ROOKIES – Los Angeles 6, Colorado 1: Insider takes, plus Eyssimont, Ingham, Strand, Stothers

The Los Angeles Kings earned their first Rookie Faceoff victory in two seasons, dominating for the better part of 60 minutes in a clinical 6-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.

Forward Mikey Eyssimont scored two goals, including a highlight reel tally, while linemate Blake Lizotte posted three assists and defensemen Mikey Anderson (0-2-2) and Billy Constantinou (1-1-2) had multi-point nights. Between the pipes, goaltender Jacob Ingham stopped 36 of the 37 shots he faced and did not allow a goal after conceding in the first period.

As was said by many after the game, today’s contest was one where mostly everyone played well and it was hard to really distinguish standout performers, not because there weren’t any, but because most players played well. The Kings have one game remaining in the Rookie Faceoff, following a practice day tomorrow, and will take on San Jose on Tuesday afternoon at 1 PM on Rink 3.


1. On the surface, this game was the demonstration that it’s better when everyone’s “good” rather than just a handful of players being “great.” There was very good pace and structure from the start on Sunday that was maintained through the entire 60 minutes and even led to some dissolved Colorado structure and penalty killing as the game got away from them. Even though the Kings led, 4-1, after 40 minutes, they outshot the Avalanche 15-7 in the final period, outscoring them 2-0. They succeeded in building an early lead by winning offensive zone faceoffs and working pucks high to the defensemen while bodies converged in front of Trent Miner, who didn’t see a ton of clean looks.

2. The game served as a good portrait of Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Mikey Anderson’s savvy play. They play different positions, and while both are smart players, Hockey IQ manifests itself differently in both. Anderson-Dolan complements the way he sees his game with his motor, pace and pressure; Anderson, in the first time I’d watched him live and in person in a game setting, was as steady as they came. He was the embodiment of making the simple play, relying on substance more than flash. He was efficient in his touches and skating.

3. The one goal against followed a switch-off in which Sodergran yielded coverage to Sean Durzi in the defensive zone, but Alex Beaucage was still able to maneuver around the defenseman and scored from an awkward angle on an otherwise very good Jacob Ingham. There was a lot to like about Los Angeles’ defensive zone play and the ability to make life easier for Ingham by keeping the shots clean and away from most of the dangerous areas. I kept a good eye on Billy Constantinou, and much of what I saw came as advertised. He was beat once or twice in one-on-one defending, leading to a minor penalty when he held on to Shane Bowers on a powerful net drive, and he was fortunate to escape a minor penalty behind his net in the second period. But he also scored and notched an assist, with his goal the result of good (if off-balance) puck protection bringing the puck from the perimeter to the tops of the circles on the power play, and his assist coming on Eyssimont’s deflection of his sharp release.


The Cloud Connection
Though Head Coach Mike Stothers said he did not look at past history when pairing Blake Lizotte and Mikey Eyssimont together, regardless, the pair of former St. Cloud State forwards showcased their chemistry in today’s victory. Eyssimont tallied two goals, while Lizotte added three assists in the 6-1 win, with the two, along with right-winger Jonathan Yantsis, serving as perhaps the Kings’ most effective unit. Eyssimont indicated that he and Lizotte have “good chemistry” and that was on full display as that unit worked with speed through the neutral zone and effectively controlled the puck in the offensive end.

Active Anderson
Defenseman Mikey Anderson isn’t the kind of player who will always show up in the box score – though he did today with two assists – but he consistently makes plays that will help his team win games. Anderson uses an active defending stick and on multiple occasions used his awareness and hockey sense to deflect cross-ice passes in the neutral zone, preventing Colorado from attacking with speed. At the offensive end of the ice, Anderson has a hard, low show that he was able to get on net twice tonight, including his effort in the second period that led directly to the fourth LA goal, finished by Jaret Anderson-Dolan. Getting a shot through from the point is a skill more frequently than it is up to luck, and that trait will serve him well in generating secondary opportunities.

Dudas, Where’s My Car
Aidan Dudas showcased his abilities in today’s game, going well beyond his first period goal. After he opened the scoring, which came on a nice wrist shot from the right-hand circle, Dudas was energetic and active throughout the evening, frequently pestering Colorado on the forecheck and on the penalty kill. Though he is listed at just 5-7, Dudas plays with heart and energy that is bigger than his size would suggest. The Owen Sound forward shows no fear going into battles against bigger players and has made his feisty style know, in addition to the skill that saw him score at close to a point-per-game pace in the OHL this past season. Dudas left a positive impression last season in his short cameo with the Reign and has continued to build on that in this seasons Rookie Faceoff.

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Post-Game Quotes

Mike Stothers, if this was an example of not having to rely on “great” players when everyone’s “good”:
It was a great game, I thought. I thought everybody played outstanding. It’s good to get a win. Now we’re no longer 0-for the tournament. It took us two years to get a win, but that’s good. And you know what? The guys played well, every one of them. It was fun to watch.

Stothers, on the improvements from Saturday’s game:
The guys played to their strengths and there was some structure that we didn’t deviate from. We stayed through. Like, last night I thought for the first 10 minutes we were solid, and then it kind of got away from us. I thought it was maybe a little bit better of a match-up, a little bit more equal playing field. It might’ve been tilted somewhat in favor of the host team. It’s good for the guys. They got some goals, they made some plays, everybody played in all situations. I thought Ingham was outstanding for him when we needed him to be.

Stothers, on whether Austin Strand’s chippy play represented “a different Austin Strand”:
Austin Strand’s a pretty good player that we need to stay on the ice, not take four minors.

Stothers, on the Eyssimont-Lizotte-Yantsis line:
They were good, all of them were good. I think Lizotte had three assists. Eyssi was around the puck all night long. It was just a good game from everybody.

