Pre-game notebook: Beijing Jr. Kings; Clifford's leadership; tonight's lineups - LA Kings Insider

A good afternoon to all across the kingdom.

The Los Angeles Kings face the Arizona Coyotes at both Staples Center (7:30 p.m.) and Gila River Arena (7:00 p.m.) tonight and will align thusly:










-Yotes Notes: OEL, Galchenyuk and Keller stay home; Kuemper, Grabner and 2012 Stanley Cup champion Brad Richardson travel:

One change: Kevin Klima will replace David Ullstrom in the Glendale game, per Dave Vest. As you were.

-Jonathan Quick will go in Los Angeles, while Jack Campbell will get the nod in Glendale. Peter Budaj should also get some time in tonight. I haven’t heard yet whether Cal Petersen will spell Quick at Staples Center. I’ve been asked about Daniel Brickley, who isn’t playing in either game tonight, and was told it wasn’t due to injury and that he’s simply out of the lineup. The home game will be broadcast by Nick Nickson and Daryl Evans on 1150 AM and iHeart Radio, while the road game will be broadcast by Bob Heethuis and Paul Bissonnette on ESPN 620 in Phoenix, which I believe can be streamed here. Dave Lowry, Mike Stothers and Jaroslav Modry will work the bench in Glendale, while John Stevens, Don Nachbaur and David Bell will coach the L.A. game. I’ll host the Glendale live blog while Reign Insider Zach Dooley hosts the Los Angeles live blog.

-For a number of players on both teams, tonight’s game marks the first game played in an NHL jersey against NHL players. It’s an exhibition, but for many, it’s another step towards the realization of a dream. “It’s kind of just all happened so fast – getting to rookie camp, and then that transitions straight into main camp and all of a sudden you’re playing in your first exhibition game in the NHL,” said Mikey Eyssimont, who got into three AHL games late last season after signing with the club after a productive three seasons at St. Cloud Staete. “I don’t know if it’ll hit me until after the game, but I’m just trying to treat it like a normal game and trying to have fun.”

The classic scene from Hoosiers applies. The rink is still 200 feet by 85 feet – unless we’re playing in The Aud, which we’re not – and all other aspects of preparation and approach should remain the same.

“Enjoy it,” Dave Lowry said when asked if there was anything passed on to the players playing their first NHL games tonight. “You always try and tell these young guys that it’s just another game. They put on their gear the same way as they do. Just go and enjoy the moment and have fun.”

Not that we should wax too poetic about a split-squad preseason game in Glendale, Arizona, but Eyssimont was aware of the unique circumstances of tonight’s game and credited the veterans he’s played with for making him feel comfortable when debuting in Fargo, or St. Cloud, or Ontario. Since joining the Kings organization and since the start of rookie camp, he’s appreciated the guidance imparted by players like Dion Phaneuf, Kyle Clifford, Brett Sutter and Zack Mitchell. He’ll skate with Sutter and Mitchell tonight.

“I’ve got some veterans on my line tonight, and I think once I’m in a few different situations out there and acclimated to the game, then I’ll be fine,” he said. “What I want to show tonight is my full, 200-foot game and prove that to the staff and hopefully get some offensive chances, as well.”

Selected in the fifth round in 2016, the skilled Eyssimont totaled 45 goals and 102 points in 115 games with St. Cloud before recording an assist in three games with Ontario at the end of the season.

-No King will wear a captain’s “C” in the Arizona game tonight – Anze Kopitar will wear his in Los Angeles – but in the past, Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis and Justin Williams have all worn a “C” in early preseason games.

Several players will wear an “A,” however. One will be worn by Jeff Carter, an alternate captain of the club. Don’t be surprised if Clifford wears another.

“You look at the level of professionalism and the respect that he has of his teammates, how hard he comes to work every day,” Dave Lowry said of Clifford. “He plays a role that’s not the most glamorous, but it’s one of the most important on the team. Everybody usually clamors to the goal scorers now. These are the glue guys that keep your team together. People don’t always appreciate what they do, but as coaches, you really understand how hard it is to play that way, and there is great value.”

