at times. Over the last two weeks, guys from all across North America have been housed out of a hotel in El Segundo, CA (which, for those of you reading this article out of state, let's just say - it's not Hollywood).

By day, they've been been working hard on and off the ice, under the tutelage of head coach Terry Murray and his entire staff. By night, well - they're starting to go a little stir crazy in their 20x20 rooms.

During out little chat, Muzzin encouraged me to go see 'Moneyball.' He says it very good, especially the work by Brad Pitt. On the other hand, he strongly does not recommend 'Drive,' saying it was too slow.

After practice today, Ray Kaunisto was already looking ahead - revealing he plans on taking Brandon Kozun out for 'date night' later this evening.

To get some varied perspectives from around the room, here are comments from a few of the other Kings prospects...

Tyler Toffoli - "We saw 'Contagion,' I wouldn't recommend it. It was really slow." (Jordan Nolan started laughing in the background and shaking his head side to side. He didn't approve of the flick either.)

Alec Martinez hopes to have money left over for new sticks

Martinez and Dean Lombardi (photo: C. Ikiri)
Earlier in the week, we had Kyle Clifford on to talk about his new equipment endorsement with Bauer - 'head to toe Bauer' as The Colonel said.

Meanwhile, although defenseman Alec Martinez may have signed a contract extension with the Kings this summer, he hasn't landed a stick deal yet. Nor does he even know which one prefers at this point...

"I'm still in the process of trying out a few different sticks," the 24-year old explained. "I have a couple Bauer sticks coming in the mail. I tried a couple before, but the curve was a little too big. Right now I like the Easton's, but I'm willing to give Bauer a shot. I used them in college and liked them a lot. I haven't used them in a couple of years, but I'll try 'em out."

Speaking of his college days - last month, he went back to his old stomping grounds in Miami, Ohio to help out for a few days.

"I was there skating for a week in August - they had a little pro camp for all the alum that are playing pro now. We were there working hard, but it's also nice because you get to see guys you don't get to see too regularly during the season. It's a good time, getting to (hang out) with some of your buddies and getting to know some of the newcomers in the program. Overall, it looks like their program is going in the right direction and hopefully they can have a great year."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mike Richards moves from Philly teacher to LA student

Richards at Kings camp (photo: M. Zampelli)
In some news that went a little under the radar this summer, the Kings traded away Wayne Simmonds and two other assets for former Philadelphia Flyers captain Mike Richards.

A few days later, his former left wing, Simon Gagne, signed a free agent contract to join him in Los Angeles.

After spending the summer fishing and answering questions about his time on the East Coast, things started to return to a little bit of normalcy for the 26-year old forward when camp opened last week.

"Testing days are always the tough part of camp," Richards began. "You just want to get back on the ice and play some hockey. It went well though, that's why you work out in the off-season - to prove that you've come to camp in shape."

In the days that have followed, Richards has started to some similarities to previous camps in Philadelphia - with one notable exception.

"It's pretty similar - a lot of ice-time, a lot of teaching. I think with the new players we have here, or anytime new players join any team, you want to come out of training camp knowing what to expect and knowing what you need to do when you hit the (regular season)," Richards explained.

"For me, this is just different because I'm the one learning it, instead of trying to help other people do it."

Willie Mitchell on injuries, ice time and preseason chaos

Willie Mitchell at Kings camp (photo: CIKIRI)
As you're about to read from Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, things can be a bit unpredictable at this time of year.

So true.

For the team's practice session this morning, coach Terry Murray has (at least for now) abandoned the two groups he used yesterday. Today he put the NHL players in their own unit, with one noticeable addition - prospect Slava Voyunov was been paired with Mitchell, Drew Doughty's usual partner.

Yesterday, after his on-ice workout, Mitchell seemed to be a little slower than usual.

"Just some wear and tear on the groins this time of the year," said Mitchell. "We're doing a lot of skating and in the first game I played quite a bit, so I just have a bit of tightness in the groin. I'm just making sure it doesn't become an issue."

His 24+ minutes of playing time on Wednesday in Phoenix was just a few seconds behind Alec Martinez for tops on the team. That wasn't necessarily the plan going into the game, it's just how things developed.

