A season like this is tough to watch, and we all find ourselves being pretty hard on the Los Angeles Kings as they struggle to right the ship. For the rest of November, we’ll be taking some time each day to share why we’re thankful for each player on the team (and some Kings of years past). If you’d like to share your love for a Kings player, past or present, check out our call for submissions.
Your gratitude-giver spent the past several days on the road, so we’re a bit behind on giving thanks. Let’s kick things off right today though with the two men currently manning the net for the Kings.
Now on his second stint with the Kings, Peter Budaj must find himself in an eerily familiar situation. Budaj joined the Kings organization in 2015-16, signing on to help resurrect his career with the help of Dusty Imoo with the Ontario Reign. He carried the Reign to the number one position in the West and played all 13 games of their playoff run, which ended in a loss in the conference finals to the eventual champions.
Budaj came back the next season, poised to reprise his role in Ontario… and then Jonathan Quick got hurt. And then Jeff Zatkoff wasn’t very good.
But Peter Budaj was very good, playing in 53 games for the Kings while Quick recovered from injury. It was a tough year for the Kings, but Budaj kept them in the hunt, so much so that “NHL All-Star Peter Budaj” could easily have been a reality.
Well, fast-forward to present day. Budaj’s back in the Kings system, primarily to play alongside Cal Petersen in Ontario and provide the young netminder with a veteran mentor for a crucial year in his development. Now they’re both up with the Kings thanks to Quick and Campbell’s injuries, doing all they can to steal games for the team.
So, thank you to Peter Budaj for providing some good times and fun storylines in the 2015-16 season, and going above and beyond anyone’s expectations. And thanks for being up for another round of the same this year. All reports indicate that Budaj is a consummate professional, a player about whom no one has a bad word to say, and so having that sort of calming presence and experience around for Petersen is great for the team and for Petersen’s development.
Didn’t expect to see him in the NHL quite so soon, eh?
Well, here he is, ready or not.
He’s performed quite well under some unexpected pressure, and getting a glimpse of what’s to come for the Kings in net in the future has been pretty neat.
And to think, he very nearly didn’t end up in Los Angeles. When Petersen decided to go the free agent route, rather than signing with the Sabres, who selected him in the draft, there was at least one other Western Conference foe trying to sell Petersen on their organization.
Kings goalie Cal Petersen has 32 saves in his NHL debut. The Blackhawks tried hard to sign him out of college. Quenneville even pitched him. He chose the Kings over the Hawks.— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) November 17, 2018
So, first off, we’re thankful that Petersen chose the Kings, giving an organization that has long struggled in net a viable succession plan for the future.
And we’re thankful that this young player, untested at the NHL level, jumped in, head-first, not only coming in to relieve Budaj in the game against the Maple Leafs, but then earning his first win in his next start. Ontario Reign watchers have seen what Petersen can do for quite some time now. Now it’s time for the Kings to get a taste of it.
"It was a moment that I've thought about in my head for a really long time. I'm just really glad and honored it came while I was wearing a Kings uniform."— LA Kings (@LAKings) November 17, 2018
- Cal Petersen on his first career win pic.twitter.com/TPM1RUkBpR
Thank you to everyone that helped make this dream come true pic.twitter.com/UIcAl97gF7— Calvin Petersen (@CalPetersen40) November 18, 2018
No, thank you, Cal.