Ladue excited upon recall, but understands "the work starts now" - LA Kings Insider

Paul LaDue was navigating the web of Southern California freeways en route to Ontario at the conclusion of the AHL All-Star Break when his phone rang earlier this week. On the other end, Rob Blake was the bearer of good news: The first-year pro was going to be recalled.

“I was really excited,” the 24-year-old defenseman said. “It kind of took me by surprise a little bit, but right after I got off the phone I called my parents and they were ecstatic too, and it’s an exciting time, but the work starts now, so it’s time to really get to work and prove that I can play, and hopefully I get the chance here soon.”

If there was anyone who didn’t mind making an extraneous trip to and from the Inland Empire, it was LaDue, who practiced with the Kings for the first time since the preseason during an optional skate at Toyota Sports Center on Thursday.

“I didn’t really expect it, but there’s no better time, so it’s good and I’m ready for this road trip,” he said.

As Darryl Sutter noted on Thursday, the Kings recalled the right-shot defenseman in the wake of Matt Greene’s injury and Tom Gilbert not seizing the playing time while competing for a role alongside players such as Greene, Kevin Gravel and Brayden McNabb. Greene and Gilbert are right-handed shots, while Gravel and McNabb shoot left-handed, and the Kings were in need of another righthanded shooter with Alec Martinez and Gravel often playing on their off-sides.

“Well, we had him all summer and all training camp and every exhibition game,” Sutter said. “We played him in all of Drew’s situations when Drew was gone for the World Cup, so that’s way more important than what somebody says or what the video shows. … First off, he’s in the same age group. He’s gone through most of his school and he’s in that Forbort-Gravel-McNabb – those guys’ age group – so we expect him to be able to compete with those guys for a spot.”

The defenseman showed an aptitude for handling the opposing forecheck and making reads and plays while under pressure and by moving his feet. By averaging greater than a half a point per game over three seasons at the University of North Dakota, he’s also probably capable of posting respectable offensive numbers. In 36 games with the Reign, LaDue has six goals, 18 points, an even rating and 76 shots on goal.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI

The Kings had made a strong push to sign LaDue in the spring of 2015, but despite Rob Blake’s trip to North Dakota in an effort to sign the 2012 sixth round draft pick, the Grand Forks native decided to remain in college for his junior season, where he won an NCAA championship alongside fellow NHL rookies Troy Stecher of Vancouver and Drake Caggiula of Edmonton. The Kings were supportive of that decision, citing the comfort with the program’s coaching staff and developmental process. At the time of the 2015 courtship, North Dakota was coached by Dave Hakstol, who now coaches the Philadelphia Flyers.

It does not appear as though LaDue will make his NHL debut against one of his former college coaches, however. The 6-foot-1, 186-pound defenseman skated as an extra during the team’s practice at the University of Pennsylvania on Friday in Philadelphia.

Still, there’s a good chance the defenseman will make his debut on this road trip, which would represent a significant step forward in his first year pro. Once Tyler Toffoli is activated, he’ll be one of six 1992-born skaters on this Kings team and the second youngest player on the team, edging out September 26-born Nick Shore by 20 days.

“[Making the Kings this season] was definitely the goal, but I try not to think about it too much,” LaDue said. “[In Ontario] I just tried to go about my day and I tried to get better each day and help the team down there, but overall the year’s been great. We’ve had some success down there and personally I’ve had some success, so hopefully I can keep that going up here.”

Paul LaDue, on Kings teammates such as Nic Dowd and Kevin Gravel who were rivals at St. Cloud:
The rivalries, there’s no tension anymore, but back in the day us and St. Cloud, we had some good battles. I remember playing Gravs and Dowd and Brodzinski all the time and those were some tough games. I think my first couple losses at UND, I think they swept us at home so I’ll never forget that, but yeah, it’s good to see guys from around the league and guys you played with in college hockey. I think it’s growing as the years go on, it’s good to see.