"With the line-up the Coyotes dressed - they dressed a pretty full line-up, I think they had about 16 regulars out there - at this time of year, organizations want to see their (prospects) a little bit, to see what they can do. But, they also want to stay in a hockey game. So, I think the 'D' who has been around a little bit, we maybe played more they wanted us to because of that. But, it's a good thing. It gets you going and right now the only way to get ready for the season is playing games. It doesn't matter what you do here on the ice here with skating - it's about getting into game situations and making reads. So, I enjoyed it."

And with the first round of roster cuts already made and more expected in the next 48 hours, things are starting to settle down - which is something Mitchell appreciates.

Rich Clune - 'Not a lot of guys here will win the scoring title'

Clune at Kings training camp (photo: CIKIRI)
Take the following players on NHL contracts: Trevor Lewis, Ethan Moreau, Scott Parse, Brad Richardson, Jarret Stoll, Kevin Westgarth...add in prospects Brandon Kozun, Andrei Loktionov and Tyler Toffoli...then top it off with Trent Hunter, who is in camp on a tryout deal...what do you have?

Ten players vying for six spots total on the Kings third and fourth lines for the upcoming season.

Now, add Rich Clune to that list.

"Sure, the odds are against me. Bring it on, I don’t care. I’m not going to quit and go to Europe. This is what you play for, right?"

It was an interesting opening comment from Clune, not only because it showed pure raw-emotion towards what he's up against, but also nearly picked up right where we left off the last time we spoke.

Back in July, Clune visited MayorsManor, during a time period when several Kings prospects were in the midst of leaving their AHL affiliate in Manchester and signing contracts over in Europe - something he had attributed to a disastrous combination of "the mighty dollar...a bit of an ego thing...and maybe a little frustration."

All valid points, but things Clune said he's willing to overlook for the time being.

When you're speaking with the 24-year old left wing, you usually have to separate the sarcasm from the truth, and this time was no different.

"I don't think I'd like the food over there anyway," he said.

Putting that aside, he's taking a different approach to the difficult road many must travel to reach the NHL.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

High / Low with Terry Murray... on players cut from roster

Schumacher in rookie game (photo: CIKIRI)
Just before game time last night, the Kings released the names of 11 players who had been cut from their list of 60+ players in camp.

Eight of them were camp invitees and the other three were former LA draft picks - Christopher Gibson, Michael Schumacher and Jordan Weal.

Interestingly, the latter group will be heading to three different junior hockey leagues - Gibson to the QMJHL, Schumacher the OHL and Weal goes back to Regina in the WHL.

After the first round of practice today, I asked coach Terry Murray for some highs and lows that each experienced in camp this month.

The normally positive, or at least even-keeled, Murray actually had some pointed criticism of Gibson. Apparently, the five goals he gave up in the third period last week vs. a team of Phoenix Coyotes prospects left a lasting impression...

Murray on Gibson - "Clearly (after) the game that he played, he has a lot of improvement that's needed. First of all, he has to be able to handle his emotions. You're going to be put under the spotlight as a pro player. So, get used to it kid. You have to find a way to get into a game where all your management and coaches are fans are watching and have high expectations of a second round pick. So, you have to get through that and then you take it from there. Working on your game never goes away. He left here with a lot of information from our goalie staff and they'll follow up with him in junior and keep pushing his game along."

Stoll on Clifford - 'Confidence is a scary thing sometimes'

Last year, Kyle Clifford was 19 years old when he came to the Kings' training camp. Only one year removed from being drafted by the team in the second round of the 2009 draft, he had yet to play a single professional game, let alone in the NHL.

Still, the year prior, then-assistant coach Mark Hardy called him the MVP of the 2009 Rookie Camp - that was ahead of several other top prospects, including Brayden Schenn and Brandon Kozun. Thus, he's been receiving praise from members of the Los Angeles organization for quite some time now.

In 76 regular season games last year, he had 14 points (seven goals, seven assists). Then, during the Kings first round playoff series with the San Jose Sharks, Clifford turned into a nearly point-a-game player, posting five points (including three goals) in six games.

With the reshuffling of the Kings bottom six this year, he'll most likely be playing with new linemates this season. Currently, he's on the left side of a line centered by Jarret Stoll - who had the following to say about playing with the rugged forward...

"He now realizes now he's counted on to make plays and carry the puck - not just dump it in and get on the forecheck. Obviously, that's there too and he can play that style of game. But, if he has that room, if he has that ice, we saw in the playoffs last year that he can carry that puck through the neutral-zone - he has a lot of speed, he's obviously strong on the puck, he has a great shot too. So, he brings a lot to the table. It's just a matter of keeping that confidence high, like he had at the end of last year and roll with it. Confidence is a scary thing sometimes when you have it - and try to keep it."

