Day 1 Notebook: Doughty, Kopitar, Etem, reaction to divisional trades - LA Kings Insider

Group A

Gray: Kovalchuk-Kopitar-Brown
White: Luff-Anderson-Dolan-Wagner
Purple: Morrison-Thomas-Devane
Yellow: Eyssimont-Sutter-Mitchell
Red: Forbort
Defense: Doughty, Brickley, MacDermid, Walker, Falkovsky, Moverare
Goalies: Quick, Petersen

Group B

Gray: Pearson-Carter-Toffoli
White: Etem-Thompson-Rempal
Purple: Rassell-Maillet-Watson
Yellow: Herr-Rymsha-Dunkley
Defense: Muzzin, Fantenberg, Martinez, Lintuniemi, Reddekopp, Phillips, Ivan
Goalies: Campbell, Budaj

Group C

Gray: Iafallo-Kempe-Lewis
White: Clifford-Amadio-Brodzinski
Yellow: Imama-Bauman-Dudas
Defense: Phaneuf, LaDue, Roy, Clague, Phillips, Ivan
Goalies: Villalta, Ingham

Notes: Several defensemen joined both Group B and Group C. Gabriel Vilardi (back) and Austin Strand (concussion symptoms) did not skate. Derek Forbort (back) did skate for 30 minutes with Group A in an off-color jersey. Vilardi and Strand are considered week-to-week. More on this in a notebook later today.


-Drew Doughty, like anyone who was a part of last spring’s four-game series sweep at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights, wasn’t happy with the way the season ended. He was asked about whether it’s harder to open up a new season when there’s disappointment from the year before.

“It is tougher, because you want to get back out there and you want to make up for what we did poorly last year, and obviously that’s losing four straight to Vegas. We want to get back out there, and we want to prove that we’re a better team than what we showed last year, and we want to prove that we’re going to be a lot better than we were last year. We’re excited to be back at camp. It’s good to be here on the first day,” he said.

It wasn’t only his first day of camp after having signed his contract extension, but also his first day as a married man! The superstar was one of five Kings to get married over the summer, joining Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli, Nate Thompson and Jonny Brodzinski. Former Kings Michael Mersch and Kevin Gravel also got hitched in the summer of 2018. “We’re getting to that age, I guess, where the boys are just going down,” Doughty joked.

According to Doughty, marriage hasn’t changed him one bit.

“It’s been good. No different from me, really,” he said. “Just same old stuff. It’s no different. But it was awesome to have all the guys there and having all of my family and friends there is one of the best parties that I’ve ever been a part of, so I had a lot of fun.”

Back to the on-ice stuff, Doughty wasn’t the only one who articulated the will to move past the sting of a brief playoff stay.

“Last season as a team we took a big step forward,” said Kopitar, who set career-highs with 35 goals, 57 assists and 92 points. “I thought we showed more positives than negatives, obviously. The early exit is the early exit. Maybe it was a little bit closer than 4-0, but you don’t really care about that anymore. You’re trying to look forward, draw on the positives and go about your business. It’s definitely a motivating factor for everybody here. I think everybody came to camp in very good shape again like last year and we’re going to try to take the next step this year.”

-Tanner Pearson’s frustrating lack of goal scoring in 2017-18 seemed to be an anomaly when weighed against the eye test and the fancy stats, which depicted an outstanding 3.1 GF/60 and +2.7 CF%Rel. He was screening goaltenders, digging pucks free along the boards and was excellent at drawing penalties but just wasn’t able to finish to the same degree. As has been written on LAKI, there were a ton of goals scored for the team while he was on the ice – he just wasn’t the one scoring them. It’s not a satisfying feeling to put in that type of work and battle through that much resistance, only to be faced with the oversimplified narrative that he had a “bad” year. He didn’t hit his marks, but the effort and performance were still present for the forward who had shot 12.8% in all situations entering the season but only 8.3% in 2017-18.

“It is really frustrating looking at it and you’re not doing it, but at the end of the day, if you get frustrated, it kind of eats at you more,” he said. “I was getting my looks, I just wasn’t capitalizing on them. … At least I was getting my looks – it’s not like I wasn’t creating anything and [not] getting my looks. That’s the positive aspect of it, even though everyone looks at is as, ‘you went from 24 to 16.’ But at the end of the day, hopefully I can obviously get back to that 24, 25 mark. That’d be definitely the goal.”

The simplest way to look at it was that he and Tyler Toffoli were negatively affected by the absence of Jeff Carter, but Pearson didn’t see it that way.

“You put me, Ty and Juice (Adrian Kempe) together, and we were a good line, too,” he said. “Juice has a lot of very, very similar qualities to Carts – one’s a lefty, one’s a righty – but the way they skate up the middle and how they keep their speed there, there are definitely a lot of similarities. We did have our chances when Ty and I played with him, too, so it wasn’t really much of a difference.”

-So, you may have heard that Erik Karlsson was traded to San Jose and Max Pacioretty to Vegas. Hello, Pacific Division! Doughty said he’s “excited” for the challenge to match-up against the fellow elite defenseman.

