When Gabe Vilardi was called up from the Ontario Reign, Todd McLellan made sure to make it clear that this wasn’t “a charitable recall”. Vilardi was called up because of his outstanding play in the AHL, not because of a reward for his work to return from injury, or because the organization felt bad for him, or any other reason.
Kings fans watched nervously as Vilardi took the ice for warmups, and then held their breath when he stepped onto the ice for his first shift.
Waiting for something terrible happen? You could excuse Kings fans for being nervous, knowing that Vilardi has had to suffer through setback after setback in dealing with his back injury.
But fans didn’t have to hold their breath for long. Just ten seconds into Vilardi’s first NHL shift, he took a few strides into the offensive zone, collects a puck from Kurtis MacDermid, and, well, the rest is history:
After all of Vilardi’s struggles to return to playing competitive hockey, you couldn’t have written a more satisfying first goal for the 20-year old forward.
Vilardi is the first Kings rookie since Tanner Pearson to score in his NHL debut.