More quotes from camp coming up throughout the day, follow along on twitter and facebook at the links below.

Be sure to leave a comment below too!

The Mayor  


Kyle Clifford is not connived he has a spot on the LA Kings

Coach Murray on Kyle Clifford's promotion

Jarret Stoll will have a different view of tonight's game

Audio interview with Mark Hardy - talks in-depth about Clifford, Doughty, time with Kings, etc.

Stoll had questions from Mike Richards, has answers for Terry Murray

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POLL: Which rookie helped his cause the most?

Some will say, 'oh, it was only an exhibition game!'

Well, first off, you should reply and say, 'actually it was two exhibition games.' Then, follow it up with, 'they mean a lot to the rookies trying to earn a spot in the NHL.'

Coming into camp, it looked like the only real roster competition would be among the forwards - with Tyler Toffoli and Andrei Loktionov being among the top names under consideration.

Additionally, with Drew Doughty still not signed, coach Terry Murray is having to take a longer than expected look at several of the team's defensive prospects.

All said, which rookie do you think helped his case the most last night?

Poll closes Friday at 11am PST.

For your reference, post-game notes from the Kings-Coyotes games last night are available here: Game one in Phoenix and Game two in LA.

The Mayor

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Post-game notes (2 of 2): Coyotes at Kings 9/21/2011

Earlier we posted the recap from game one of the Kings - Coyotes split-squad game over in Arizona.

Here are ten post-game notes from the second contest, this one was in downtown Los Angeles...

* Slava Voynov looked strong throughout the game. He scored the Kings only goal in regulation (a power play marker at 5:53 of the second).

* Voynov had five shots, trailing only Dustin Brown and the Coyotes Patrick O'Sullivan (six) for most in the game.

* Coach Terry Murray on the play of Voynov - "I thought Voynov had a very good game. He’s got great awareness on the ice, with or without the puck. I wish he would sometimes shoot the puck a little bit more at times, but he has great composure."

* Jack Johnson played a whopping 32 minutes in the game. Voynov and Rob Scuderi had the second most on the team, around 24 minutes.

* Kyle Clifford led all LA players with 11 penalty minutes, including five minutes for fighting Ryan Hollweg in the second period. The Colonel lost the scrap.

Post-game notes (1 of 2): Kings at Coyotes 9/21/2011

For those into the numbers side of the game, here are ten post-game notes from the Kings game in Phoenix tonight...

* Tyler Toffoli scored in his first ever NHL exhibition game, tying things up at 14:14 of the third period on a power play goal.  He also finished as a plus-2.

* Dustin Penner scored with :49 seconds left to give the Kings the win.

* Willie Mitchell and Alec Martinez led all Kings players with 24+ minutes of ice-time.

* Mitchell was on the ice for four of the five goals scored in the game - both of the Coyotes even strength goals, Ethan Moreau's even strength goal for LA and the Kings power play goal. Thus, he finished plus-1 for the night. Interestingly, Martinez was only on the ice for the game winner.

* Trevor Lewis assisted on all three Kings goals and was a plus-2.

Jarret Stoll will have a different view of tonight's game

Things are coming into focus for Jarret Stoll
A few weeks after the Kings acquired 26-year old center Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll stopped by MayorsManor and let it be known - he's not feeling like a guy who's been kicked to the curb by his apparent move to the third line this season.

"I'd be very, very selfish to say that," Stoll said at the time. "I consider myself a guy who will play any role, any situation in order for us to win and to be a good teammate. I think we need that depth up the middle to win and we have it between the pipes and on defense. I think we just needed it down the middle a little more. Adding him just brings us that instantly. So, I'm happy to play anywhere, as long as we win, have fun and get into the playoffs."

Fast forward a few months and Stoll is talking much bigger than just making the playoffs now.

"Going into every training camp, your goal is to make the playoffs, no matter what,” said the 2002 second round draft pick. "But this year, we feel that just making the playoffs isn’t enough. Losing in the first round or even the second round, that’s not enough this year."

Like most of the other players in the locker room, Stoll has been feeling the increased expectations hovering above the team's training center over the last week or so.

