The LA Kings practiced at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City earlier today, and while LA Kings Insider wasn’t present for the first of two skates at the home of the Utah Jazz, he snuck into the first day of Ontario’s training camp at Toyota Sports Center to get a little bit more perspective on several roster hopefuls as well as on the shootout loss to Vancouver in which Kale Clague notched two assists and Emerson Etem scored his first official preseason goal.
Apart from the injured players, Clague probably has the longest shot of those currently on the roster who are vying for an opening day spot, given that there are still nine other defensemen in camp in Drew Doughty, Derek Forbort, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, Paul LaDue, Dion Phaneuf, Oscar Fantenberg, Daniel Brickley and Kurtis MacDermid. But Clague has continued his strong camp, and per Mike Stothers, graded well in a number of areas last Thursday in Vancouver.
With the injury to Jonny Brodzinski opening up a clearer path for a forward to the opening day roster, there are several players right in that mix who’ll continue to get consideration for opening night. Emerson Etem is on a PTO and scored in the Vancouver game, which is always a plus in evaluation, as Stothers described below. By several accounts, the blazing-fast Austin Wagner has had a really good camp and is among the players whose current inclusion on the roster represents somewhat of a surprise, given that he’s 21 and has 50 games of AHL experience and, barring additional casualty, is more likely to be returned to Ontario to begin the season.
And then there’s The Kid. Jaret Anderson-Dolan continues to show very well in camp as a player who turned 19 years old (!) just under two weeks ago and skated with Jeff Carter in Thursday’s split-squad home loss to Vegas, recording an assist and a plus-one rating in 16:34 of ice time. Anderson-Dolan had reported to camp in good game shape after his strong showing at the World Junior Summer Showcase and has taken what appears to be a sizable step forward from his eight regular season and playoff games with Ontario at the conclusion of his 2017-18 season. He’ll continue to get a very thorough look from the club, but as a 19-year-old drafted out of major junior hockey, isn’t eligible to play professional hockey outside of the NHL until the conclusion of his club season in Spokane. But the Kings have been happy with his camp, and he’ll continue to be a player to monitor over the final week of preseason games.
This week’s schedule:
vs Vancouver (at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City), Monday, September 24
at Anaheim, Wednesday, September 26
at Vegas, Friday, September 27
vs Anaheim, Saturday, September 28
-games on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday will be televised on Prime Ticket
Mike Stothers, on what he saw in the Vancouver game from Kale Clague:
I thought that was one of Kale’s better performances. I think we talked earlier, I think last year might’ve been nerves or a little bit of maturity or lack thereof last year, and this year he’s come in and he’s progressively getting better every day. We played against a good Vancouver lineup, and man, they came out and they set the tone. That was almost like a playoff game, that’s how intense it was, and boy, Kale, he really stepped up his game and he played well. He was moving the puck, he was getting up in the play, which are things he can do, and we know that from his junior play, but from a physical side – and not that he’s ever going to probably overpower guys – but he was very good at getting his body in the way, he was very good at containing his guys around the net. Obviously he made some plays, kept pucks alive in the offensive zone. So, I think we saw what Kale is capable of. Now, keep in mind that was one game. It’s got to be a consistent thing. But, all indications are this young man, he’s seriously trying to make the Kings, that’s for sure.
Stothers, on Emerson Etem’s goal in Vancouver, and his showing in camp:
You always want to do something to get yourself noticed, and if you get on the scoresheet for scoring a goal, that’s a good thing. This organization, we’re looking for goals. We’re continuing to look for ways to create offense. Eets has been good. I don’t know what his situation is or how it’s going to play out, but with everybody, him included, the injury to Brodzinski, does that help somebody else down the way? Maybe. I think that’s the thing – somebody, whether it’s Etem, or any other forward, has got to seize that roster spot or that opportunity. Hats off to him.
Stothers, on Austin Wagner’s camp:
I think just the thing that stands out is his speed. Just flat out, he can skate, which again, with the game the way it is, everybody wants to be able to pick up the speed, pick up the pace and play with pace. He’s good on the forecheck because he can hunt pucks down, and again, with Wags, there’s always a little bit of an adjustment period. He’s a guy that he goes hard, fatigues early. That’s something that we’ve got to work with him on. That’s why we nicknamed him The Cheetah last year in Ontario. His first few strides are probably faster than anybody, and he’s got the tongue hanging out of the side of his mouth. Anyway, we’ll work on that with him. He’s been good. Actually, I think everybody’s had some moments, but again, once you get through it, from start to finish, you want to have build some kind of a portfolio that’s not just ‘I was good one day, I was OK the next.’ If you’re going to play in the NHL, you’ve got to be on every night.
Stothers, on how Jaret Anderson-Dolan has used his AHL experience to prepare himself for camp:
You know what? You keep thinking that he can go back and play junior – and is he ready? I don’t know – but he certainly looks like he’s right on the cutting edge. However it plays out for JAD, in most cases, you say, ‘OK, he’s got a junior year [of eligibility], you want to send him back.’ He’s one of those kids that if he’s not quite ready for the Kings, he’s one of those ones you’d rather see go in the American Hockey League because it’d be far more beneficial for him if he has to, but the rules are such that he can’t. But again, maybe the Brodzinski injury, maybe that helps JAD. He’s come in and he’s got that intensity, he’s got that focus, he’s got that drive, and he’s making some plays out there. He has been opening some eyes, so who knows.
Stothers, on whether he was happy with the first day of Ontario’s training camp:
Yeah, we were OK. We didn’t play against anybody, but they showed some intensity against each other, which I think is good. We had some guys that arrived yesterday and hadn’t skated in a while, so it was just good to get everybody on the ice. There were a lot of bodies, but I think we got enough movement out of everybody to get them a good workout. Again, we tried to stress some of the details and then some of the systems. We went over forecheck and neutral zone forecheck today, so we tired to apply that during our practice. Give the guys a little bit familiarity with the systems and what’s expected from them from the Kings organization. It was a good Day One. Not bad.
-Lead photo via Adam Pantozzi/NHLI