Words mean things, and when the Kings call their summer get-together a “development camp,’’ that’s exactly what they mean. It’s not merely a prospects camp or a rookie camp. The emphasis is on individual development, rather than competition or putting on a show for fans. The hours are long for the coaches and staff, but the reward is in watching the young players improve from year to year. Tyler Toffoli is turning into the latest example. Toffoli arrived in the Kings’ organization two years ago, as a second-round draft pick, and was well-regarded for his offensive instincts but lacked a good skating stride and wasn’t in good shape.
Two years later, Toffoli has made big strides. Coaches like his skill, but what they like more is the fact that Toffoli, while still playing junior hockey, has started to approach the game like a pro. His conditioning and all-around game have improved greatly, to the point that the Kings seriously considered the possibility of playing Toffoli in the playoffs. Heading into next season, with the NHL roster presumably returning intact, it will be tough for Toffoli to crack the roster, but it certainly won’t hurt him, at age 20, to spend a year at the AHL level. Of course, like every prospect, Toffoli has his sights set on the NHL. Toffoli talked about his development and his experience at camp this summer…
TOFFOLI: “I feel really good out there. Obviously there’s still a ways to go, but I’m working hard and I’ve really been trying to work on the things I need improvement on. I feel like I’ve come a long way from two years ago, and I just want to keep getting better.’’
Question: Now being part of a Stanley Cup-championship organization, does it make things even more exciting in any way?
TOFFOLI: “It’s incredible. I’m having so much fun. It’s hard work, and I just want to keep getting better and hopefully one day play for the Kings.’’
Question: The Kings’ roster is pretty much returning intact, but they also think highly of you. What’s your attitude heading into training camp?
TOFFOLI: “I’m just going to come in and work as hard as I can, and show them that I don’t want to play in the American league. Hopefully I don’t really give them that option, but I’m just going to work as hard as I can. My goal is to play in the NHL, and hopefully one day I can do that.’’
Question: What, in particular, are you working on trying to improve?
TOFFOLI: “My first couple strides. Obviously it’s always been my knock, and everybody talks about it, but I think I’m definitely getting a lot better than where I was. I’m just going to keep working on it this summer, and get stronger and get faster.’’