"We have to have a good, solid season. Making the playoffs is tough, it’s not easy," explained Stoll. "We want to set a goal of having home ice (advantage) in the first round. And lets start talking about the Stanley Cup, start mentioning it. I know it's a long ways away. But, if you’re not talking about it, if you're not thinking about it, then you're a far ways away from it."

Brett Hextall ready to play his first game at Staples Center

Brett Hextall vs. the Kings (photo: CIKIRI)
During the Kings and Coyotes two-game Rookie Camp tournament last week, Brandon Kozun made the biggest impression on the management group and fans in Los Angeles.

Over on the other side, it was pretty hard not to notice Phoenix center Brett Hextall.

Sure, he's the son of Kings executive Ron Hextall. However, like the son of any former NHL player who gets drafted, he's slowly carving his own path and making his own way in the world of hockey.

Selected by the Coyotes in the sixth round of the 2008 NHL Draft, Hextall signed his first pro contract earlier this year and knows he may still have a ways to go to make it the NHL.

Still, how bad does he want to play in the game tonight vs. the Kings at Staples Center?

"Pretty bad," said the younger Hextall during a recent conversation.

He went on to share that getting into one of the split-squad games tonight against the Kings, especially the one in LA, was one of his main goals coming into camp this season. And why wouldn't it be - most boys still want to impress their father, even long after they grow up to be men themselves.

Now 23, he's left college behind and has his sights set on the next phase in his career. However, he did offer up a few scouting related comments on one of his former teammates at the University of North Dakota - Kings 2010 first round pick, Derek Forbort.

Tyler Toffoli - 'my emotions will be going' for game tonight

Toffoli at Kings camp (photo: CIKIRI)
When hockey players meet out on the ice for the first time, they never know where that brief encounter may someday take them.

For Tyler Toffoli, running into Ethan Moreau this summer has eventually brought the two to an unexpected place - not only teammates, but now linemates.

"When I was here training in the summer, he was here, just skating around," explained Toffoli. "So, I got to talk with him a bit back then while he was looking for a place to play. He's a great guy and just a class act all the way."

Tonight in Phoenix, the grizzled vet and the wide-eyed kid will play wing on a line centered by Trevor Lewis.

When Toffoli thinks back to his first encounter with Moreau, he was immediately impressed with the former Oilers captain.

"With LA giving him the opportunity to play here, I'm sure he'll do great because he's a great player. He's a big leader, who's been around for so many years. So, I'm really excited to get the opportunity to play with Ethan and Trevor Lewis."

Sunday evening, Kings coach Terry Murray shared many positive observations about the little things Toffoli has been doing in camp so far. For now, Toffoli says he's trying to keep his head down and his eye on the prize.

"I'm just here trying to work as hard as I can. I've come a long way since last year. I'm just really excited to be playing in my first exhibition game - when last year, I was nowhere near close. So, I'm excited and hopefully I can capitalize on my opportunity and stick around here for a little bit."

Of course, it didn't really matter if he was selected to play for the 'home' Kings or the 'road' Kings in tonight's split-squad series. Toffoli just wants to be in the mix.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday's 10 Tidbits from LA Kings Training Camp

Today the Kings put the final touches on plans for their split squad games against the Phoenix Coyotes tomorrow night - with each team hosting the other to kick off the 2011 pre-season.

LA's 'travel' team left for Arizona following the morning skate. Then, the 'hone' roster participated in their set of drills. You can view the full line-ups for both Kings' squads here.

We'll have more full length articles up later tonight.  However, knowing that some of you just want the highlights - here are the 10 tidbits you need to know...

* Simon Gagne was off ice today, due to a case of the flu. Unlike Justin Williams who returned after 24 hours from 'flu like symptoms,' it was announced Gagne will miss tomorrow night's game vs. Phoenix. This also led to some roster shuffling, as Brad Richardson will now stay behind (instead of travel with the group heading to Phoenix). Richardson will take Gagne's spot on a line with Mike Richards and Dustin Brown. So far, Gagne says he's liked what he's seen in LA. Cam Paddock, a camp invitee, took Richardson's spot on with the other squad.

* Coach Terry Murray said the plan is to have Jonathan Bernier play 40 minutes in Phoenix and then be relieved by Jeff Zatkoff for the final period. In LA, Jonathan Quick will start and Martin Jones will play the final 20 minutes.

