Tomorrow's News Today: Kozun/Moller Chemistry - Loktionov Musings

Ian Clark's On Hockey: Kozun starting to come on - Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011
It's been a season of growing pains for Manchester Monarchs forward Brandon Kozun, but the hard work is starting to pay off. A prolific scorer in junior hockey, Kozun has had to learn patience during his rookie year with the Monarchs. Ice time has been hard to come by for the 20-year-old who was used to being an elite player. "It's been tough love," said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. "He's a guy that has been able to light it up at every level. I've tried to give him his ice as he deserves it. To his credit, he's a lot more humble now than when he first got here."

[...] Kozun has found that moves that led to goals in junior hockey don't work at the AHL level. Defenders are smarter and quicker. Passing lanes are smaller. Goalies are better. "I think sometimes he tries to force plays and there's better defenders here in the American Hockey League," Morris said.

For most of the year, Kozun was skating with the fourth line and seeing little ice time. He has also been a healthy scratch on occasion. "It's definitely been a little humbling," Kozun said. "[...] That's the way it is and I'm a first-year guy and you have to pay your dues.[...]"

But as of late, Kozun has been elevated to a line with top forwards Marc-Andre Cliche and Oscar Moller as well as seeing some power play time. The results have been noticeable: Kozun has three goals and an assist in his last three games to raise his totals to 14-13-27 in 49 games.

"He's easier to play with and more predictable for his teammates," Morris said. "You don't want to totally lose that confidence that he has because it's what makes him a special player, but at the same time, he's still learning how to make players around him better players."

Kozun is a small player at 5-foot-8 and 156 pounds, but his speed and skill with the puck make him dangerous and he's starting to mesh nicely with the talented Moller.

"He's coming along really well. He's great offensively. He's trying to improve all the time and he's listening to the coaches and the players around him," Moller said. "I think we're playing pretty good together. We're finding each other. He can make plays."


ANDREI LOKTIONOV continues to make an impending decision in Los Angeles a tough one. Marco Sturm is back to practice, but still not in game shape. When Sturm returns, someone has to make room on the roster [...]. But Loktionov has thrived since being moved back to his natural role at center. [...] [Terry Murray said,] "I think he has just stepped it up to a different level here, with the change."

My guess (or maybe it's just my hope) is that Sturm doesn't return until after a deal has been made, which either will have the incidental effect of making room, or will be a specific deal to make room.

I don't think Loktionov is going back to Manchester. The Kings are 12-3-2 with him in the line-up (which is the highest W% of any Kings player with more than 15 GP). He's winning face-offs at 53%, which is not bad. He's got 2 game-winning goals (which is one behind Stoll and Williams, and three behind Kopitar). His G/60 is 4th best on the team, behind only Stoll, Williams and Sturm.

And he's only just getting warmed up.