Rookie Tournament Takeaways – 5 Things to Remember from Vegas

Tuesday was the final day of the rookie portion of 2023 LA Kings training camp, with the team’s roster taking part in their third and final practice as a group. The on-ice portion of camp opened on Thursday with a full team skate prior to their departure for Las Vegas where games were played on Friday, Saturday and Monday, with another practice mixed in on Sunday. That made Tuesday the sixth consecutive day the group was on the ice together and all had a well-earned day off Wednesday.

With this portion of camp now behind us, let’s look back at some of the impressions they made at the event. While the Kings couldn’t pull out a win, finishing 0-2-1 in the showcase, there were plenty who stood out as individuals while being evaluated by internal management and scouts from many other NHL teams.

Gettin’ Iggy Wit It
Maybe the most dominating and impressive performance by a Kings player in Vegas was the play of goaltender Jacob Ingham, who returned from a year-long injury absence and started two of the team’s three games.

His numbers were close to perfect: 53 saves on 54 total shots faced in 71 minutes of action for a .981 save percentage. It’s a shame he left Sin City without a win, but he also didn’t finish either game he started, playing just over 30 minutes on Friday and about 40 minutes on Saturday.

Prior to this week’s games, Ingham’s last appearance of any kind came at the 2022 Rookie Faceoff in San Jose where he also started two games for the Kings. While not as elite as this year’s result, his numbers were also very good. The Barrie, Ontario native allowed just three goals in 88 minutes of action for a 2.04 goals-against average that included a .929 save percentage with 39 saves on 42 shots.

Not only was his play good by the numbers, Ingham also passed the eye test, moving well in the crease and getting himself square to every shooter that came his way. Ontario Reign head coach March Sturm, who saw echoed those comments with some of his own thoughts after his return in Friday’s game.

“I’m really happy for him,” Sturm said. The whole team was really happy about his game. It’s not easy [for him]. I saw him every day last season in the locker room. It was a grind for him. You only wish the best for him, and for him to come out like this today, it’s exciting. He was great.”

For more on Ingham’s comeback and play in the showcase, check out Josh Schaefer’s recent feature here.

Dvorak’s Debut
The Kings’ second-round pick in this summer’s draft, Jakub Dvorak, suited up for all three of the team’s games in the showcase, posting a pair of assists and an even rating while wearing LA’s logo in game action for the first time. Dvorak had a confidence about him that grew as the week went on and it showed both on and off the ice.

He logged significant minutes in different situations while grasping new systems and teaching from the team’s coaching staff. It may have helped that the defender had been in training camp with his team back in the Czech Republic and his conditioning was closer to being in midseason form, but due to a flight delay, Dvorak arrived in LA late Wednesday afternoon and had to scramble to be part of the team’s first practice on Thursday morning.

While plus-minus is not always the best statistic to showcase an individual’s effectiveness, it was telling that Dvorak had an even rating from the three games, as LA was outscored 11-7 overall in the event. To play the minutes he did in each of the contests and come out even, is a good sign for the young blueliner.

Dvorak will not be sticking around for training camp in LA, instead departing after the Kings final rookie-only practice at TSPC on Tuesday and returning to his Czechia club, Bílí Tygři Liberec, who is beginning regular season play.

Finishing On The Power Play
The Kings’ man-advantage unit came away from the three-game trip with a 17.6% conversion rate, which bolstered the team’s offense throughout. A highlight from that group who stood out in all facets of the game was Alex Laferriere, who was playing in the event for the first time but at the age of 21 is a bit older than others who made up the majority of the rosters.

The Chatham, N.J. native who spent the last two seasons at Harvard scored points in each of the two games he appeared in, both coming with an extra man on the ice. Laferriere’s first goal Friday afternoon tied the game in the closing minutes with the net empty at the other end to force overtime. Then after sitting out on Saturday, he came back Monday to pick up the primary assist on Andre Lee’s power play strike midway through the third period that cut into Anaheim’s advantage.

LA’s other goals when up a man came from Aatu Jamsen in the second period of the middle game against Arizona on Saturday, set up by a cross-ice feed from Martin Chromiak, and by invite Sean Tschigerl, who was the recipient of a setup by Jamsen on Monday afternoon.

Lee-ding The Way
Forward Andre Lee, in his second year of participation at the Rookie Faceoff, made an impact equal to his 6-foot-4 size. While wearing the captain’s ‘C’ in both games he appeared in, Lee found the back of the net in each contest. He formed a trio with Laferriere and Francesco Pinelli which was the most effective line for LA during the event.

“I learned a lot from last year and it’s my second time being at rookie camp, so I think I took on the role pretty well,” Lee said after he first had the captaincy on Friday. “I’ve always liked the captain role and being the leader, so it was really fun. As an older guy who’s been around for a little bit, you have to take responsibility and lead the younger guys.”

Lee also stood up for a teammate by dropping his gloves to fight Anaheim’ s Konnor Smith on Monday, who sent Dvorak into the boards behind the net in LA’s zone. Lee immediately went after the Ducks defender and did what he had to. Those types of plays made the big forward noticeable in multiple ways for the Kings this week.

The first of Lee’s two goals came Friday to get the team on the board for the first time when Pinelli was able to steal the puck in his own end while shorthanded and break up the ice before sending Lee in one-on-one with the opposing goaltender. The Karlstad, Sweden native deked to his backhand before roofing the puck up high to open the scoring.

Lee’s second tally was the Kings’ final goal on Monday, bookending the team’s scoring with a deflection on the power play off an initial play on the puck by Laferriere.

It was clear that he enjoyed being part of a line that consisted of a high amount of skill.

“They’re great players,” Lee said of Pinelli and Laferriere. “Both very technical, and they can score as well. You can see that Laferriere has a great shot too. I think for me, it was just sticking to my game like how I ended last season. I think this is a great start for what’s coming, so for me it was about sticking to my game and doing what I do best.”

Krieger Can Be Counted On
While official time on ice statistics were not calculated during the games in Vegas, no one logged more minutes for the Kings in the first two games than Cole Krygier, who was a leader on the back end all week. Krygier, who turned pro with Ontario late last season after an extended collegiate career at Michigan State, wore one of the letters on his jersey as an alternate captain in both of the games he appeared in.

“I’ve really enjoyed it with the younger guys,” Krygier said after Saturday’s loss to Arizona that saw lots of time for him on the penalty kill. “We’ve had a great time on the road and they’re asking a lot of questions and kind of picking my brain. That’s what I’m, here for. I want to be helpful to them and makes their games easier. Overall, the minutes have been good but we kind of had to grind away in the defensive zone with so many penalties tonight.”

Krygier, 23, saw action in eight contests for the Reign to finish the regular season and then suited up in both of the team’s playoff games during a short series in Colorado.

“He’s a little bit older and he came to us last year, so he’s one of those guys we think can handle it,” Sturm said after the second game Saturday. “It’s going to be a challenging year for him coming from college to pro in today’s environment and playing a lot of games in a short amount of time. We are really happy with how he’s played, but we rely on him and want him to be better this year as well.”

Krygier will have a chance to continue to showcase himself in Kings training camp this week, which could lead to his NHL preseason debut in one of the games against Anaheim, Vegas or San Jose before the month ends.

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