* Coach Terry Murray again confirmed that Anze Kopitar is 100% healthy. In fact, he said he has no plans to limit Kopitar's minutes in the first game - instead, saying he plans on pushing him hard.    Kopitar, playing on the top line in Phoenix with Dustin Penner and Justin Williams had this to say after practice today - "Hopefully we'll stay together for a longer period of time (than last year) and not have to deal with all the line changes .  But, with Terry, you never know."  He also said Penner "has more endurance and is in good shape."

Terry Murray's convinced about Loktionov, unsure of Lewis

Back in July, Trevor Lewis stopped by MayorsManor and shared that he's open to just about anything this season. Even though he primarily played center during his rookie season last year, he'll happily move to the wing if that's where coach Terry Murray wants him.

For him, it's all about wanting quality minutes.

That's comforting to head coach Terry Murray, who will be faced with some tough choices here in the next week or so. Along with GM Dean Lombardi, they have, what seems like, 87 players in camp right now competing for spots on the bottom two lines.

One of the names that brings the most uncertainty is Andrei Loktionov.

"I think Loktionov is a center iceman and that's his best position, by far," said Murray at camp this week. "In saying that, I appreciate his work here at the start of last season - he did a pretty good job."

Acknowledging that he may need to move some parts around to make it all work, Murray added - "Trevor Lewis is probably the one player who can move to another position and feel more comfortable."

One possible advantage that Lewis may have at the moment, is Murray say him all year last season and in the playoffs.

"At the end of the day, it's going to be both guys in that position looking to make the hockey club," said Murray. "Trevor Lewis did a great job for us last year. I had him penciled in our (regular season) line-up coming into the training camp. Loktionov has really impressed me over the last two years. He's very creative. He needs to play higher. He needs to be one of those guys who is probably in your top six because of his ability to play with skilled players."

Kings' Ray Kaunisto calls Anaheim Ducks fan 'a lost cause'

Kaunisto during Rookie Camp (photo: CIKIRI)
It's time for the return of the Yooper.

Ray Kaunisto, a 6-foot-4 left wing, played 57 games for Manchester last season, the Kings' AHL affiliate. He had 14 points (8 goals, 6 assists) and finished with a minus-6 rating. Not exactly numbers that will shoot him past Brandon Kozun or Tyler Toffoli on the depth chart.

"To be realistic, I'm not a top-two liner," Kaunisto says.

He knows his role and he's sticking to it - "I like to be a defensive forward and I think I'm getting better at that as a pro - after being good at it in college."

With four years at Northern Michigan under his belt, he signed with the Kings as a free agent in March 2010.

Even though the odds may be stacked against him flying to Europe with the Kings to start the season, he's had a straight forward approach to training camp this week.

"How I look at it is, I come to camp and I do what I can," said the 24-year old, who hails from the Upper Peninsula area of Michigan. "I'm going to go out there and play rough, I'm going to hit and try not to turn the puck over. I want to be good in my own zone. I'll try to put in a couple of goals and be there for my teammates. If it doesn't work out here - I hope to make the team here, that's what everyone hopes here - but, I know that may not be the most realistic thing right now. The step after that is, go to the AHL and be a top player there."

Right before camp opened though, he had to ship something back home - his wife. Married over the summer, the Mrs. was in town for a few days.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mitchell and Richards developing a bro-mance at camp

It may not be spring, but love is in the air.

Like the first day of school every fall, the opening of training camp for the LA Kings each September brings similar feelings and events with it.

You have the young kids, who are intimidated by the older guys - even though they'll never admit it. You have the new faces - people who walk around all day feeling lost and just trying to find out where the bathrooms are. There's also plenty of reunions - the 'Hey, good to see you, how was your summer?' crowd.

Then, you have the love connections.

It's as if two people have suddenly found their long lost soul mates.

For longtime readers of MayorsManor, you may remember the Anze Kopitar-Ryan Smyth bro-mance of two years ago. Seeing them skate around the ice on opening day of training camp in 2009 was like watching a bumble bee chase around a bird in a cartoon or something. Both were giddy all day, hanging on each other's every word and smiling the whole time.

Well, guess what - cupid may have struck again in El Segundo.

Johnson not worried about much, including his plus-minus

Jack Johnson of LA Kings (photo: K. Spatz)
Kings defenseman Jack Johnson has few worries away from the rink, especially after signing a seven-year, $30.5-million contract extension back in January.