Training camp is one of the times of the season where Clifford’s off-ice presence is most pronounced. “He’s a generational character guy, a generational human being,” Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Yannetti said during the off-season. “…There’s a way he attacks drills, there’s a way he attacks the gym. If you’re standing next to him, you better be going 100%.”

Such leadership manifests itself both vocally and by example, and this time of year is when that has the opportunity to rub off on less experienced players, such as Eyssimont, or Kale Clague, or Brad Morrison, who can use Clifford’s template as their own gold standard.

“A lot of guys have been through it, but there are some guys that are new to the process,” Clifford said. “This is our first exhibition game, and I think a big thing with our group is trying to build a culture. That’s from the top guys all the way down to the guys that are going to be in Ontario this year. That’s where it all starts. You look at the success that we’ve had in the playoffs when we’ve had good years, it’s guys that have come up from Manch, now Ontario. It’s that depth that helps you win big games.”

Competition often brings out the best in all parties involved, and Clifford’s presence raises the competitive landscape across the team and affords younger players the confidence to play their own game and build their identity.

“Every group has got their fair share of leadership guys,” he said. “We’ve been through the process many times. We’ve got to set the tempo, set the pace. It’s a grind to make the NHL and at the same time, guys are still fighting for jobs and fighting for more ice time. I think when you have that mentality, it elevates everybody’s game.”

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-I won’t lie: with the NHL China Games returning this preseason, I have frequently caught myself thinking back to one year ago, when the Kings and Canucks traveled to Shanghai and Beijing to help grow the game through a pair of exhibitions and youth camps as one cog of a massive infrastructure megaproject designed to spur heavy athletic involvement in advance of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Hundreds of rinks and facilities are expected to be constructed with the goal of encouraging 300-million new participants in hockey, speedskating, figure skating and other winter sports.

While the Bruins and Flames were this year’s guests, the Kings still play an outsized role in helping to grow the game along with the NHL and team and partner ORG. On Tuesday, the Kings, the NHL and ORG announced that they are launching the Beijing Jr. Kings, who will be based out of the new Beijing A.Z. Ice Sports Club and coached by Kings alum Todd Elik (!).

The L.A. Junior Kings are a developmental model for the new Beijing team, and a number of figures within the organization will continue to assist Elik and the Beijing Jr. Kings with camps and other means of instructing players and growing the Kings’ brand alongside the sport. Derek Armstrong, Director, Hockey Programming and Curriculum, has made four trips to China to run camps and help establish the means for the Beijing Jr. Kings to thrive. It’s important to the Kings and to the league that these efforts establish permanence, and that the games aren’t one-off dog-and-pony-show exhibitions. To succeed, and to truly grow the game, there has to be full investment from the league, teams, and local investors, and the Kings are helping make that push.

The Beijing Jr. Kings will travel to El Segundo for camps, clinics and games in Los Angeles. More information on the partnership is below, via the Kings.

LOS ANGELES – Today the Los Angeles Kings and the NHL are strengthening their presence in China and expanding their relationship with ORG Packaging, a packaging and containers company based in Beijing, with the launch of Beijing Jr. Kings. The agreement, brokered by AEG Global Partnerships, makes the Beijing Jr. Kings the first-ever youth hockey development program created (jointly created with ORG Packaging), owned and operated by the LA Kings outside Los Angeles and the first-ever development initiative for any NHL team in China. The program will be housed at the new Beijing A.Z. Ice Sports Club and former Kings forward Todd Elik serves as head coach.

One year ago, the Kings and Vancouver Canucks played the first NHL games in China. Facing off for two preseason games, presented by ORG Packaging, in China – one at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai (September 21, 2017) and one at Wukesong Arena in Beijing (September 23, 2017) – the Kings won both games and history was made. In conjunction with the 2018 China games, the Kings, the NHL and ORG Packaging will continue to build an infrastructure and a presence for hockey in the world’s most populous country through this strategic investment in China’s youth with the Beijing Jr. Kings development program.

“Coming off the success of our trip to China last year, and the numerous clinics and camps we have hosted in China over the years, this is a tremendous announcement for the LA Kings and we are very pleased to not only continue our relationship with ORG but to also expand our relationship with ORG in a very meaningful way,” said Kings President and Hockey Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille.