Stothers, on whether he relied on Mikey Eyssimont and Blake Lizotte’s chemistry from St. Cloud:
Nope. You’re reading too much into it. One’s a center, one plays left wing.

Stothers, on communicating and running a bench in rookie games versus in-season games:
At this stage – we’ve talked about it even going into training camp – we’re just trying to stay positive for these guys and make it a fun environment. You know, we’re not putting too much emphasis on the mistakes that are made, nor are we, as you can tell, too excited about one win. There’s no point given out, there’s no standings going on right now. We just want everybody to play and everybody to feel good, and I think they did that tonight and we’ll look forward to playing again on Tuesday.

Stothers, on why he decided to move Jaret Anderson-Dolan back to center after wing yesterday:
The sun came up. [Reporter: That’s it?] Last night when we talked, it was dark. Today it was bright and sunny. Akil played the wing, Dudas played the wing, Rymmer went back in the middle, JAD went in the middle. Eyssimont was on the left side. [Reporter: We didn’t ask about all those guys last night, though. What was specific about JAD playing on the wing and you said you wanted to keep him there instead of moving him to the center?] Coach’s prerogative. Changed his mind, didn’t it?

Austin Strand, on the jawing and emotion in the game:
It was really intense, especially after yesterday’s game, seeing the other team pick up the physicality, so today we wanted to come out, and especially me, being a bigger guy out here, with some of the younger guys I just wanted to let ‘em know I’ve got them and I’m going to be protecting them throughout the game, so I just kind of wanted to come out there initially and lead the charge in the physicality and put a little bit of fear in some guys. I could kind of tell I came out off the bat a little aggressive and noticed some of their guys kind of stepping down, so that was good and I think it contributed to opening some of the ice up for some of our more skilled guys. You can see it on the scoreboard – I think everybody was just feeling good today, and it was good to get the win.

Strand, on his role as captain in the rookie games:
Just being here last year, I know how Stutts likes things done, so I’m just kind of preaching what he’s preaching. Just sharing my experience with these guys and make just they’re all feeling comfortable. Everyone’s on the saying ‘one goal.’ We’re all focused together, this group’s been really good this year. Everyone’s had some unreal focus. Even last game, in our first 10 minutes I thought we could’ve blown them out of the water if we kept playing like that. It just seems that everyone kind of knows there are a lot of opportunities this year, and everyone’s had a really good camp so far, so I’m excited for our next game.

Jacob Ingham on getting into a groove after he allowed the lone Colorado goal early in the game
Yeah, I felt really good after that. It was a little bit of a fluky goal, I kind of thought he was going to pass back door and then he actually just kind of threw it on net and it kind of caught my back leg a little off guard. I think that’s kind of just maintenance, just a sharpness thing. As the season goes on, you’re most used to having a complete seal instead of trying to read what players are doing. After that, I felt good. I took a couple of deep breaths and felt like nothing was going to get past me after that.

Ingham, on the purpose of a rookie camp and using this week to establish fundamentals in his game
It’s getting those fundamentals and [learning about] playing a pro game. It’s really hard to come up here and play a pro style game, and obviously that’s why we’re going to go back to juniors after this, but it’s just learning and doing what you can to get those fundamentals right and taking the chance. For some players, they want to make moves and create turnovers, but if they’re playing the pro style, that’s all that’s going to matter. You can do whatever in juniors, but when you get here it’s a different league and I just saw that it’s really physical and a really different style.

Ingham on working with Matt Millar and what they’ve worked on in his game
Yeah, he’s been really good, he was also at my development camp my first year. He’s a really positive guy and working with him is really nice. Working on specific stuff and fundamentals, you know goals are going to go in and how you deal with it…in practice, if they score but you’re doing the function right, he’s still happy with that and that’s what it’s all about, getting those functions down. He’s really helped me and, with the season going on, I know he’s going to come out and see me in Kitchener so that’s I’m really looking forward to that.

Ingham on what he learned from his time with Ontario last season
I think when I came to the Reign I was really excited and really looking forward to it and I just started playing my juniors style, but watching Peter Budaj and getting to be with him just as he retired was unreal. Same with Cal Petersen, they were both really good for me and kind of took me under their wing and helped me out with some specific things. Just sitting beside them in the room, asking them a couple things. One of the big things was that you can’t really play out as far as you want and I think that was something that Buuds and Cal kind of showed me how. You just have to read the shots better and you have to make better reads on passes and things like that.

Mikey Eyssimont on if tonight was one of those games where all lines & pairings were just going
Yeah. We’ve done a little bit of video on just a couple of the systems, but mostly just general things, nothing too specific. Guys so far have bought into those things and we’ve had a lot of talk on the faceoffs and good communication, that was one of the main emphasis’ from Stutts. I think everyone is really happy with it.

Eyssimont on his goal and how he read the play to create the goal
I saw [Lizotte], he saw me breaking and he couldn’t put it on my tape because there was a guy in front of me, so he just did the best option he had and kind of dumped it in. I was able to win the race and luckily made a nice move and I practiced that shot a lot in the summer, so I’m glad it worked.

On whether he and Lizotte played together at St. Cloud
Yeah, my full junior year, his full sophomore year, we were together the entire year. We have some good chemistry. [Reporter: Does it make it that much easier, in a tournament like this, to play with someone you have prior experience with?]. Yeah, we were pretty excited last night when we heard we were probably going to be playing with each other, so yeah, it’s nice, it’s fun.

On playing his style of game, using his skill to make plays in space
Yeah, he’s an easy player to play with because he’s so quick and he’s on pucks so quick. If you get open, you go attack a guy with him, you’re going to come out with the puck and he can make plays, I can make plays, so it’s fun.

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