So, he was free to spend his summer on things other than stressing about a the trials and tribulations that can come with negotiating a new deal with his employer.

Instead, one of the many areas he found himself involved in was investing in a gym business back home in Michigan.

"I did it just because I get a key to the gym," joked Johnson. "I like to spend my time there. I have fun hanging out there and have a great relationship with all the trainers. They're almost like family like now. Plus, my little brother gets to train there for free."

The former first round draft pick says that as camp continues the focus is on cleaning up his game before the season begins in a few weeks.

"I'm making sure my puck handling gets back up to speed, keeping my head up, getting out of summer hockey mode," explained Johnson.

And then there's that little thing called plus-minus that pops up from time to time. His minus-19 posted during his rookie season has pretty much held steady over the last four years - including a team worst minus-21 last year. Perhaps, more concerning, on a team known for it's strong defensive play, Johnson was the only member of LA's starting defensemen to post a minus as the season total.

Like most things, it seems to just roll off Johnson's back.

"Plus-minus? I don't lose any sleep over that. As long as the coaches keep saying that I’m playing well and they keep playing me good minutes, that’s all the reassurance I need from them. If they see anything wrong, they let me know."

Preparing for life without Doughty, Kings coach Murray talks Voynov vs Hickey

Voynov, LA Kings rookie (photo: K. Spatz)
Hey, have you heard the news?

Drew Doughty hasn't resigned with the LA Kings yet.

After being bombarded with questions about his former Norris trophy candidate during the opening day of camp, coach Terry Murray is now starting to prepare for the possibility of having to fill his spot on the roster - even if it's only temporary.

LA's three leading candidates would be Jake Muzzin, Thomas Hickey and Slava Voynov.

Given that Murray already saw what Muzzin can do in the NHL during his 11-game stint early last season, much of the attention the last few days has been focused on the other two.

"I'm not too sure how it's all going to play out," Murray said early in camp. "But, the opportunity is there for someone to grab a position if Doughty does not show up here by the end of training camp."

And how likely is it that 'someone' will be Voynov?

"He has a little bit of an edge because he's a right handed shot - but, also because he's a very skilled guy and he plays the power play," Murray explained. "That's one of his strengths - to be able to carry the puck, see the ice and make plays. He has a nice shot, good quickness and, instinctively, he's a skill player. The other part is, he's coming off an all-star year (in Manchester). When you pay your dues in the minors the last couple of years like he has, and his game keeps getting better, he's a player that I'm going to keep a very close eye on."

Don't count Hickey out just yet though. He's been flying around the ice during the first few days of camp and Murray has taken notice.

"That’s a big change from what I saw in year one. His overall body strength is much better (too)."

Speed and strength are just part of Hickey's improvements. Murray also likes what he's doing with the puck.

Rosters for split-squad games - Kings vs Coyotes

A day earlier than expected, here are the Los Angeles Kings rosters for the split squad games vs. the Phoenix Coytoes on Wednesday.

At Phoenix

Goalies - Jeff Zatkoff, Jonathan Bernier

Defensemen - Matt Greene, Alec Martinez, Willie Mitchell, Andrew Campbell, David Kolomatis, Patrick Mullen

Forwards - Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams, Brad Richardson, Ethan Moreau, Kevin Westgarth, Trevor Lewis, Dustin Penner, Brandon Kozun, Rich Clune, Justin Azevedo, Tyler Toffoli, Dwight King

At Los Angeles

Goalies - Martin Jones, Jonathan Quick

Defensemen - Jack Johnson, Jake Muzzin, Rob Scuderi, Thomas Hickey, Davis Drewiske, Viatcheslav Voynov

Forwards - Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Kyle Clifford, Scott Parse, Dustin Brown, Jarret Stoll, Trent Hunter, Andrei Loktionov, David Meckler, Marc-Andre Cliche, Jordan Nolan, Ray Kaunisto

For a quick recap of all the notes and quotes coming out of camp this weekend - featuring coach Murray, Mike Richards, Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Penner, Jack Johnson and more - click here.  It has all the news you could possibly need!

The Mayor  

NOTE:  the Coyotes roster information is available here

Coach Murray helps close the loop on Brad Richardson

Richardson while training (photo: K. Spatz)
The list of names competing for a spot on the bottom two lines of this year's LA Kings squad was already quite packed in mid-August.

