2024 Exit Interviews – Pierre-Luc Dubois, Vladislav Gavrikov, Quinton Byfield, Alex Laferriere

Up next for LA Kings exit interviews are the four remaining players who spoke who are either under contract or under team control for next season – Pierre-Luc Dubois, Vladislav Gavrikov, Quinton Byfield and Alex Laferriere.

Dubois, Gavrikov and Laferriere are under contract, while Byfield is a restricted free agent under team control this summer. Lots of different topics with this group, with a few key takeaways pulled out below.

Pierre-Luc Dubois

Accountability & Responsibility
“It’s on me. If I played like I can play, we’re not having these questions right now. I take the blame, I take responsibility. It’s just on me to be a better player.”

The exit interview for Dubois is probably the toughest one to drop in here because most people reading it have preconceived notions that will impact the way they’re viewing what was said. The irony of it all is that Dubois agreed that his play was not at the level he is capable of.

There were a lot of different reasons as to why.

Excuses were offered or presented and while Dubois acknowledged that certain things that existed and certain things that gave him trouble, at the crux of it all was a player who first admitted he is capable of more than he brought this season and secondly, took responsibility for not meeting those standards.

With regards to his role on the team, Dubois was used most regularly on either the third or fourth line. The plan was for that really not to matter. The Kings brought Dubois in specifically to give them three, top-six centers to create matchup problems against most other teams. In Winnipeg, Dubois played in the top six and his production was greater. No arguing that and he spoke to that a bit. Any player who is happy playing fewer minutes, or in a lower situation, would be lying to you. At the end of the day, though, Dubois took it upon himself to say he needs to show the team he should be in another role.

“That’s on me to show them, to be better,” he said. “If you play good, I mean that’s just how you contribute.”

It was also a new team and an unfamiliar system for Dubois.

In his first year in Winnipeg, he had a tough go of things as well, producing at under a half-point-per-game. He bounced back with a 60-point season in Year 2.

“My first year in Winnipeg didn’t go well, it was kind of the same thing, a lot of new things, new role, new everything. I didn’t panic. I knew what I could do. I knew that that once I found that stability, that I can do the things and I worked for it and I achieved that. I’m not panicing and I’m not stressed. Was it frustrating? Sure. Was it hard? Yeah, but it was eight months ago, a year ago, I was playing how I can play, so it’s not lost. It’s just, I’ve got to get back to it and that’s on me.”

He had never played the role he played with the Kings, he had never played the 1-3-1 and he had never been with these teammates and this franchise before. There was certainly an adjustment period here with the Kings.

It’s an adjustment period that he knows can’t be more than this season. The new was what it was and now it’s not new anymore. Now, it’s about moving it forward.

“When you show up to a new team, there are a lot of new things,” he said. “Role is new, new systems and everything, I played on a lot of lines this year. I think any player at the end of the day wants stability, consistency to build some chemistry. I think that’s not a secret or anything, that anybody feels differently. The consistency of knowing who you’re going out there with and building that chemistry, that that helps a lot. Next year is a new year and we’ll see what happens. The only thing I can do is control what kind of summer I can have and show up next year and be ready.”

Next Steps
The end of that last quote takes us to the other larger takeaway from Dubois’ availability, which is a focus on controlling what he can control this summer.

“There’s a lot of things that you can do and I’m committed to having a better season. I’ll do anything to be better.”

The first part of that control is staying in Los Angeles for a large portion of the summer to workout here. Dubois said he will have to go back to Canada at some point to take care of a few things but he’s planning to spend the bulk of his offseason in California, putting in the work to get his game back to where he knows it’s capable of being.

“I’m sure in the exit meetings we’ll talk, but I’m willing to do everything I can to make sure that I have a better season next year,” he said. “If that means staying here for the majority of the summer. I will. I want to get the best summer I can get and if that means staying here and working with staff or anything I’ll do that.”

The other part of it for Dubois is controlling the elements that he can control.

He’s heard the noise and he’s aware of what’s being said about him. He was asked directly in his exit interview about the possibility of his contract being bought out in the offseason or not being here next year. The questions weren’t what anyone would have expected when he was brought to Los Angeles 10 months ago.

Those conversations may be going on, but he can’t control that. All he could do was commit to raising his level. All he’s focused on is controlling what he can control and what he can control is having the best summer he can to set himself up for success.

“It’s out of my control,” he said. “I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason and it’s out of my control what happens. I just have to have the summer I know I can have and be ready for next year. Anything else, that’s out of my control. That’s not for me. I can’t sit here and give you anything more than that.”

I felt that Dubois took accountability for his season and brought a proactive approach to how he’s going to make next season a better one. Up at that table, that’s all he could do. He couldn’t add 20 points to his totals or score four playoff goals in that interview. The proof will be in the pudding going forward and that’s ultimately how Dubois will be judged. For now, he’s saying the right things, with a focus on doing the right things to prepare for a critical 2024-25 season for him personally. Seems like the right step one and we’ll see where things go from there.

Vladislav Gavrikov

The Penalty Kill
Pretty much every player who killed penalties this season for the Kings was asked about the shortcomings in the postseason.

We’ll share Gavrikov’s thoughts, though, as the team’s leader in PK TOI during the five-game series against the Oilers. Gavrikov played nearly 14 minutes while shorthanded in the series, after ranking second on the team with an average of 2:30 per game in the regular season. For 82 games, Gavrikov and the Kings were excellent, finishing second in the NHL on PK%. The playoffs, obviously a different story.

“Playoffs is a little bit different, because you’re playing against the same team, the same unit pretty much the whole time,” he shared. “Everyone does a pretty good job with the video and especially the good players can make the plays. We couldn’t get it done, obviously. The number was not great and we’ve got to take a look back and realize where there was the problems and how we can get better.”

As he noted, in the postseason you only face on power-play unit, as opposed to 31. For the Kings, that unit happened to be the Edmonton Oilers, a team that possesses elite talent and numerous options.

Gavrikov detailed what the Kings were up against, but he also understands that the Kings have to find a way to at the very least execute better against it. After all, the Oilers aren’t going anywhere. The Kings also can’t control what the Oilers do. They can only work on their own game and that includes the penalty kill. That’s the priority heading into the next iteration.

“That power play was elite, obviously. Those guys are really good together, they’ve been playing together for awhile and they feel each other. [Against] any structure, they can make the plays. It’s hard to say right now, how we can stop them, but after it all, it’s about our game, how we can manage that, because they will make the plays anyways. They’re good players, really good players, some of the best in the world, but at the end of the day, it’s got to be about us, how we can sacrifice ourselves, how we can manage that and how we can be better.”

It’s hard when the things that were successful over 82 games suddenly don’t work when it matters most. Back to the drawing board in that department moving into the summer.

What Comes Next?
The Kings second pairing of Gavrikov and defenseman Matt Roy has been a staple since Gavrikov was acquired from Columbus at the trade deadline in March of 2023.

Entering this offseason, Roy is a pending unrestricted free agent, while Gavrikov has one year left on the contract extension he signed last summer.

Regarding Roy, Gavrikov certainly would love to have him back and would certainly love to keep the gavROYkov connection alive.

“We’ll see what’s going to happen, he’s been important for us, to play with him and he’s a great guy in the locker room to be with and around,” Gavrikov said. “He’s important for the team, but you know how this works. There’s a business part of that and we’ll see what happens. If you would ask me, I wish he would stay, but it’s not my job.”

On his own situation, Gavrikov chose to remain in Los Angeles last summer on a two-year contract extension.

The first year of that deal was this past season and he’s now potentially approaching a second free agency next summer.

He signed the deal that he did because it made a lot of sense both for him and for the team. He got a substantial pay increase while also keeping his long-term flexibility open. The Kings, facing a cap crunch, retained their own flexibility with future moves.

“It worked for both sides,” Gavrikov said. “The cap issues with the team were one of the reasons why we did that and we found a solution that would work perfectly for both sides. We’ll see what’s going to happen.”

The theme, for many players, is about seeing what’s going to happen. Such tends to be the case for the teams that don’t win the Stanley Cup, but for the Kings, Gavrikov included, it seems to be even that much more prevalent.

Quinton Byfield & Alex Laferriere

The Breakout Season
Quinton Byfield, by all accounts, had a terrific season.

A couple of quirks for him during his interview, certainly – an illness that dragged him down over the last month or so and the first free agency, albeit restricted, of his professional career – but generally speaking, a conversation about his breakout year.

Byfield’s goalscoring numbers were a major topic of conversation last season. He scored just three times, despite playing the second half of the season in the LW1 position. He made everyone around him better, but three goals from that spot weren’t enough. That narrative has changed entirely, as he broke out with 20 goals and 50 points, numbers that likely would have been been higher without the aforementioned illness. Perhaps the same could be said for the contract, but he’s not all that worried on that front.

While 20 and 50 was nice, it’s certainly not the ceiling for Byfield going forward. He’s determined to take that next step once again heading into next season.

“I just want to keep making strides forward, keep taking steps forward, there’s a lot that I can work on,” Byfield said. “I think most of my goals this year were from in tight, so maybe working the long range shots, off the rush, creating some separation from the corners, just things like that. Always working on the defensive game, just watching videos in the summer, where I was or where I could be.”

Two years ago, Byfield was an exciting prospect. Any contributions the Kings got at the NHL level were gravy. Last season, the expectations rose and he exceeded them by elevating his role in the lineup. This year, he came in with an established role – LW1 – and the expectations rose once again. He noted the comfort level in coming into camp with that role spelled out and how much it helped him.

Now, he’s looking to continue ascending.

The Kings are certainly counting on it. They need complementary players to become impact players and Byfield certainly experienced some of that this season.

Throughout his career, Byfield detailed a growth process that was the report on him coming into the league. His development curve was perhaps not as steep as some others who were selected where he was in the draft, but once he got it, boy did he soar. He said he’s always grown each year throughout his career and his NHL trajectory has followed that path as well. He’s excited to continue that journey going forward.

“I feel like in my career, that was always the intention, that was always what I wanted to do, but it took a little bit time,” he said. “I feel like I’ve always taken strides each year, so next year I definitely want to take even more of a step, elevate my game, be a factor each night. It’s a long season, but most nights I want to be a guy that you can count on.”

Where exactly those steps lie for Byfield remains to be seen.

For a team that was eliminated in five games, you’d expect at least a certain amount of change.

Byfield indicated that he still sees his future at the center position, long term, but moving him there would require something to give elsewhere, with three veterans signed with term down the middle. At the end of the day, though, he’s found success on the wing as well. Wherever he’s ultimately slotted, he’ll do his best to succeed.

“I still see my future as a centerman, I’ve played that my whole life growing up, so whenever I can go back to that, I feel pretty comfortable in that,” Byfield said. “But, obviously playing with Kopi and Juice, just playing with Kopi as my center, it’s pretty easy to play with. Wherever I can play and just be the most effective for team is where I want to be and contribute.”

First Timers
Of all the players who took the stand for an exit interview, the only one we might not have expected to see here, way back when training camp opened, was Alex Laferriere.

Laferriere was never expected to make the Kings to start the season. He certainly wasn’t expected to play 81 regular-season games or five playoff games, scoring his first playoff goal in the process.

He did all of those things, though, in one of the brighter spots from a disappointing season from a team perspective.

“Going into training camp, I wasn’t expecting to make the team at all, so I just wanted to put myself in the best position throughout the season to get called up,” he said. “Some unfortunate stuff happened at the beginning of the season, but kind of fortunate for me and I got a chance and just didn’t want to give it up. I think, just looking back on the year, it was definitely a really cool experience and something that I didn’t expect to happen, but now it’s just trying to build on that and try and contribute more.”

Playing 81 games as a first-year player is no joke.

For Laferriere, he was coming from the NCAA, which plays a much lighter schedule as players are also full-time students. Laferriere played a total of 69 regular-season games at Harvard and that total was combined over two seasons. He exceeded that before the calendar flipped to April in the NHL.

He credited those around him for helping to keep him going throughout the course of the season and he really never hit that ever-dreaded and much-discussed “college wall”.

“There was a lot of talk about that throughout the year, but the trainers and everyone in the organization made sure that I didn’t have to go through that,” Laferriere said. “They just talked to me throughout the year whenever I seemed to dip a little bit and just kind of told me to reset and get back to my game. It definitely is a long year with a lot of games, but the staff here is top notch and they know how to get you through that.”

For the summer ahead, Laferriere has two main goals.

First and foremost, he’s headed back to Harvard to work towards completing his degree. He played two NCAA seasons, on top of taking classes during the pandemic and over summers, but without staying for the full four, he’s still got work left to do. Can’t just leave that Harvard degree on the table.

While he’ll be in Boston for a lot of the summer, he emphasized the access to high-level hockey skates and workouts that come with a city like that. The coursework is important, but so is improving his game heading into Year 2.

With that comes a focus on offense.

Laferriere was a high-scoring player in college and knows he has room to grow offensive in the NHL as well. He established himself as a high-energy player with the Kings this season, producing at times, but he’ll likely be counted upon for even more going forward.

“I want to contribute to the team any way I can and obviously you’re not going to score every night, so some nights you need to just forecheck and hit,” he explained. “I want to be a goalscorer, especially playing with some of the guys I played with this year, they look to me to score. It’s a hard league to score in and I definitely can see that. I think going into the summer, just working on my shot and release.”

That’s a wrap for that.

Expecting to hear from General Manager Rob Blake this afternoon at 1 PM for his own exit interview. Expecting Team President Luc Robitaille to join him. Will share key takeaways from Blake’s availability this afternoon, once he’s done speaking. Will post the final exit interviews tomorrow, with a look at the team’s three biggest unrestricted free agents – Viktor Arvidsson, Matt Roy and Cam Talbot. Then, the focus shifts forward, with a number of questions to be asked and a number of things lying ahead for the organization.

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