Development Camp as much about off the ice focus as on ice - LA Kings Insider

Another edition of Los Angeles Kings Development Camp is in the books – while most of the attention last week was focused on the ice, a part of this experience that interested me was how the Kings staff teaches the players off the ice and what was important to ingrain into these young prospects.

Most of these players have not played the game professionally and none have played in the NHL to date. While the experience levels of the attendees varied, with participants ranging from 17 to 23 years old, the common medium was that each of these players are rookies in the professional sense.

With a vast amount of experience at this camp in various capacities amongst the staff, I asked four members of the staff about what they looked to do with developing these younger athletes in an off-ice capacity.

Mike O’Connell – Senior Advisor to the General Manager / Development
Mike O’Connell skated in over 900 games in the NHL between the regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. O’Connell then spent four years as a coach in the AHL and NHL before he moved into the front office, where he spent 12 seasons with the Boston Bruins as the Assistant General Manager and then General Manager. The Chicago native has now been with the Kings since 2006, first as the Director of Player Development and now as a Senior Advisor to the General Manager.

“The biggest focus on developing anyone is establishing that relationship, having the trust. We know them, we know their strengths and their weaknesses and they know that we know. That trust, chatting with them as they go forward in their careers about where they need to go, they believe us. That’s the emphasis that we have here, get to know them and meet with them, whatever it takes.”

Mike Stothers – Ontario Reign Head Coach / Development

via Ontario Reign

Stothers brings 25 years of coaching experience and 10 years of professional playing experience to the table and logged more than 700 professional games over his playing career. The Toronto native has coached at the major junior, AHL and NHL levels throughout his career and has won the Calder Cup as a player (Maine – 1984), Assistant Coach (Philadelphia – 1998) and Head Coach (Manchester – 2015). Stothers has served as Head Coach of the Reign for the past three seasons.

“First of all, as a pro, that’s what you have to learn, it’s not all just on the ice stuff that you’re working on. Becoming a good pro, it’s how you look after yourself off the ice, what do you do to keep yourself in top shape, how do you get bigger, how do you get stronger, how do you get faster, how do you get quicker. You can’t do everything on the ice, so a lot of the stuff that goes into it, whether its video, meetings, nutrition, workout regimens and then you take it another step further and you have guys on the ice. We’ve got a great development staff, we have a great support system that allows these guys to maximize their potential and give them a little bit of a taste of what it’s like to be a pro.”

Mike Donnelly – Player Development

Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI

Mike Donnelly played in over 700 games between the regular season and playoffs at the professional level, including more than 500 in the NHL. Donnelly spent the majority of his NHL career with the Kings from 1990-95 and skated in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1992. The Detroit native has spent the last 16 years of his career in the Kings organization, first as a scout for 14 years and the last two in the Player Development department.

“It’s getting to know the players, developing a relationship with them and teaching them, there’s a lot of stuff that we have to teach. We want to know them not just as hockey players and I think that’s important when you’re doing development. I’m not their coach, [Nelson Emerson]’s not their coach, [Glen Murray]’s not their coach, Mike O’Connell, we’re not their coaches, we’re more like teachers. It’s awesome for us and I think it’s great for them. We see them in the morning and they’re excited to see us, ‘what are we going to do, what are we going to work on’ it’s a really, really good environment.”

Glen Murray – Director of Player Development
Glen Murray has over 1,000 NHL games to his name across a 16-season career at the NHL level. Murray scored 337 career NHL goals, including a career-high 44 during the 2002-03 season and was named as an NHL All-Star during the 2003-04 season. The former winger also skated in 91 career playoff games and won a gold medal at the World Championships in 2004. Murray moved into management with the Kings beginning in 2012, first as a Team Consultant for four seasons, then as a development coach for two and now in his current position as the Director of Player Development.

“I think it’s about the way you carry yourself, there’s lots of different things. You have to take care of yourself, you have to get your rest, make sure you get into the gym, you’re a good teammate. Consistency and maturity is a big thing, some of these guys are 17, 18, 19 years old and that’s what our job is, to help them in the quickest way possible. If it does take time, that’s alright, some guys take a little longer than others and we enjoy this part of the job.”

Joshua Lavallee/Icon Sportswire

Kevin Gravel

#4 | 6′ 4″ | 200 lb | Age: 24

Born: DOB: 2/17/1996
Birthplace: KINGSFORD, MI
Position: D

Bio

Gravel made his NHL debut with Los Angeles in the 2015-16 season, skating with the Kings for four games before returning to AHL affiliate Ontario.
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Rob Scuderi

#0 | 6′ 1″ | 212 lb | Age: 37

Born: DOB: 12/30/1978
Birthplace: SYOSSET, NY
Position: D
Handedness: Left

Bio

Scuderi is currently playing for the Reign while under contract with the LA Kings. He has won two Stanley Cups, once with the Pittsburgh Penguins and with the Kings.
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Michael Mersch

#27 | 6′ 1″ | 225 lb | Age: 24

Born: DOB: 10/2/1992
Birthplace: PARK RIDGE, IL
Position: LW
Handedness: Left

Bio

Drafted by the Kings in 2011, Mersch is currently playing forward for the Reign. Last season, he drew into his first NHL game for the Kings, where he registered 2 shots and 3 hits.
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Michael Latta

#24 | 6′ 0″ | 207 lb | Age: 25

Born: 5/25/1991
Birthplace: KITCHENER, ON
Position: F
Handedness: Right

Bio

Prior to turning professional, Latta played major junior hockey in the OHL with the Ottawa 67’s and Guelph Storm. He was drafted into the NHL in 2009 and joined the King’s affiliate Reign in 2016.
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Adrian Kempe

#09 | 6′ 1″ | 187 lb | Age: 20

Born: 9/13/1996
Birthplace: KRAMFORS,SWEDEN
Position: LW
Handedness: Left

Bio

Growing up in Swedan, Kempe made his hockey debut in 2014 in the Swedish Hockey League. He has since been drafted by the Kings, where he is playing for their AHL affiliate team, the Ontario Reign.
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Brett Sutter

#07 | 6′ 0″ | 192 lb | Age: 29

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

Bio

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.
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