With Jarret Stoll, Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis and Kevin Westgarth taking up four of the six roles, that was probably going to make for a fun training camp battle between prospects Tyler Toffoli and Brandon Kozun, to see if they could crack the NHL line-up.

Then, the Kings went out and signed Ethan Moreau in late August.

If that wasn't enough, just days before camp opened, they invited veteran right wing Trent Hunter in on a try-out contract.

Is Brad Richardson slowly being squeezed out?

"No, not at all," coach Terry Murray said when asked last night. "I thought he had a real good playoff year. He really started to show his speed on a consistent basis. He scored some goals and the line was very good for us. He's come into camp with more confidence because of (that experience). When you see some of the stuff he's doing in the offensive part of the game - on drills we're running, he's holding onto the puck a little bit longer, he's using his quickness, that next-step to break it by a defenseman and getting pucks to the net."

As noted in yesterday's article about Kozun and the huge points he put up in junior hockey, Murray was careful to explain how it can take time for those sorts of skills to translate to the NHL level.

Los Angeles Kings Training Camp - recap of key comments

As you know, the Los Angeles Kings 2011 training camp opened up over the weekend.

Most of the NHL players were in town for about a week prior and had been working out and scrimmaging at the team's training facility in El Segundo.

Meanwhile, over 20 prospects were engaged in Rookie Camp, including a two-game series with the Phoenix Coyotes. According to MayorsManor readers, Brandon Kozun was the star of both games.

We were on hand all weekend with live tweets and facebook posts. Plus, there were a number of articles posted here on MayorsManor. Knowing that many of you may have been busy over the weekend and missed out on some of the information served up, here's a recap of the training camp related articles and quotes from players as they came off the ice...

Rookie Camp - post-game notes vs Coyotes

Sinon Gagne likes what he's seen so far, even the travel

Dustin Brown not buying that he lacks chemistry with Anze Kopitar

Matt Greene calls out Dustin Penner and Ethan Moreau

The 'all injured players' quotes - comments on and from Doughty, Murray, Williams, Kopitar, etc.

Dustin Penner on his weight and notes on the overall team conditioning

Matt Greene gets serious

The 'all Drew Doughty' article - notes and quotes from coach Murray and many players

Kopitar, Penner and Hunter on the Kings new top-line

Kyle Clifford raising his own questions during training camp

Brandon Kozun puts the ball in the Kings court

Terry Murray on camp MVP (so far)

There will be several more articles going up today - including features on Penner, Mike Richards, Jack Johnson, Thomas Hickey, Slava Voynov and more.

If you want to head down to TSC and catch some of the action, here is the schedule and the player groups.

Enjoy...and remember to leave a comment on the articles you read.  Your feedback helps drives the direction of future content.  It's really easy, just type a sentence or two.  Hint, hint...

The Mayor  

Prospect Brandon Kozun puts the ball in the Kings court

Sometimes the NHL Draft can be a bit confusing for the casual observer.

Jordan Eberle was drafted in the first round by the Edmonton Oilers back in 2008. The following year, the Kings took Brandon Kozun in the sixth round.

At the end of the 2009-10 season, Kozun had 107 points and beat out Eberle for the WHL scoring title.

Since then, Eberle has played 69 games in the NHL. Meanwhile, Kozun proclaimed 'I'm ready for the NHL' earlier this summer.

At the very least, he'll most likely be playing an NHL pre-season game on Wednesday night against the Phoenix Coyotes.

"I have him penciled in for an exhibition game," said Kings head coach Terry Murray. "I like the way he played (in the Rookie Games last week, ironically against Phoenix). He made some huge plays in the offensive part of the games, setting up the winning goals and scoring goals on the power play himself. That's what he needs to do. He's put up big numbers in junior and we're looking for that to carry over to the pro side of it."

Kozun also believes he put his best foot forward last week.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

LA Kings coach Terry Murray on camp MVP (so far)

It's only been two days.

So, when I asked LA Kings coach Terry Murray which one guy has been the most impressive so far in camp, he gave a classic deadpan answer - "Mike Kalinowski."

If you've never heard the name before, don't worry. He's not listed as one of the 65 names attending sessions at the team's training facility this week.

Kalinowski is the Kings Senior Manager of Communications. Essentially, he's one of the key guys who connects media with the players and people on the Hockey Operations side. He's actually a great guy who goes out of his way to help those he deals with on a daily basis.  Perhaps his only flaw is being a Vikings fan, but we'll save that for a different article.

