A Brief Recap of the LA Kings’ Two Rookie Games
Some quick takes on some of LA’s prospects, as noticed via stream with the quality of a 2000s-era webcam setup in Las Vegas’ brand new practice facility.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I was not able to fully watch both games and that I did watch half of the second game against the Coyotes on my phone while I was out shopping at Trader Joe’s, moving around from aisle to aisle, trying to find a quiet place to watch the game as other people literally shopped around me.
In any case, here are some of my takeaways:
Game 1 started off well enough. Both teams had a lot of nerves and there was a lot of sloppiness. But while the Ducks’ kids improved as the game wore on, it felt like the Kings’ prospects were just falling down a slippery slope. The game was pretty close for the first 30-ish minutes in both play on ice and on the scoreboard. Then in the second period, the Kings spent an inordinate amount of time in their own defending while the Ducks pressed and eventually both the equalizer and go-ahead goal in that period. It’s interesting because the Ducks took a few penalties in the first period, but the Kings couldn’t quite make them pay (to borrow a phrase from Colin Fraser) for breaking the rules.
The third period seemed like it was going to be close. Then the Ducks went up 3-1 and that’s when things really snowballed for LA. They did bring it within one, but penalty trouble and a lack of consistency between the players spelled disaster for the boys in black.
Much like Game 1, Game 2 started out well enough and Los Angeles got on the board first again. This game was much more evenly played throughout than the first game. But again, like Game 1, the Kings gave up the tying goal and go-ahead in the second period and spent too much time defending their own zone. The Kings did briefly get an equalizer in the third period before giving up a late goal and an empty net goal, to fall 4-2 to the Arizona Coyotes s’ rookies.
Some standout performances include: Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Sean Walker, Drake Rymsha, Mikey Eyssimont, and Cole Kehler in Game 2 (he did not play in Game 1). Kehler, in particular, was quite solid, especially early on, as the Coyotes pressed hard before the Kings found their legs.
Drake Rymsha has speed to burn, y’all. This kid was all over the ice and he was everywhere in everything, all up in everyone’s business, but in a good way. Should he make the Ontario Reign and not go back to the Sarnia Sting for an over age season, he’s going to be a lot of fun to watch in the AHL.
Another speedster was Eyssimont, who, along with Anderson-Dolan, had the best performances in the rookie games. Eyssimont was the playmaker of the night. Both nights, the one person’s name who I heard most often was Eyssimont. He was a big factor on special teams (though it should be noted that head coach Mike Stothers was only rolling lines and did not set out any particular strategy, other than score a goal/don’t let the other guys score a goal) and definitely had good jump in his game. Could he be a dark horse to make the big club if he continues to have an impressive camp? Crazier things have happened, but it seems unlikely.
When the Kings drafted Anderson-Dolan, there was a lot of buzz around him as a prospect, and not just because of his parents’ choice in spouses. Many felt that #41 was rather low for someone of his potential. He certainly lived up to his pedigree in these two games. He is a penalty killing machine. Somehow JAD always managed to find himself in the right spot to get open to create a breakout or even start a rush going the other way. While he isn’t eligible to join Ontario for another year (he won’t even be 19 until the 12th), it is certainly worth keeping an eye on him as he finishes out his major junior career with the Spokane Chiefs. One thing that will be interesting to watch is how he will be able to put all his skills together at the pro level. He scored twice in the first game and even picked up an assist, but was held off the score sheet in the second game. He came real close a couple of times, though.
Camp invitees Kyle Bauman (bOW-man) and Michal (me-hl) Ivan (e-von) both did their best to impress during this game. Ivan did not dress in Game 1 and drew in for fellow defenseman Sean Walker. Both were great in their own ways and Ivan even opened the scoring of the game.
Chaz Reddekkop and Cale Clague both had quiet afternoons, but as they are more “stay-at-home defenseman,” not standing out is probably a good thing.
Some other hot takes: The pace of play is something that concerned me. The Ducks, much like their parent club, play with a lot of speed. They get in quickly on the forecheck, they pressure the opposing team, and move the puck up the ice very quickly. It’s not so much that their individual players are fast, though they are, but they play with an aggressive mentality. This Kings team, much like their parent club, does not play with as much aggression. They tend to force a lot of passes, which cause a lot of pucks to wind up in skates. They also don’t move the puck as quickly. It’s more like they’re playing chess while the other team is flipping the entire board over.
This was an issue that I noticed with the NHL team last season, as well. While individual players can move quickly (I mean, you see Jeff Carter at one end of the ice, you blink and suddenly he’s at the other end and Tyler Toffoli is just a really beautiful skater), the entire team just looks sluggish, like they’re still thinking about the strategy and how they want to implement it. I’ll be interested to see how both Mike Stothers and John Stevens adjust their strategies as their seasons wear on.
One other thing to note: (once) highly prized prospect Spencer Watson, who spent last year in the ECHL, was “solid,” according to Ontario Reign Insider Zach Dooley. I did not notice him, but then, he was present at the game and things can stand out in an entirely different manner.
The baby Kings are back in action tomorrow (Tuesday) night against the rookies of the [Las] Vegas Golden Knights. Free agent signee Daniel Brickley will play in that game, according to the broadcasters.