Things are winding down at the Kings’ development camp in El Segundo, with only tomorrow remaining in terms of the on-ice sessions. The prospects have been going at it hard since Friday, with morning sessions and then an afternoon session. Today, for the second consecutive day, the players went through a full-speed scrimmage, one that started 4-on-4 and then moved to 5-on-5. Not surprisingly, in a camp such as this one, the older “kids,’’ such as Robbie Czarnik and Nic Deslauriers, tend to catch the eye, but forwards such as Tyler Toffoli, Andy Andreoff and recent first-round pick Tanner Pearson also had their moments.
Dean Lombardi and Darryl Sutter aren’t in town — Sutter’s son Brett is soon to marry — but today was the media-availability portion of the camp, and player-development coach Nelson Emerson talked about the camp in general and a few of the players. Tomorrow, I’ll post a few individual interviews with prospects, but for now here’s Emerson, starting with his general thoughts on the level of skill at the camp…
EMERSON: “As far as our job goes, the development staff, we’re very excited about the players we get to work with, year after year. We’ve got another talented group, and we’re real excited about that, but the biggest thing we have here now is a history of players that have gone through our program and have stepped up to help the big club in huge ways. So it makes our job rewarding and easier.’’
Question: Does the level of competition go up every year? Now, not only is it at the NHL level, but guys are going to be competing for spots at the Manchester level…
EMERSON: “With success comes a lineup that is packed full of solid hockey players. So I think that’s what our organization tried to develop over the last six years. Six years ago, it was a lot different when a young player came in here trying to earn a spot. Now it’s a little tougher challenge, but I think, in the long run, it’s more rewarding.’’
Question: If you could just talk about a couple guys individually, the first being Tanner Pearson. I didn’t know how much exactly he would be able to do, coming off his injury…
EMERSON: “I don’t think the injury is an issue at all now. He’s everything that the scouts said. He’s got a legitimate pro-type shot. The puck jumps off his stick, different than a lot of people. He’s got great hand instincts. He’s been a battler, the last two or three years, to go through what he did. For our group, he’s a pleasure to work with, because of the ability that he has, shooting the puck and scoring goals.’’
Question: How about Andy Andreoff?
EMERSON: “Andy has been good for the last year, ever since he’s been around us. He playe junior last year and he’s ready to be a pro. He’s ready to be a pro. He’s tough. He’s got a lot of pro-type intangibles. He’s strong, strong on the puck. He’s a good teammate, meaning he will stick up for his teammates. He reads the game well, and he’s the type of pro player that every organization would love to have, because of those intangibles.’’
Question: And Tyler Toffoli is a guy who people have been keeping close track of for a while. How has his development been?
EMERSON: “Excellent. The buy-in from this kid has been tremendous. Like I said, we’ve had players who have gone through our little thing here for the last five or six years, and this kid has bought in from day one. We’re excited. The last couple years, we’ve had to work with him. Now he’s turning pro and he has been a tremendous student, just from the hard work off-ice. I’m talking off-ice, in the gym, being a pro, putting his work in, doing all the extra stuff that we do, as far as development goes. His habits? Tremendous, and we’ve seen what he did on the ice in junior. So now it’s time for him to move on.’’
Question: He’s a guy who Dean talks about when he mentions guys who came into the organization in bad physical shape, and had to make improvement. It must be rewarding for you, personally, to see guys like him show that improvement…
EMERSON: “You know what it is? It’s maturity. They’re coming in as 18-year-olds and they don’t understand and they don’t see it. Now, they’ve had tremendous leaders in front of them that are showing them the way. So, Tyler Toffoli follows right along that progression. He has learned how to do it now. He has learned how to train. He has watched the players ahead of him, who have been real pros, and he’s on a good path, this kid.’’
Question: Any wild cards, or anybody who has stood out to you?
EMERSON: “Well, we have a lot of college kids here that will still go back to NCAA, so those are kids that are going through the process of an NCAA player. So it’s good to see (Derek) Forbort here. It’s good to see Nick Shore and (Joel) Lowry. Like I said earlier, our scouts have given our development group a lot of great players to work with, and it makes it fun and easy for us.’’