“The goal of the Beijing Jr. Kings is to continue to grow the game of hockey in China at a grass-roots level, and to continue to build the LA Kings in China. We are also thrilled that Todd and his family have moved overseas and are playing an integral role as we create this new, historic opportunity.”

Otto Greule/Allsport

Elik is a former NHL player with 24 years of professional hockey experience – eight years as a forward in the NHL (including two seasons with the Kings from 1989-91 where he scored as many as 21 goals in a season).

He has more than 10 years of coaching experience working with a range of ages and skill levels both in Canada and Switzerland. His experience over the years is as follows: Assistant Coach Regina Capitals Junior B; Head Coach HC St. Imier 1st League Switzerland; Head Coach HC St. Imier Junior Team; Assistant Coach Regina Bantam AA Blues; Head Coach Regina Pee Wee Avalanche; and Assistant Coach University of Regina Men’s Hockey Team.

Serving as the Beijing Jr. Kings goalie coach is Mitch O’Keefe. O’Keefe has spent the last year and a half coaching and evaluating youth hockey for the Black Armour Hockey Program in Beijing where he was Assistant Coach as well as Head Goalie Coach. In addition, O’Keefe brings to the new program his extensive pro hockey experience in Switzerland, Italy, France and Canada along with a well-rounded and diverse set of coaching skills, which include power skating, goaltending, game analysis, and coaching with positivity.

The Kings will support the Beijing Jr. Kings by sending Kings players – current and alumni – to China each year to help teach kids the basics of hockey and to help generate excitement and awareness about the sport on the whole. The Kings will also be heavily involved by: Hosting Coaches Training Programs, Player Exchange Programs, Youth Hockey Clinic, Official LA Kings Prospect Camp, Prospect Development Camp, Tryout Opportunities, Player Development Support and International Tournament Development Opportunities.

Registration for the Beijing Jr. Kings has begun. The program is initially expected to have two-to-three teams. The age range for Beijing Jr. Kings participants at this time is eight-to-10 years old.

Said Beijing A.Z. Ice Sport Club General Manager Yijun Huang: “ORG AZ Rink is very proud to partner with the LA Kings to launch the Jr. Kings program at our rink in Beijing. We are dedicated to establishing a standardized, durable and sustainable youth hockey training system, and we are committed to growing the sport of hockey among the youth in China. We believe the Jr. Kings program will serve as a perfect platform for that mission.”
北京奥众冰上运动俱乐部总经理黄毅军先生表示:奥众冰上俱乐部与洛杉矶国王队联合打造的小国王青训项目,旨在培养少年儿童对冰球的兴趣,建立一个规范的,长久的和可持续性的青少年冰球培养体系,让孩子们拥有一个健康的爱好,加深对运动的理解,为青少年成长期的“德育,智 育和体育”三育之一的体育培养做贡献。

In recent years, the Kings have traveled to China the past three summers and have worked with youth hockey officials, coaches and kids to help grow the game in a country that has had limited exposure to ice hockey. The Kings Hockey Development department has spearheaded these initiatives in conjunction with the Kings Alumni Association. Also, in recent years, kids from China have traveled to Los Angeles to participate in the annual Kings Youth Hockey Camp in El Segundo, CA. The kids from China also participated in scrimmages here against members of the Jr. Kings program.

When the Kings went to China last year, the hockey club placed a heavy emphasis on current players interacting with kids and young hockey players in particular, including several on-ice clinics, player appearances and meet-and-greets. The Kings also during the 2017-18 NHL regular season hosted the club’s first Chinese Heritage Night at STAPLES Center and the Kings will host their second annual Chinese Heritage Night in February.

To view a special book the Kings created to commemorate last year’s historic trip to China, click here:

The NHL remains active in China with the Beijing Jr. Kings taking part in a variety of promotional events. Elik earlier this month represented the Beijing Jr. Kings for “Stanley Cup Day in Beijing” as the Stanley Cup was on-site for various hockey groups – including skaters, youth players and kids completely new to hockey – to have the opportunity to view the most famous trophy in sports.

Elik is also scheduled to be a featured participant at an NHL Coaching Clinic on September 17 on behalf of the Beijing Jr. Kings. The event ties-in to the NHL’s two preseason games in China this month between the Boston Bruins and the Calgary Flames.

Travel and morning skate shots: