|Toffoli and Kozun (photo: Jeremy Cacal)|
The seeds are already starting to be planted for a possible September showdown between Brandon Kozun and Tyler Toffoli – with each seeking to secure that RW3 position (right wing, third line) in the Kings line-up.
However, do we have it all wrong?
Is Toffoli’s real battle with defenseman Jake Muzzin?
In the first scrimmage game on Monday, Team White changed their defensive assignments late in the first half. Muzzin was now assigned the primary responsibility of covering the speedy Toffoli.
Instantly it became apparent what type of tactics Muzzin was going to use, as he began playing very physical with Toffoli, including a thunderous check into the boards, down behind the goal line.
When I asked him about his rough play Muzzin was rather clear on his motives – “Because I don’t like Ty,” he began, while trying to maintain a straight face.
“That’s my game. Ty’s a great player. So, if I don’t play physical on him, he’s going to make me look bad….Being physical is part of my game. If I don’t do that or I get away from that, then I end up making mistakes.”
I followed up with ‘Did you work on your speed in Manchester by just chasing Kozun around the ice in practice?’ “No, ” he said. “I just waited in front of the net. He’d usually comes to the middle of the net area.”
How about Toffoli, what did he think of Muzzin’s physical play – “He’s a great player and a great guy on the ice. He just wants me to get better and he just wants to get better too. We’re all battling for a spot and trying to do our best.”
Toffoli tends to take a longer view when it comes to his thoughts on Kozun – “He’s so fast and so quick with the puck. Going to Manchester last year, learning from him, he had a great rookie season. He’s a great player, so we’re definitely going to be battling – not just next year, but for the rest of our time in LA. It’s good and it’s a good experience for us.”
Just for fun, let’s add a fourth person into the mix here - Jordan Weal. He’s spent the last few years in the WHL, so he’s played against Kozun quite a bit. This past season, Kozun off in the AHL though.
So, does Weal see any differences in Kozun’s game now? “He’s a guy who gets better every time you see him,” said Weal. “He’s always been a guy who’s really fast and really strong. He’s (continues) to bring that to the table (here in camp) – making plays, moving his feet. As a smaller guy, that’s what he has to do.”
Don’t worry, those ‘small’ comments don’t bother Kozun anymore. He’s heard ‘em all.
Finally, a little note on Tofolli. For those who may remember Toffoli being drafted as a center, last fall (in an interview here on MayorsManor), his General Manager from Ottawa said “Tyler is one of those guys that’s a better right winger than a center. He can play both, but we feel his strongest position is right wing.”
Is he better than Kozun at right wing?
Bookmark it and we’ll check back in September.
Pre-camp interview with Brandon Kozun - “I’m ready for the NHL”
Manchester Mondays with Jake Muzzin - talking Hickey, Kozun, Monarchs goaltending, etc.