A good afternoon to you, Insiders. First, the alignment from today’s full-team practice at Toyota Sports Center:
–Roster moves, ahoy! Forwards Austin Wagner and Michael Amadio and defenseman Sean Walker were assigned to AHL-Ontario in advance of the process of activating players. Wagner, Amadio and Walker skated with the Reign before the Kings’ practice this morning. Now, you’re probably thinking, ‘why did Wagner get the ol’ Inland Empire heave-ho after scoring twice Tuesday night?’ The reason, as it often is, is because of the CBA. In this case, his waiver-exempt status and the need to set a roster in advance of tonight’s freeze amidst several players nearing full health were factors. Important: Wagner, like Walker and Amadio, can be recalled at any point during the roster freeze, as long as the Kings remain cap compliant:
The #NHL Holiday Roster Freeze officially begins tonight at 11:59pm local time, and remains in effect until December 28th at 12:01am local time.
What does that mean, and how are clubs impacted?
Below you'll find a detailed breakdown of all the key points to remember. pic.twitter.com/hpru2MqDRm
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) December 19, 2018
“I think it’s always tough,” Willie Desjardins said about the assignments, particularly that of Wagner, who was named the second star in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Winnipeg. “There’s movements always at the … deadline that you just have to make because your roster gets frozen. We’ve got guys coming back. … It doesn’t mean that we don’t think he can come back and play. It doesn’t have anything to do with that. You have to make certain room on your roster this time of the year. They can go down, but we can call them back if we wanted.”
Again, if you’re hoping for Wagner in the lineup for the back-to-back weekend slate at San Jose and Vegas, or the December 27 home game against Arizona, he can still be recalled as long as the team is cap compliant.
Don’t expect a release today, but Ilya Kovalchuk’s (bursectomy) return is imminent; he’s the primary player whose roster spot is being accommodated by today’s assignments. It was shared on Sunday, December 2 that Kovalchuk was expected to miss “about” four weeks, but, surprise! It’s now looking like he’ll return to the lineup this Saturday against San Jose, one of his summertime suitors.
“He’s good to go,” Desjardins said. “I think you would see him in the next game.”
Kyle Clifford, meanwhile, is approaching game-readiness, but given his history with head injuries, the team is exercising caution. “Cliffy’s good, he wants to go,” Desjardins said. “I’m being a little bit cautious with him. We’ll have to just talk that out, but he wants to play, for sure.”
–More injury bits: Jack Campbell (meniscus surgery), who is 5-7-0 with a 2.33 goals-against-average, a .923 save percentage and one shutout, is about to embark on a conditioning assignment to the AHL. Ontario plays a home-and-home with San Diego that begins Friday night on the road and concludes at 3:00 p.m. Saturday at CBBA. Carl Hagelin (MCL sprain) and Jonny Brodzinski (shoulder surgery) skated lightly between the Ontario and Los Angeles practices today. They were not in full gear, but this still represents the slow train of progress. “At least if you’re getting on the ice, there’s movement, it’s getting closer,” Desjardins said of Hagelin, who suffered a knee injury on November 24 and was expected to miss four-to-six weeks, per hockey operations. “But he still would be a ways out. That would just be a tentative skate, I would think. He’s still a ways away, but it’s good that he’s progressed to that stage.”
–And, the big prospect news: per Curtis Zupke, Gabe Vilardi’s process of rehabilitating his back will take place in the Ontario Hockey League:
Per Rob Blake, Vilardi will return to juniors. No timetable. Needs "time to heal up." Not eligible to return to Kings this season.
— Curtis Zupke (@curtiszupke) December 19, 2018
Because Vilardi was unable to play in the final game of his conditioning assignment in Ontario and despite some improvement before Canada’s world juniors camp did not participate on-ice Monday or Tuesday, this “time to heal up” isn’t a surprise. Given the trajectory of the Kings season and the preference to not burn a year off his entry-level contract – plus the need for the team to ensure that its top prospect rests, recuperates and puts himself in the best position to return to full health, it was becoming more and more likely over the past month that he’d be juniors-bound at some point this season. There was the potential that he’d get up to a nine-game look in the NHL, but with recovery superseding all other Vilardi-related needs, the likelihood of that path was reduced. Expect him to get traded from Kingston to a contending OHL team, should he return to health at or near the OHL’s trade deadline in early January.
Some better news for Kings prospects: Jaret Anderson-Dolan will play for Canada, beginning with tonight’s pre-tournament game against Switzerland:
Jaret Anderson-Dolan is good to go tonight for Team 🇨🇦 … will be the first game for the #GoKingsGo prospect since he broke his wrist on Oct. 27 with Spokane
Great comeback by JAD to be ready for World Juniors
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) December 19, 2018
–Lead photo via Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire