With one job already open, and Matt Greene expected to be out for the first month of the season, there are a couple of pieces that need to fall into place on the Kings’ defense, but Terry Murray thinks he has already found one of them in Davis Drewiske.
Drewiske, 25, was a lineup regular last season until he hurt his shoulder in early January, and then appeared in only four games. The Kings like his potential as a big-bodied (6-foot-2, 222 pounds) defenseman but have been concerned about his physical play and consistency. At the start of camp, though, Murray had a strong review of Drewiske’s offseason work.
“Drewiske tested really well,” Murray said. “He looks great, he feels good, he’s confident. To me, he’s going to bounce back and grab a spot, right from the end of the training camp. There’s no question that he’s an experienced guy. He’s been there and has done it for us, and we have confidence that he’s going to get it all back together here on the playing side of things. The hardest thing for me last year was taking him out of the lineup, because he cares so much and tries so hard. I love the attitude he has come back to camp with.”
Murray’s words are a clear indication that Drewiske has a spot to lose in training camp, and Drewiske said he is prepared to take the lessons from a tough 2009-10 season and move forward.
“I’m just trying to put last year behind me and learn what I can from it,” Drewiske said. “I know there’s a great opportunity here for me to come and play my game, just get back to being simple and defending first. Just move the puck quick and be hard to play against. I’ll just try to focus on that, and that’s something I think our team can use, and definitely needs.
“I’m excited about the way the summer went. I’m feeling much better this year, as opposed to at this time last year. I’m just excited to get going here.”
With Greene out of action, Drewiske said he has a sense of the moment, and the fact that some defensemen — with Drewiske perhaps at the top of that list — will need to step in and make up for Greene’s absence.
“Absolutely,” Drewiske said. “Greener is a very important player for our team. Those aren’t shoes that just one guy can fill. I think we’ve all got to chip in, and I think I can chip in on the physical side and be aggressive and be hard and be able to defend, and fill his shoes that way. But obviously he’s a vocal guy and he’s a leader, so we all need to pick up that slack with him out. I know he’s working really hard, and he’s the first guy here every morning, and he will be back as soon as he can.”
Now entering his third NHL season, Drewiske said he has a firmer grasp on what it will take to stick in the league permanently.
“I think I realized, looking back, that you have to be confident. You have to have absolute confidence in your game and confidence in yourself. You can’t expect to get that from anyone else. And you have to show that urgency and show that everything matters, every little play matters. It’s really being on your toes, being physical and having that confidence so that everyone else can see it as well.”
If Drewiske can win a spot, and be counted on as a reliable every-game defenseman, it would probably make it easier for Murray to look at a prospect as the sixth defenseman until Greene returns. Murray could go conservative and plug in useful utility player Peter Harrold, or be bolder and look at a prospect such as Thomas Hickey, Jake Muzzin or Johan Fransson.
“I’m going to leave that pretty open,” Murray said. “I do feel comfortable with a younger player grabbing hold of the spot, but he is going to have to earn that right to play on the team. I’m going to be watching several guys in the organization who had runs deep into the playoffs last year with Manchester, and see how it all plays out. With the addition of (Willie) Mitchell, and with our top four guys being solid, it would allow a younger player to be able to step in and fill a spot.”