There is a lot of competition for spots in training camp this year, but along the way, Terry Murray is dropping some hints. As earlier posted, Murray noted that he expects Davis Drewiske to earn a spot, and today he mentioned Kevin Westgarth as a player he expects to see as the fourth-line right winger.
That’s really no surprise. Murray prefers to have a traditional “enforcer” on the ice, and when Raitis Ivanans signed with Calgary, Westgarth inherited that role. At 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, Westgarth certainly has the physical tools, and he has the credentials, having totaled at least 165 penalty minutes in each of his three seasons with the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs.
So while there don’t appear to be any strong challengers for the spot, Westgarth said he’s not holding a sense of entitlement.
“I’m coming in with the mentality that I haven’t done anything yet,” Westgarth said. “I haven’t played a season in the NHL, and that’s my goal. That’s everybody’s goal, but coming into camp and talking to Hexy [assistant GM Ron Hextall] and the coaches, I’ve had some points to focus on, with conditioning and especially my skating, but also just being professional and taking care of all the little things on the ice in order to become a dependable player. The rest, I suppose, is kind of up to me, and I’ve proven, at least at the AHL level, that I can take care of my teammates and provide that physical presence. I definitely look forward to showing that at this level.”
Throughout last season, and during the summer, Kings management and coaches stressed the need for Westgarth to improve his skating. That was a problem for Ivanans, whose lack of mobility sometimes led to awful offensive-zone penalties, and Westgarth said he’s been aware of not being a liability because of his skating.
“Absolutely,” Westgarth said. “It’s been a long road. I think every year of the last 20 or so that I’ve been playing hockey, it’s been somewhat of a focus. For sure, the last couple years it’s been a huge, concerted effort, to make sure that I’m there after practice working on skating and, when I come here in summers, make sure I get in some skating. I’m just working on those little things that can help me become a more effective player for the Kings.”