Yesterday, we broke down the end-of-season exit interviews for Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Alex Iafallo. That article can be found here.
Today, we take a look at three members of the team’s secondary core, with Adrian Kempe, Matt Roy and Cal Petersen. Kempe had his best NHL season in terms of points, but did not have a consistent role throughout the season, something he spoke to in his interview. Roy talked about how he felt the Kings weren’t aggressive enough this season, also touching on his growth from Year 1 to Year 2 in the NHL. Petersen spoke about his desire to be the number one goaltender with the Kings, as well as the challenges faced during his first full season at the NHL level.
– Kempe’s role this season was perhaps less defined than any other Kings player, and you could make a variety of cases for why that was.
Kempe played left wing, center and right wing. He played on the first line, the second line, the third line and the fourth line. He played more than 50 minutes of 5-on-5 play with nine different linemates, but more than 200 with zero. Regardless of what your reasoning is for why you think that is, the lack of consistency in terms of his role was certainly something that made finding consistency as a player challenging at times for Kempe.
“I think it is, especially when you play with guys for several games, you build that chemistry, and I feel like when I played with a lot of different guys and sometimes it’s hard to know what kind of player you’re playing with now, when you adjusted to playing with certain players for a couple of games. I think, for me, I would like to see a more consistent mix of lines for the team, but I’m not the coach. Either way, whoever you play with, I just try to do the best I can out there. Building consistency in lines can build a lot more chemistry as well.”
Finding Kempe’s best fit on the team will be one of many points of emphasis moving forward, into the offseason, for the coaching staff and team management.
– Kempe was one of the most consistent members of the team’s top power-play unit, which was the driving force behind a resurgent Kings team in the first half of the season, and one of the most talked about reasons for the decline in the second half.
Kempe was the team’s go-to player on offensive zone entries on the man advantage, and tallied 14 of his 29 points on the power play, with career bests in both goals (4) and assists (10). Kempe discussed what he felt changed on the power play, and what he’d like to see that unit get back to heading into next season.
“I think, at the beginning of the year, it felt like we scored every single game, but the momentum we have, the confidence we have, when you don’t score for a while, you maybe start to over-do things, you make the extra play every time because it needs to be perfect. Going back to what we did at the beginning of the year, it wasn’t complicated, we just moved the puck quick, we shot it, we got it back, that’s something we’ve got to get back to……we had a great start to the year, and we ended up pretty good percentage wise, so it was a step in the right direction compared to previous years.”
– Kempe will be one of many Kings to represent their country at the 2021 IIHF World Championships and as of now, the only confirmed player to play for Team Sweden.
Kempe will play for Sweden for the third straight World Championships, also skating in the tournament in 2018 and 2019, with 2020 cancelled. Kempe will feature alongside his brother, Mario, and pointed to that, as well as his pride in representing his country, as primary reasons for attending this season’s edition.
“Always fun when they ask, and I feel like an important part of Sweden and their national team, I always enjoy playing for them. My brother is on the team as well, so it’s nice to catch up with him and play with him for maybe the final time in our careers. He’s getting a little bit older, so it’s nice to catch up with him. Hopefully we can play together and have a good time. I’ve won World Championships before, I remember how fun it is. Obviously it’s going to be different this year, but I’m always proud to wear the Sweden jersey.”
– If you were looking for a specific reason as to an area in which the Kings regressed, perhaps your ears perked a bit during Matt Roy’s exit interview. Not exactly the source you might have expected, but perhaps it should be. Roy has evolved into a leader in his own right on this team, and his words carry some weight.
Roy believes that the Kings were a more aggressive team during the 2019-20 season, and believes that something changed there in 2021.
“I think last year we played a lot more aggressive on our forecheck and in our neutral-zone forecheck, which allowed us to play in the offensive zone a little bit more. I think this year, we had a tendency to sag back a bit and play a bit more defense. In that regard, we played better last year, but hopefully moving forward, we can get back to that, play more aggressive and get on the attack.”
Roy believed that the team started off the season a bit more aggressively, but as things moved on and progressed, the team slowly faded into a more passive group. In his mind, and likely some others, certainly an area for improvement moving forward.
– It’s hard to believe that Roy finished up just his second season at the NHL level.
