Day 2, Insiders!
For certain individuals watching from behind the glass at Toyota Sports Performance Center, it was their first day at 2022 Development Camp. Speaking from personal experience, that is. For everyone on the ice and those in the locker room, it was the conclusion of Day 2, capped with a scrimmage in the afternoon, following position-based sessions in the morning. The group is set for the same schedule tomorrow, with a practice only on Thursday, followed by a beach day, and a scrimmage on Friday morning to conclude the week.
One of the unique things about development camp is that it brings together players from a variety of different leagues, ages and skillsets. Arthur Kaliyev, who played 80 of 82 NHL games last season can skate alongside Kenny Connors, who was drafted by the Kings less than a week ago.
“You can’t try and immediately have the size and strength that they do, but you want to try and pick up the little things that they’re doing,” Connors said, of learning from guys like Kaliyev and Quinton Byfield. “Picking pucks up off the walls, how they’re getting their shots off, just little things that they’re doing that you can try to emulate a little bit.”
Today’s scrimmage saw, by my count, two goals per side, from four different goalscorers. Two goals came from draft picks, with Samuel Helenius (Gray) and Jared Wright (White) finding the back of the net. Helenius buried a one-timer from the slot off a dish from second-round pick Jack Hughes, while Wright took a stretch pass from Andre Lee and converted on a breakaway. Camp invitees Bennet Rossmy (Gray) and James Stefan (White) also scored during the event. Rossmy’s tally was a slam dunk off a cross-crease feed from the very active Aatu Jamsen, while Kim Nousiainen made the extra pass to Stefan, who got his shot to go from inside the circles.
Caught up with a few players after today’s skate, for a few impressions from the week that’s been so far.
As noted above, this season’s development camp has a bit more experience involved than we saw the last time the Kings held a full-scale event like this back in 2019. One such player is Tobias Bjornfot, who has spent the bulk of the last two seasons at the NHL level playing with the Kings.
Bjornfot was a regular for nearly the entirety of the campaign, but a late-season injury disrupted his flow a bit and Bjornfot found himself on the outside looking in during the seven-game series versus Edmonton. He learned a lot from that experience, however, with his first taste of playoff action, even as a spectator.
“It’s a different game between the regular season in the playoffs,” he said, of the differences in playoff hockey. “I need to play harder and be prepared to play in those games, those moments.”
He indicated that he’s spent his offseason mainly in Sweden thus far, working out both on and off the ice, with the goal of meeting those metrics. He’s working out both on and off the ice, having some fun in between.
“I’m working on my strength and [improving] my weaknesses,” Bjornfot said of his offseason thus far. “Watching video and working hard in the gym.”
We’ll take a deeper dive this week into the role that players like Bjornfot are playing this week, as a leader and a mentor for some of the younger players, on top of their own desire to use this week to get some reps in and improve.
To finish for today, however, Bjornfot expressed his excitement at his teammate last season, Alex Edler, re-signing earlier in the day.
“Yeah, Eddy was great last season,” he said. “It’s good for the team and it’s good for us younger defensemen that he’s back again.”
Different Draft Days
Though both selected by the LA Kings, in the fourth round, of the 2022 NHL Draft, the day was quite different for both Angus Booth and Kenny Connors. Okay, well one thing was the same – both players slept in their own bed that night. The difference was, Booth’s home is in Montreal, where he attended the draft in his own backyard, while Connors learned of his selection from home, where he celebrated with his family.
For Booth, the Montreal native, the event was a surreal experience. One of those “stars align” moments, coming from the right player, in the right draft, in the right year.
“Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” he said. “In my hometown, my family, my friends and also getting to go home after and just lay in my own bed, that’s nice always. All together, it was an amazing atmosphere and I couldn’t have asked for better.”
For Connors, his experience was also special in his own way. It was the realization of a dream for the young forward, something he’s looked forward to his entire life.
The Dubuque Fighting Saints forward spent the day with his family and noted it was special he was able to experience the moment with his grandparents.
“I was at home with my family,” he said. “It was pretty cool, especially being with my family, my grandparents were there, it’s just something I’ve looked forward to for a while, something I’ve dreamt of. It was pretty cool.”
Both players are now in their first LA Kings development camp, looking to make an impression with a large group of Kings prospects in attendance this week.
Beef Is What’s For Dinner
More on Booth, who is now four days into his tenure as a member of the Kings organization. An evaluation of his style, in his own words.
“I think I play a simple, two-way game,” he said of his own play. “With guys at this elite level, I try to keep it simple, but I think once I get used to the play and the speed, I think I’ll be able to make some nice plays.”
We touched on Bjornfot’s role as more of a veteran and he mentioned Booth as someone who he took note of during Day 1. The two played a bit together during both the positional drills and the afternoon scrimmage, with the Swede taking notice of his partner.
“I played a little bit with Booth last night, I like his game, he was pretty good out there,” Bjornfot said. “He’s a little bit defensive and he’s a little bit similar to me [as a player].”
Booth had not been to Los Angeles – or California for that matter – prior to this week’s camp, nor had he participated in an event like this. He’s no stranger to high-level competition, however, having participated in the 2022 Memorial Cup, arguably the highest-scale junior event from a club perspective on the planet, something he called a great experience and something he learned from as a 17-year-old player.
Now, however, he’s fully focused on the three days ahead of him, enjoying himself every step of the way.
“Everyone here is amazing, the staff and the facilities, LA is a great place,” he concluded. “It’s been amazing so far and there are three days left. I’m really looking forward to them.”
Tomorrow’s format will be the same as today – positional sessions in the morning, scrimmage in the afternoon. It’s also the first day of unrestricted free agency and while the Kings are no overflowing with cap space, as they were on this day last summer when they signed Phillip Danault, Alex Edler and Andreas Athanasiou to a combined cap hit of $11.7 million, they have enough room to make an impactful move should they so choose, with team toughness and a different skillset on the left side backend two areas that could be of interest. Until then, Insiders!