The last set of interviews, Insiders!
Finishing the run on video and recaps from Exit Interviews with four depth forwards, all of whom set some type of personal best during the regular season. The forward quartet of Blake Lizotte, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Carl Grundstrom and Rasmus Kupari all set NHL career bests in points and games played this season. Lizotte led the way, skating in all but the one game he was suspended for, as he set career highs in goals (11), assists (23) and points. Grundstrom was exclusively at the NHL level for the third straight season, while Anderson-Dolan did so for the second time in his career. Despite a couple of short AHL stints, Kupari was with the Kings almost exclusively, carving out a bottom-six role.
The final takeaways from exit interviews are below!
Blake Lizotte & Jaret Anderson-Dolan
Starting off with perhaps the lengthiest quote of all 23 exit interviews.
The quote came from Lizotte, who was asked why he believes that the 2022-23 Kings team was such a tight-knit group. His full answer below –
“You know, if I had the answer to that I would be a very wealthy person. There’s no magic pill. I was talking when one of you guys asked about line combinations and why the chemistry works, I don’t think there’s really an answer to it, other than there’s just good character people in the room. Everyone’s unselfish and everybody’s there for a greater purpose other than themselves. When you show up every day and you’re training and competing in practice, keeping each other accountable for the guy next to you, is when a team is at its best. I think too, with facing adversity at times, especially within a series, when you go through adversity with 23 guys in a room, you all just bond over that. I think this year in terms of last year, the mindset was different last year. Obviously you want to win the Stanley Cup but we were happy to be in playoffs, no one picked us to be there. This year, I think the expectation was higher and unfortunately fell short, but with that expectation, there’s definitely more accountability and I think with guys having that expectation, no one’s afraid to call each other out. Calling each other out sometimes makes you quite a bit closer, so I think there was a great mix of accountability and also fun. I’m definitely bummed that this one is over.”
A lot of really good things in there. Lizotte is still a young player in the grander picture, but he’s extremely well spoken and now has a few years under his belt. His commitment and effort have won him respect around the locker room and his style of play has endeared him to the coaching staff and to the veterans on the team, setting a strong example for younger players coming in.
Lizotte speaks about accountability in the best way, with how this group grew from last year to this year. With increased expectations came increased accountability and Lizotte felt that the group held each other accountable. With that came a bond that strengthened as the season went along.
Regarding his series, Lizotte missed Games 3, 4 and 5 with lower-back spasms, an injury that he said made it difficult for him to touch his toes at times early on. He eventually returned to practice and used the break between Games 5 and 6 to get back up to speed, enough to return to the lineup for Game 6. That time out was challenging for Lizotte, who really hasn’t missed a ton of time due to injury in his career.
“You’re on the team, but when you’re not in, you don’t have an effect on the game necessarily, all you can do is bring a good attitude around the rink, whether you win or lose. You can’t be in the game and feel that emotion in the game, you don’t feel like you can make a difference, I guess, if you will. It’s definitely frustrating and makes me hungry for more next year.”
Lizotte felt that, overall, the series was tighter than a season ago. Despite being on the outside looking in for half of the games, he pointed to the three overtime games and the tighter scores between the two teams as being areas of narrowing the gap. Overall, while still a defeat, it was a closer one.
For Anderson-Dolan, 2022-23 marked his first, full season in the National Hockey League.
Anderson-Dolan has played NHL games now in five consecutive seasons, though only the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season was spent only in the NHL and in that campaign, he played just 34 games. This season, while he wasn’t in the lineup every night, he played in a career-high 46 games, amassing a career-best 12 points. He also got into four games during the playoffs, missing only Games 2 and 6.
The role he was asked to fill was a challenging one at times. It didn’t come with an everyday spot in the lineup and frequently came with several games out of the lineup consecutively. That presented challenges to establish rhythm and consistency. Part of the job, though, and it’s a job that meant a full season at the highest level. In that regard, Anderson-Dolan stuck with it and took the best out of his situation.
“It’s just kind of sticking with it, I think perseverance. It’s kind of an interesting situation and you want to be in the lineup, everyone does, you want to be out there with the guys competing. To be out from the beginning and then to come in and do pretty well and be out towards the end it’s frustrating at times, but you kind of take the positives. I felt like my game came a long way this year and I definitely learned a lot, on and off the ice. Just sticking with it and just learning a new level of work ethic you need to bring, that’s what I take from this year.”
While there were times when he was an extended scratch, come the postseason Anderson-Dolan was selected to play in four playoff games, despite the increasing availability of players around him.
His work-ethic and responsibility made him a trusting player who the staff felt comfortable in using on the fourth line. The postseason was a debut for very few players, though when Anderson-Dolan suited up for Game 1, he became the first of three Kings to skate in their first playoff game throughout the course of the series. There’s a step up that every player talks about and Anderson-Dolan spoke about his playoff experience as well.
“It’s obviously a big step up from regular season, just the speed and every mistake and every little play is magnified. So, it’s definitely something I learned and I think the first few games wasn’t where I wanted to be, in terms of my own game in the series and I felt like I could have gave more there and then the last game there I thought it was a little bit better. I think you kind of just try to take steps and I definitely learned a lot from it and can use that going forward.”
Looking ahead, Anderson-Dolan was open to an invitation to the World Championships as a way to play more games, but he was not listed on Team Canada’s first-announced roster. Otherwise, it’s another offseason of work ahead, as he looks to turn a part-time role into a permanent one.
Carl Grundstrom & Rasmus Kupari
Last season, Grundstrom was one of the biggest breakout stars of the seven-game series against Edmonton.
With injuries rampant throughout the lineup, Grundstrom earned an opportunity in the top six and rewarded the Kings with three goals and four points from six games played, missing Game 3 due to injury. He didn’t cement the same type of role in this series, with a healthier group up front, but did play in all six games, including a couple on the third line as his heavy and direct style of play seemed to translate well, again, to playoff hockey.
Despite the series going a round shorter, Grundstrom believed that the team as a whole bridged some of the gap that existed last season between the Kings and Oilers.
“Yeah, I do. It’s always tough games against each other and it’s a battle every game. It was close last year too, but I think we took a step in the right direction.”
Grundstrom improved his game-over-game consistency this season and played in a career-high 57 games, his third straight year he’s increased that total. He missed 16 games due to a mid-season injury, meaning rarely was he out due to performance or a numbers game that cost him games a season ago, when he was relatively healthy but was far more often a healthy scratch.
“Just to play as good as possible, every time I get the chance. That’s what I was trying to do.”
Grundstrom, like others, indicated he would consider playing at the World Championships, with Team Sweden, as he did last season. With exit interviews coming 12 hours after Game 6, it was too soon to know when he spoke, so we’ll find out for sure in the coming days.
It was an eventful season, certainly, for forward Rasmus Kupari.
Kupari increased his NHL games played total for the third consecutive season, as he set a new career-high with 66 games played, building off the 57 he appeared in a season ago. He also played in all six playoff games, after skating in 5 of 7 during the 2022 postseason.
Throughout the course of the season, Kupari cemented himself as a bottom-six center, eventually settling into a fourth-line role as Lizotte assumed the 3C position. Kupari carved himself out a niche on the penalty kill, as he formed a pairing with Phillip Danault that became used regularly throughout the bulk of the season. On the defensive side, he became trusting, even if the offensive game didn’t come around as perhaps he’d have liked it to.
“As the season went along, I got a little bigger role, played PK a little bit, maybe a little more of a defensive role. At the end of the year, I felt like I played better, I was more confident with the puck, I just couldn’t score a goal and I had a lot of chances in the last month or so. That’s definitely something I’ve got to work on this summer.”
It’s that offensive area where Kupari believes his offseason work needs to come the most.
He established himself as a penalty-killing regular and became a player who maintained his place in the lineup on a nightly basis as others around him were in and out. Kupari improved immensely in the faceoff dot, improving from 42.6 percent to 54.6 percent. As the team’s only right-handed centerman, that created value for Kupari, who was able to retain his lineup spot by bringing those tools.
Now, he’s hopeful to add a bit more offensive production to the mix. He scored just three goals from 72 games, regular season and postseason combined, and he has more to give in that area. With a big body and good skating ability, he believes he can contribute in a larger way offensively and is determined to work on that area over the summer.
“I think I’ve still got more offense in my game, I’ve got to find it. I’ve got to get stronger, be better in battles and that kind of stuff. I know there’s more offense in my game, so I’ve got to work on that and find it.”
Kupari left the door open towards representing Finland at the World Championships, should they ask him to play, so we’ll see if his season has any additional chapters to come.
Rules for Blog Commenting
Repeated violations of the blog rules will result in site bans, commensurate with the nature and number of offenses.
Please flag any comments that violate the site rules for moderation. For immediate problems regarding problematic posts, please email email@example.com.