“Right off the bat, my thought is I get to see him play more, I get to learn a few things from him, and at the same time, I’m looking forward to playing him [four] times a year,” he said. “Obviously, it makes their team better, which we’re not too happy about in that sense, but it’ll make him more competitive, and our teams are going to have some battles this year. It’s two teams out there, and obviously he makes their team better, but when it comes down to it, it’ll always be San Jose versus the Kings.”

He also shared some of the finer points of matching up against Karlsson when he was with Ottawa, and how that dynamic will change with twice as many in-season meetings. “I went into those games thinking I’ve got to be the best defenseman on the ice and I’ve got to outplay this guy in order for our team to win. I have that approach to every single game. It doesn’t matter. I have to be the best defenseman on the ice.”

As he noted, it’s a touch different with Karlsson playing for a divisional rival as opposed to a team the Kings see more infrequently.

“It’s important for me not to put any emphasis on outplaying him, but just playing the team game, and getting the win. That’s all that matters. It’s not me against him, it’s … two teams against each other, and we just both make our teams better. That’s the only difference.”

Anze Kopitar weighed in on Thursday’s blockbuster trade.

“There was a lot of talk, between Vegas and San Jose, so I kind of had that idea that he was going to end up in the Pacific Division,” Kopitar said. “He’s a really good player, obviously. I’m sure they’re really happy to have him up there, but it doesn’t change a whole lot for us. We want to play the style that we want to play. It’s been proven that it works against any team if we execute, so we’re not going to worry about their personnel. We’re going to pay attention, but we’re not going to worry too much. We certainly respect them — but not fear them — so we’ll just go about our business.”

Doughty said that the Pacioretty trade “doesn’t really faze” him, which isn’t any disrespect to Pacioretty, but rather to complement Karlsson, a top-flight league superstar.

“Obviously the Karlsson one’s a little bit bigger. He’s one of the best players in the whole league, Karlsson, so it’s a little different,” Doughty said. “Obviously Pacioretty brings a lot of speed on that wing to Vegas, and he can put the puck in the net. Pacioretty’s going to make them better, there’s no doubt about that. But the Karlsson trade’s obviously quite a bit bigger and quite a bit more significant than that one.”

-On the subject of Other Teams, hey, there’s some cool news! Justin Williams was named captain of the Carolina Hurricanes, and that made Kopitar, a close friend, smile during media availability.

“I’m obviously really happy for him,” Kopitar said. “He’s been one of the leaders on any team he’s played on so for him now to get the ‘C’, I think it’s great for him. He’s a very humble guy, he’d never expect it or demand it, but I know it means a lot to him and I’m really happy for him.”

-Though Emerson Etem is yet to play in as much as a preseason game for the Kings, he’s already very familiar with the organization, having played against Tyler Toffoli in cross-continent minor hockey and with Nate Thompson while the two were with Anaheim. Jack Campbell was a teammate of his with the U.S. National Team Development program, and even as a 13 year old, Etem would get on the ice at Toyota Sports Center with the likes of Rob Blake, Glen Murray and Sean O’Donnell.

But since getting drafted in the first round when the Kings and Staples Center hosted the draft in 2010, there hasn’t been clean, linear progress for the speedster who potted 61 goals in 65 games as a 19-year-old with WHL-Medicine Hat in 2010-11. Though he recorded three goals five points as a 20-year-old rookie in the playoffs with Anaheim in 2013 and added another 16 playoff games over the next two seasons, he was then traded to the New York Rangers and then to Vancouver before re-joining Anaheim and, after his contract expired, signing a one-year, two-way contract with Arizona. In January, he left the Arizona organization to join HC Lugano and finished up the season in Switzerland’s NLA. This movement occurred over the past two years while he dealt with the aftermath of a pair of knee surgeries.

“I’m trying to get a job,” he said. “…I don’t have a contract right now. I’m trying to fight for one. This is the fastest I’ve been in a long time. I feel like my conditioning is the best it’s been as far back as I can remember. Just knowing that, I think that’s going to help me out.”

“To be honest, I didn’t know what was going to really happen after I last played in Lugano in the Swiss league. For the better parts of two years I’ve been injured. I missed pretty much a full year two years ago and only played 20 games last year. For me to feel like I’m feeling now heading into camp, this is the best I’ve felt in a long time, and an opportunity just came up, and I took it. I’m grateful for the opportunity. It’s definitely a huge one, and I’m just trying to take advantage of it.”

John Stevens was already familiar with Etem through his play in the Pacific Division and has gotten a closer look in recent weeks when the forward began taking part in informal skates at Toyota Sports Center.

“He’s got really good speed. For a big guy, he skates really well. I think his hands seem to keep up with his feet,” Stevens said. “We’re anxious to get a look at him. We’re obviously familiar with him because he played against us in the division. He’s been a pro for a period of time now, but it’s a really good opportunity for him to come in and show what he can do, and a good opportunity for us to get a look at him. But I like his size, I like his speed that he brings, and I think he seems to be a really fit guy that’s going to come in. We’re excited to see what he can do.”

-More to come from Stevens and Jeff Carter. Gabriel Vilardi and Derek Forbort updates will follow, as well.