Development Day - Craig Johnson - LA Kings Insider

Today marked another development day for the Reign. A select group of players, predominantly a younger group, skated today with the Kings Development Staff, including Craig Johnson, who is in his first season as a member of the development team after he joined the staff in June of 2018.

The veteran of over 550 NHL regular-season games, as well as more than 150 in the minor leagues and overseas, works mostly with forward prospects, several of which are beginning their professional careers with the Reign.

Johnson, who spent parts of eight seasons with the Kings from 1995 – 03, was once the player that these current younger players are now. Johnson and the development team work with the Reign players every couple weeks in a group setting, and sometimes on a daily basis in smaller group settings, and the Minnesota native has, so far, been happy with working with this season’s Reign group.

On working with this season’s group of forwards in Ontario
They’re a great group of guys. They always want to get better and they come ready to work hard. What we’re trying to work on is little fundamentals, fundamentals that will make them better and help them become better professionals.

On the role of a development coach in developing skills with players
We don’t do the X’s and O’s, we work on the skills that are going to help them develop as players. We’re working on different shots, blending skills into those shots. We work on skating quite a bit, different edges, different cross-overs, transitions, pivots and a lot of what we do is help the players with their transition [to the pro game]. Some of them are coming from college, some are coming from juniors, we try to help them become better professionals, talk to them about the day-to-day and basically having a purpose every time you come out and trying to get better.

On the biggest adjustment for young players coming into their first seasons as professionals
The biggest adjustment is the size of the players, the strength of the players they’re playing against and the speed and the structure. A lot of them come and they’re the best player and they get into a “free flow” where they do whatever they want and now they’re asked to play a certain way. A lot of times, guys have trouble adjusting and a lot of what we do is trying to give them the freedom to do what they do best, what got them here. What got them drafted or why the Kings think they’re going to be a good NHL player, while also developing those skills.

On the element of working with younger players mentally or off the ice as well
Players have to learn that little things are going to help them gain more ice time. It might not be the goal, it might be the simple play, they win a wall battle and they get a puck out, or they make a play to support. It’s the little things that all of a sudden, a coach is like “Wow, he’s not turning pucks over, every time he touches the puck, it’s a positive possession.” Those things will help them definitely.

Kevin Gravel

#4 | 6′ 4″ | 200 lb | Age: 24

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


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.

Rob Scuderi

#0 | 6′ 1″ | 212 lb | Age: 37

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


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.

Michael Mersch

#27 | 6′ 1″ | 225 lb | Age: 24

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


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.

Michael Latta

#24 | 6′ 0″ | 207 lb | Age: 25

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


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.

Adrian Kempe

#09 | 6′ 1″ | 187 lb | Age: 20

Born: 9/13/1996
Position: LW
Handedness: Left


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.

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.