AHL’s top rookie bound for a position switch?
Los Angeles Kings forward Tyler Toffoli was voted as the winner of the Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award as the American Hockey League’s rookie of the year. A 20-year-old, Toffoli recorded 48 points on 28 goals and 20 assists in 55 games with the Manchester Monarchs.
“After the first couple games, we started having a couple big nights,” Toffoli said of his AHL season. “After that, I don’t know, but you definitely recognized that you had the checking line on you every night and their top D-men on you. So it just pushed you and made you better, and I think overall all three of us (Tanner Pearson, Linden Vey and Toffoli) thought we played well and had a lot of success”
Since his promotion on March 10, Toffoli has been productive in his eight games in a Kings jersey. With three goals and five points and a plus three rating, he has seen time both on the power play and at even strength with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter as well as several of Los Angeles’ depth forwards.
Following an NHL-high 15 minutes and one second of ice time in Minnesota on March 30 – a night in which he recorded a point for the fourth time in five games – his minutes dropped into single digits. He saw just under nine minutes of ice time in a loss at Phoenix on April 2 and hasn’t played since.
“When we brought him up, we weren’t trying to force him into anything, and it’s what we said,” Darryl Sutter said. “Because of the schedule, we need lots of guys and one thing I know going forward with him, just because the way our positions stack up, he’s going to have to be a more versatile player in terms of position-wise, because his primary position is right wing, and that’s going to be a tough place for him to play when you have Willie and Jeff ahead of him at right wing, and Lewie’s got a good role on our team. He’s going to have a hard time not being any more than what we are right now on a good team, and I’ve talked to him about it. He hasn’t played much left wing, but he’s played a lot of center. Usually good players in Canada on kids teams play center, right? So we’re going to have to do some work with him on that this summer and go from there.”
The work wouldn’t necessarily be a shift back to center, considering he won’t unseat Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards or Jarret Stoll, all of whom are signed through at least next season.
“Well, he’d have trouble playing center here, wouldn’t he?” Sutter asked rhetorically.
In other words, this summer could see Toffoli learning the intricacies of playing left wing, a position he played sporadically in junior hockey.
As for the here-and-now, Toffoli understands his role and the team’s needs.
“I mean obviously you want to be playing, but I understand the situation where we’re completely healthy and I’m 20 years old,” he said. “I’m excited, and if I get the opportunity, I’m just going to take it and run with it.”