Utah was home to the only preseason victory for the LA Kings last season, as they overcame both the Vancouver Canucks and some spotty ice conditions to earn a 4-1 victory. Tonight’s opponent for the Kings will also be the Vancouver Canucks, who will be bringing with them a pretty veteran-heavy group for tonight’s exhibition tilt.
The Kings lineup is a bit cloudier following today’s morning skate in El Segundo. We know that Trevor Lewis is playing and we know that Ben Hutton is playing, both per Todd McLellan’s morning availability. While there has not been an official lineup distributed, both Group A and Group B had a divide with players coming off early and staying on for extra work, with those expected to play likely being the former. Expect a youth-heavy group tonight overall, as McLellan alluded to yesterday, seeing players that are vying for jobs alongside some veteran players sprinkled in around them.
As for Vancouver, see below for their morning lines, which include Kings alum Tanner Pearson.
Salt Lake goodness. Here’s how they lined-up this morning. pic.twitter.com/yRAt4frOtI
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) September 21, 2019
On Lewis, the veteran forward will have a homecoming, playing in his home state of Utah. Lewis was able to play an NHL game in his home state last season, as alluded to above, something that he would not have imagined to be possible growing up.
“Never,” he said when asked if he ever expected to play an NHL game in Utah. “There was always AHL and IHL games there, but playing an NHL game there, it was pretty cool.”
The experience last season was surreal for Lewis, who did play professionally with the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies during the 2013 NHL lockout, but never before in a Kings jersey. Players get to play at home all the time in this league, but to get the opportunity to do so when you aren’t from an area with an NHL team is a pretty cool experience.
“It was awesome,” Lewis said of last season’s game in Utah. “Just getting the chance to play in front of all my family and friends, it’s pretty cool and obviously we got a pretty good turnout last year too so it was a lot of fun. Hopefully they worked on the ice conditions a little bit, but it’s great to go back.”
As a kid from Utah, Lewis said that he went to minor league games in Utah all the time as a kid. Like many minor league hockey markets, Utah has seen its fair share of tenants, starting with the IHL’s Salt Lake Golden Eagles, into the Utah Grizzlies, who played in both the IHL and AHL during Lewis’ youth.
Add on top of that the fact that the 2002 Olympic Winter Games were held in Salt Lake City, and Lewis was able to consume hockey pretty regularly throughout his childhood.
“Yeah, we always had season tickets growing up,” Lewis elaborated. “So I went to every game I could. Obviously I got the chance to see the Olympics in Utah too, which was awesome.”
With regards to tonight’s game, Kings Head Coach Todd McLellan has no reservations about Lewis trying to do too much in a special moment. McLellan talked about the reliability that a player like Lewis has and though tonight is a meaningful game for him, the belief is that he will stick to his game.
“Trevor’s been in the league for a pretty long time and he knows what type of player he is,” McLellan said. “The opportunity to go back home and play is special for anybody, but I don’t think it will change the way he plays, I don’t think he’ll overplay or underplay. He gets it, he knows what his role is, he’s usually a very reliable player. We’re excited about taking him there, we’re excited about him playing in front of his family and friends. Somebody asked if they were going to have a parade for him when we land. His teammates know where he’s from also.”
A parade, maybe not. But Lewis will have a nice contingent nonetheless supporting him tonight in Salt Lake City.
“I think I have about 30 tickets, so not too bad, but a lot of people got their own tickets too,” Lewis noted. “I didn’t want to scrounge for too many tickets. I got a bunch of friends and family that got their own tickets too, so it should be a lot of fun.”
Pitch And Hutt
Expect defenseman Ben Hutton to make his Kings debut tonight in Salt Lake City, ironically enough against his former club in Vancouver. Click Here to read more on Hutton.
First of all, his experience,” McLellan said today when asked about Hutton’s profile. “He’s played enough games where he should show some poise and some patience. He’s a good skater, his ability to be mobile around the ice, get to pucks and initiate breakouts should be a part of it. I know, in the past, he’s shown some offensive awareness or instincts. One can look at the plus/minus number, I know that’ll be talked about. Obviously he’s probably not happy with that, but it’s a very deceiving number that can be labeled to a player so we’ll reserve judgement in that area until we really get going. Just that veteran presence of understanding…he’s a lot longer of a player than I thought he was, good reach and some good range.”
The Kings reduced their training camp roster by two players today, with Akil Thomas reassigned to OHL-Niagara and Samuel Fagemo loaned to Frolunda of the SHL in Sweden, where he won a championship last season. Both left strong impressions on the Kings coaching staff, with McLellan noting that the moves were “a little bit planned” though he added that based on their level of play in training camp, it made the decisions more difficult.
Thomas was recently named as the captain for the IceDogs and is expected to be a top scorer for Niagara, after leading the team in assists (64) and tied for the tying for the team lead in points last season (102).
“Akil had to play here [Los Angeles, not AHL eligible], he still has junior eligibility,” McLellan said. “He had a tremendous camp. It’s a situation where he’s not quite ready and we’re not ready for him. So let’s get him back with his team, let’s get him off to a good start with his team back home.”
Fagemo, now entering his 19-year-old season with Frolunda, led all players 18 years old and younger in scoring during last season’s SHL season, en route to a league championship. Fagemo, who played alongside fellow LAK prospect Jacob Moverare, had 14 goals and 25 points in 42 SHL games.
“Sammy’s in the same situation,” McLellan added. “Really good player, really impressed at camp, but lets’ give him a year to get a little bigger, a little stronger. He chose to go back and we supported his decision to go back and play in Sweden, we think it’s a great spot for him.”
The team leaves for Utah within the hour, making it a tight trip for the Kings before tonight’s contest. More to come, including tonight’s lineup as available, closer to game time. Until then, Insiders!