Welcome to training camp!
The Kings hit the ice today in two groups, with each group skating solo for about 40 minutes, sandwiched around an hour and a half of scrimmage time. Group A kicked off the day, with the scrimmage against Group B following immediately after. Group B then concluded the first day back with their own on-ice session, and there you have it for Day 1.
Here’s how the Kings aligned on the first day –
Goalies: Petersen, Villalta
Defensemen: Roy, Alt, Clague, Anderson, Durzi, Brickley
Forwards: Amadio, Kopitar, Moore, Iafallo, Brown, Andersson, Madden, Grundstrom, Eyssimont, Luff, Fagemo, Dudas
Iafallo – Kopitar – Brown
Moore – Amadio – Luff
Grundstrom – Andersson – Fagemo
Eyssimont – Dudas – Madden
Anderson – Roy
Clague – Alt
Brickley – Durzi
Goalies: Quick, Grosenick, Ingham
Defensemen: Maatta, Doughty, Walker, MacDermid, Moverare, Phillips, Strand
Forwards: Kempe, Imama, Wagner, JAD, Vilardi, Frk, Rymsha, Lizotte, Carter, Thomas, Kupari
Kempe – Vilardi – Frk
Wagner – Lizotte – Carter
Thomas – JAD – Kupari
Imama – Rymsha
Maatta – Doughty
MacDermid – Walker
Moverare – Strand
For those wondering, the first player to take the ice this season was goaltender Cal Petersen. The first broken stick belonged to Michael Amadio. And there you have your breaking news for December 31.
Both of the individual sessions got the legs moving early, lots of line rushes, flow drills and the like – a typical Todd McLellan high-tempo skate. The scrimmage featured a combination of situational play and continuous 5-on-5 play, broken down into two parts. The controlled scrimmage involved stops and starts, setting up different situations that created opportunities for teaching when called for.
Some highlights and standouts from the scrimmage session are embedded below.
3 Scrimmage Notes –
– Lias Andersson had a nice goal early on, no look shot through the fivehole
– Matt Luff had 2 goals towards the end, including a nice snipe glove-side high
– Gabriel Vilardi buried a 🚀 of a one-timer from the left-hand circle, from an Akil Thomas pass
— Zach Dooley (@ReignInsider) December 31, 2020
Additionally, Carl Grundstrom tallied a pair of goals, as did Martin Frk. Troy Grosenick turned aside a pair of breakaways in the second session – one apiece from Dustin Brown and Mikey Eyssimont – and we saw a nice back-door feed from Jeff Carter to linemate Austin Wagner for the cross-crease goal I’ve been using in the NHL video games since 2004.
3 KEY TAKEAWAYS –
Fast & Furious
Speaking with Drew Doughty after today’s practice, he felt that the scrimmage specifically had a fast pace to it, and was excited with the physicality and intensity showed in the first game between Kings players.
“We had a good scrimmage today, the pace was high, it was a really good scrimmage,” Doughty said.
Doughty’s head coach was inclined to agree. McLellan discussed how the scrimmage was broken down into two different parts – “controlled” and a standard, 5-on-5 scrimmage. Between the two, the veteran bench boss was happy with the pace shown during that portion of the day.
“We approached the scrimmage a little bit differently than maybe in other years,” McLellan said. “The first half was, I call it controlled scrimmaging, where we set up certain situations. We were reminded of what we needed to do in those moments, and then we let them play. The second half of the scrimmage was faceoff drop and play on from there. The pace early was really good. As we got near the end of the game, ice conditions as well as fatigue came into play, so there was a little bit of a fall off, but none that was not expected. I think we’re in a good spot and we’ll see how we are tomorrow.”
Another theme of today’s player availability was how the team had a transition year in many ways last season, as they adopted McLellan’s style of play. Doughty went as far as saying that the system is “instilled in his brain”.
With now a full year for the veterans in camp under their belt, the need to learn is much less in Year 2, and the ability to grow from the basics that are already established is much greater.
For Dustin Brown in particular, he said it felt like the first time in his professional career that he’s had to change his style of play. With last season now behind both him and the Kings, he feels that he and his teammates have a better grasp on that system moving forward.
“Getting used to Todd’s system last year was an adjustment for a lot of guys,” he said. “For myself, I’ve never played any other system than what we played prior to him being here, so it was a change and a learning experience last year. Hopefully we can use that and be a step ahead this year.”
For players like Brown, as well Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, and Jonathan Quick – the ‘cup core’ – they haven’t played a new brand of hockey in some time. Kopitar felt that on the first day of year two under McLellan, the basics learned and engrained last season generally stayed with the team, which has allowed he and his teammates to take further strides forward.
“We played  games last year, and Todd was on us the whole time to do things right and do them within the system,” Kopitar said. “Coming here now, it’s a lot easier than coming last year to training camp. Even though we’re going to have a 14-day camp, it’s still going to be easier to just refresh and remind than teaching us the whole deal. It’s going to be easier, but we’ve got to put in the work to make sure that we’re on top of things and keep trying to get better.”
For McLellan himself, was pleased with the amount of information and retention that the players brought back with them. Of the 36 skaters here in camp, more than three quarters of the group (28) played with either the Kings or the Ontario Reign in the 2019-20 season.
“It was just one day, but first impressions are valuable I believe, and the group – and when I mention the group, I’m including the players that were in Ontario last year, they played the same system, heard the same language – a lot of them picked things up very quickly today,” McLellan said. “From a structure standpoint, a real good sign. Hands, timing, special awareness, passing, conditioning, that’s all going to take time to get back, but I thought, considering where we’ve been for the last nine months, I thought it was a positive day.”
A Slight Return To Normalcy
For all that was different, much still remained the same.
Returning to the ice today for training camp was in many ways a return to some form of normalcy, in a time when normalcy is at a premium. It wasn’t exactly what an every-day training camp looks like, but it was the LA Kings, back on the ice in advance of an NHL season.
“As far as the ability to come back and do something that we love, that’s what we’ve been waiting for,” McLellan said. “As a coach, a manager, a player, we feel like we’re in a really good situation…To have the opportunity to go back and do something that you love is great. We’re hoping that we make the best of it.”
More to come later on today from Day 1 of training camp, with a feature on how several Kings veterans used the extended offseason productively, and how they’ve come back stronger for it.