LaDue, on getting regular shifts with the Kings during the preseason:
It was huge. Obviously you want to get in as many games as possible before the season just to get used to the pace and get used to the speed of things and I think it helped out a lot and it definitely made it easier going down there and starting the regular season off, so I’m glad I got in and I think it helped out a lot.

LaDue, on his play this season in Ontario:
I think it’s been good. There’s been some ups and downs, but I think that’s expected your first year. But as far as the team, we’ve got a great team down there and we’ve been winning a lot so it’s been a good year.

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Rules for Blog Commenting
  • - No profanity, slurs or other offensive language. Replacing letters with symbols does not turn expletives into non-expletives.
  • - Personal attacks against other blog commenters, and/or blatant attempts to antagonize other commenters, are not tolerated. Respectful disagreement is encouraged. Posts that continually express the same singular opinion will be deleted.
  • - Comments that incite political, religious or similar debates will be deleted.
  • - Please do not discuss, or post links to, websites that illegally stream NHL games.
  • - Posting under multiple user names is not allowed. Do not type in all caps. All violations are subject to comment deletion and/or banning of commenters, per the discretion of the blog administrator.
Alec martinez

#27 | 6′ 1″ | 210 lb | Age: 29

Born: July 26, 1987
Birthplace: Rochester Hills, MI, USA
Position: D
Handedness: Left

Bio

Bio: Martinez was drafted by the LA Kings in the 2007 Draft, while playing for Miami University. He has since become a two-time Stanley Cup champion and the 17th man in Stanley Cup playoff history to score the Cup-winning goal in overtime.

VIEW ALEC MARTINEZ POSTS
Anze Kopitar

#11 | 6′ 3″ | 224 lb | Age: 29

Born: August 24, 1987
Birthplace: Jesenice, SVN
Position: C
Handedness: Left

Bio

As the 11th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kopitar became the first Slovenian to play in the NHL. Kopitar has spent his entire NHL career with the Kings, and following the 2015–16 season, was named the Kings’ captain. Noted for both his offensive and defensive play, Kopitar was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL in 2016.

VIEW ANZE KOPITAR POSTS
Drew Doughty

#8 | 6′ 1″ | 195 lb | Age: 26

Born: December 8, 1989
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: D
Handedness: Right

Bio

Bio: Doughty is a Canadian defenceman who was selected second overall by the Kings in the 2008 Draft. Doughty made his NHL debut in 2008 as an 18-year-old and was named to the All-Rookie Team. He is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Kings, a two-time Olympic gold medallist with the Canadian national team, and a Norris Trophy finalist.

VIEW DREW DOUGHTY POSTS
Tyler Toffoli

#73 | 6′ 1″ | 200 lb | Age: 24

Born: April 24, 1992
Birthplace: Scarborough, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right

Bio

Toffoli is a Canadian professional ice hockey forward, drafted by the Kings in the second round of the 2010 Draft. Toffoli scored his first career NHL goal in his second game in a 4–0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes in 2013. He was also named the 2012–13 AHL All-Rookie Team.
VIEW TYLER TOFFOLI POSTS

Jeff Carter

#77 | 6′ 4″ | 215 lb | Age: 31

Born: January 1, 1985
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right

Bio

Carter began his hockey career playing in the Ontario Hockey League in Canada before joining the AHL and playing for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was then traded to the Colombus Blue jackets before joining the LA Kings in 2012, where he has since won two Stanley Cups with the Kings.

VIEW JEFF CARTER POSTS
Jonathan Quick

#32 | 6′ 1″ | 218 lb | Age: 30

Born: January 21, 1986
Birthplace: Milford, CT, USA
Position: G
Handedness: Left

Bio

Bio: Quick is the current goaltender for the LA Kings and was selected by Los Angeles at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Previously, Quick was a silver medalist with USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He’s won two Stanley Cup championships with the Kings, along with being the most recent goaltender to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

VIEW JONATHAN QUICK POSTS