Being a college player, who played three years at Michigan Tech, followed by close to a pair of full seasons in the AHL, Roy isn’t necessarily your typical second-year player. He plays beyond his years in a lot of ways and is closer to being labeled as a veteran than a young guy at this stage.
Having that full year under his belt, and understanding the NHL speed and style of play, was a key for him in feeling confident and settled in his second season.
“I think just the speed of the game and the pace of the game, I feel like I wasn’t trying to match the game. When you first get called up, you’re kind of worried about other guys and how fast they are, how good they are. Having that year of experience, I feel like I was confident in myself and I was ready to go from the beginning.”
– Roy’s most consistent partner this season was Tobias Bjornfot, though he featured for at least a chunk of games with both Mikey Anderson and Kurtis MacDermid.
Roy did seem to enjoy the opportunity to build a stable pairing with a guy like Bjornfot, but also noted the pros of shaking things up at times, and adding energy when playing with a different face from time-to-time.
“If you play with the same guy enough, you’re definitely going to get into a rhythm and learn each other’s tendencies. If you do get a different partner for whatever reason, it can be fun, shake things up, energize you a bit. I know however I played with Dermy, I was always excited to play, nothing against Toby obviously, but sometimes shaking it up is a good thing. If you have the same partner and can build chemistry, I think that’s a great thing as well.”
Roy also gave an evaluation of the team’s youngest members of the blueline, in Anderson and Bjornfot. As someone who skated with both at times, Roy is in a good place to speak about both players, and saw growth from both, in their own ways.
“I’ll start with Mikey, playing with Dewy, he played a lot of minutes this year against the best lines out there, so credit to him. He learns the game well and he’s a really good partner in the sense that he communicates a lot and he makes it easier on whoever his partner is. I think he had a good year for sure. Toby, he came out of his shell slowly but surely throughout the year. He was a little bit quiet at the start of the year, but as the year went on, he was loud and he was jumping up in the offense and he was fun to play with.”
– Petersen’s evolution to the number one role with the Kings has started to take shape. Todd McLellan said last week that the process started throughout the course of the second half of the season, with Petersen taking on more games, and more important games. Petersen, now entering the final year of his contract with the organization, knows what his goal is, and is hopeful continue to work towards it.
“I mean, I think that’s the goal. I think every single game that I play, I’m hoping to build confidence with the guys around me, the coaching staff too, having me in there. I think it’s just every day, trying to be the best. Coming to the NHL, I want to be a number one goalie, I want to be the guy to win games, so that’s definitely the goal.”
– One of the biggest challenges for the entire team this season was the schedule, and perhaps no player was impacted more than Petersen.
In the AHL, even if you played on back-to-back nights on a weekend, there were typically at least three days of rest in between games. That goes away in the NHL, especially with this season and how the schedule was structured. When Petersen did get an extended run of games, it came with three games in four or five days, not in seven. That’s a big difference, and one that Petersen believes will help him in the long run, as he continues his process of becoming a number one in the NHL.
“I would say it was a challenge. I think it was a challenge for everybody, the condensed schedule, it’s hard too, whether it’s a good game or a bad game, you have another chance to turn it around and get back on track, but at the same time, it’s one of those things that you have to learn to shake off every performance and come to the rink with a fresh mindset and be ready to win hockey games. It was definitely a challenge, it was something that I had never really gone through, so another piece of experience that I can pack away with me.”
– Like Kempe and Roy before him, Petersen decided to accept an offer to represent Team USA at the upcoming World Championships.
Petersen was a part of the 2017 team, but was the third goaltender and did not appear in any game action. That does not figure to be the case for the Iowa native this time around, as he figures to have a good opportunity to take the net and play meaningful games, and an important role in his team’s success.
“It’s a huge honor. It was a very easy yes for me. I think, any time you have the opportunity to represent your country and play for Team USA, I don’t see any real reason to turn that down. I was extremely excited, extremely honored to get asked and I’m really looking forward to playing with some teammates and having a significant role on the team and hopefully come back with a medal.”
Petersen joins Roy, Trevor Moore and Christian Wolanin on Team USA at the upcoming tournament.
We’ll have the final edition of exit interviews coming tomorrow with those who conducted de-facto season-ending interviews earlier in the week in Trevor Moore, Mikey Anderson and Gabriel Vilardi. More to come, Insiders!