|Richardson while training (photo: K. Spatz)|
The list of names competing for a spot on the bottom two lines of this year’s LA Kings squad was already quite packed in mid-August.
With Jarret Stoll, Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis and Kevin Westgarth taking up four of the six roles, that was probably going to make for a fun training camp battle between prospects Tyler Toffoli and Brandon Kozun, to see if they could crack the NHL line-up.
Then, the Kings went out and signed Ethan Moreau in late August.
If that wasn’t enough, just days before camp opened, they invited veteran right wing Trent Hunter in on a try-out contract.
Is Brad Richardson slowly being squeezed out?
“No, not at all,” coach Terry Murray said when asked last night. “I thought he had a real good playoff year. He really started to show his speed on a consistent basis. He scored some goals and the line was very good for us. He’s come into camp with more confidence because of (that experience). When you see some of the stuff he’s doing in the offensive part of the game – on drills we’re running, he’s holding onto the puck a little bit longer, he’s using his quickness, that next-step to break it by a defenseman and getting pucks to the net.”
As noted in yesterday’s article about Kozun and the huge points he put up in junior hockey, Murray was careful to explain how it can take time for those sorts of skills to translate to the NHL level.
“Maybe a little bit of the offensive part of the game is starting to click on here,” Murray said of Richardson. “He brought a nice resume into the NHL. His junior numbers are good. It takes some time though with some players. You get a shot mentality, hold the puck, use your speed and quickness to separate six inches – that’s all it is. Just get the puck through, by a defenseman – shin pad in between his feet. That’s all it starts to take, where you start to look for those little openings and find them, get pucks to the net. Pucks will go in.”
Richardson also brings versatility to the roster. While many guys will primarily be used at center or one of the wing positions, Murray has skated Richardson at all three forward positions when needed the last few years.
For the first two days of camp, he’s been skating on a line with Lewis at center and Westgarth on right wing. That could change though, as Murray is already thinking of moving Lewis to the wing, if needed. More on that later.
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