Back to camp...

Come on coach, a player...

"You know, having seen the young players through a week of Rookie Camp and a couple of games, there's a couple guys there who have impressed me."

Uh oh, will he hedge again? No, not Murray.  He finally picked a name...

Kyle Clifford raising his own questions during Kings Camp

Last weekend, Kyle Clifford intimated that he wasn't letting himself believe he had earned on spot on this year's LA Kings team.

Given his humble and quiet nature, it wasn't surprising that the 20-year old forward was approaching training camp with anything other than his full passion for the game.

One thing that has changed for him in his second year though are the people around him in the locker room. Most notably, there's somebody missing from the stall next to him.

Did it take coming to camp and not seeing Wayne Simmonds sitting there for the full realization of the trade to hit home?

"Yeah, it's different," Clifford said. "Wayne was such a character guy and a great guy who helped me out a lot last year. He kind of took me under his wing. So, he's going to be missed."

Perhaps one of the things Simmonds cautioned him about was the tendency some players have to go through a 'sophomore slump' their second season.

"You don't want to take a step backward," explained Clifford. "My main goal is to always be moving forward. I take each day one day at a time though. If I do that and listen to the coaches and the veteran leadership in here, I'll keep improving my game. But, I haven't set any goals for number of points or anything like that. Well, win all my fights - but, that's a given every year!"

Another given for Clifford this year will be his equipment. Over the summer, he signed an endorsement deal with Bauer.

"I grew up using Bauer most of my life. So, sticking with one equipment person just makes things a little easier." As he put it, "I'm wearing everything Bauer, head to toe Bauer."

New equipment, a few new teammates - somethings haven't changed though.

"It's still camp. So, it's still tough and it's still grueling," said Clifford. "After coming in and playing last year, now I know what to expect though. With the team we have now it just makes this year that much more exciting too."

Kopitar, Penner and Hunter on the LA Kings new top-line

Somebody should send Justin Williams a thank you card.

His 'flu-like symptoms' have been a blessing in disguise today.

During the Kings first on-ice sessions today, the focus instantly changed from 'Where's Drew Doughty?' to 'Hey, who is that #47 playing on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Penner?'

It was right wing Trent Hunter, a camp invitee - meaning he's here on a tryout basis.

Following the two-plus hour workout, coach Terry Murray said part of the reason for putting Hunter in Williams spot today was a reward for yesterday. It also had to do with the fact that Murray plans on 'giving Hunter every opportunity to make the team this year.' Although, Murray also acknowledged it will be tough for that to happen - given the roster depth already.

That decision is more than a week away though. For now, the three linemates had some thoughts about their temporary union...

Kopitar on playing with Hunter for the first time - "It was good. Obviously, he's been int he league for a long time and he knows what he's doing. It's too bad that Willy is a little sick right now, but hopefully we'll get him back soon as we can."

Hunter on playing on the top line - "It's fun playing with players of that calibre...If I had any questions, I'd ask them. They were both good about talking to me. Regardless of who you're playing with, you have to communicate with them on the ice."

Hunter on conversations with the Kings about his chances of making the team this season - "They were upfront and honest, right from the start. Nothing changed from one conversation to the next. It was always the same thing. So, I knew what I was coming to. They were very honest me. I realize I have to come in and play hard to win a spot here."

LA Kings Training Camp 2011: the 'all Drew Doughty' article

Drew Doughty is one of the best defensemen in the National Hockey League - even though, technically, he may not be part of the Los Angeles Kings at the moment.

So, it wasn't totally surprising that Doughty not being signed (officially, he's not a hold out, he's an unsigned RFA), was one of the primary topics at training camp yesterday.

That said, several of the players have already tired of the questions surrounding the talented blue-liner.

"To be honest, there really wasn't another topic yesterday besides Drew Doughty and my ankle," said Anze Kopitar after this morning's session.

It did feel that way at times.

For those who just can't get enough Doughty news though, here are some selected - and believe me, it's only a sliver - of the non-stop Double-D talk from day one of training camp...

Thomas Hickey on the hole that currently exists in the line-up - "You can't kid yourself. The first thing you look at are the one-way contracts because those are the guys who have earned the right to play here over guys who are coming up. Without him, there's only six. I think all the defensemen understand that and understand the style that he plays. That's a big void that's left open. I think some of my skills could be useful moving forward if he's not going to be here."