Dowd, Mersch push perceived pressure into positive - LA Kings Insider

Auditions are coming to a close in Las Vegas after over two weeks of training camp have proved eventful and left many wondering what the final Kings roster will look like. For the first time out of any Los Angeles camps of recent memory, roster spots have been on the table for the taking. It makes turning the perceived pressure into positive play on the ice all the more important.

The process has been a ride for many but in particular for winger Michael Mersch and center Nic Dowd, two forwards with one specific commonality: they made their NHL debuts a season ago and are pushing for full-time jobs for the first time.

“I think there’s opportunity to be had. It’s important to know that and take advantage of it,” Dowd said.

Added Mersch: “Every day has been a chance to make a statement so I’ve tried to do one thing or another, look at the positive things I’ve done and try to build on that kind of stuff so I’m just going to keep doing that.”

In Friday’s second-to-last preseason game, a 6-3 loss to the Dallas Stars, both Mersch and Dowd scored: Mersch from his home base in front of the net on a deflection to open the scoring, Dowd jumping to the slot and roofing a wrister in the third period.

In these moments, bearing down on those chances becomes more crucial. They’ve been competing with other forwards but now more opportunity is there than originally anticipated considering Tanner Pearson’s suspension will put him out of the first two games, and Nick Shore and Marian Gaborik out due to injury.

“It’s tough,” Mersch said of the training camp experience. “I think you just have to focus. I’ve been focusing day-to-day, every day at the rink, just do whatever I’ve got to do to get ready and act as if every practice is a game, every pregame skate is a game. So, just all that type of stuff because you’ve got to be sharp at all times.”

Head coach Darryl Sutter commended Mersch in a roundabout way after the game. It’s no secret to anyone that Mersch, who had a team-high 24 goals with the Ontario Reign last season, can finish around the net.

“It’s pretty normal for him,” Sutter said. “He didn’t do anything different than he normally does.”

Dowd and Mersch have followed similar paths. They’re American-born players who took the collegiate path. Two seasons ago in Manchester they lifted the Calder Cup. Last season with the Reign they were far and away the team’s biggest weapons – 200-foot players who played in every situation and often together. On the ice though, their styles are much different. Mersch does his best work below the offensive zone dots on the forecheck and in front of the net but continues to work on his speed and transition skating, which he says he thinks has “gotten a lot better.” As a centerman Dowd prides himself on being strong in the circle, something that he found success with at the AHL level. His play-making style often made him a pass-first player in Ontario until he was pushed by head coach Mike Stothers to shoot more, resulting in 14 goals, four of those in the final month and a half of the season. This preseason he leads the Kings with three goals.

Last season Mersch was the first forward call-up to Los Angeles and Dowd followed. That experience alone has helped to this day.

“I wouldn’t say so much nerves anymore,” said Mersch, who sounds like he’s moved past the uncomfortable transition phase after playing in 17 NHL games last season. “Maybe when I was playing my first game, that was more nerves. Now it’s when you get more comfortable and it’s just a matter of going out and doing it.

“You’ve got to believe in yourself and go out there and do it.”

Ethan Miller / Getty ImageS

Kurtis MacDermid

#56 | 6′ 5″ | 233 lb | Age: 23

Born: March 25, 1994
Birthplace: Sauble Beach, ON, CAN
Position: D
Handedness: Left


MacDermid was signed by the Kings as an unrestricted free agent on Sept. 12, 2012.

Michael Amadio

#52 | 6′ 1″ | 204 lb | Age: 21

Born: May 13, 1996
Birthplace: Sault Ste. Marie, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right


Amadio was selected by the Kings in the third round (90th overall) in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Alex Lintuniemi

#10 | 6′ 3″ | 214 lb | Age: 21

Born: DOB: 9/23/1995
Position: D


Lintuniemi played in 27 games for the HIFK U18 team in Helsinki at 15-years-old, as well as seven games with the Finland U16 team. He made his professional hockey debut with the Monarchs in 2015, and has since begun playing for the Reign.

Brett Sutter

#07 | 6′ 0″ | 192 lb | Age: 29

Born: 6/2/1987
Birthplace: CALGARY, AB
Position: C


Drafted in 2005 by the Calgary Flames, Sutter was traded to the Reign in 2016. He is the son of LA Kings head couch Darryl Sutter, and the eighth member of the Sutter family to play in the NHL.