Unexpectedly, Slava Voynov received more attention than all but a few players during the Los Angeles Kings training camp this year.
With Drew Doughty unsigned, the Russian-born defenseman played in every possible exhibition game and was the last player cut before opening night.
He was off to a solid start in Manchester (AHL), picking up a couple of points in the first few games and was a plus-5. Then, Doughty was hurt early in the game with the Flyers and Voynov was on his way to back to LA.
After practice today, he shared the following comments (note: he speaks with a heavy accent and a small part of his responses are paraphrased)…
Earlier in the week, coach Terry Murray gave the impression they tried to be as positive as possible when notifying Voynov he would be going back to the AHL to start the season, but added ‘We told him he was on the threshold of making the NHL.’
Voynov shed a little more light on that conversation today - “They said I played well and had improved. Coach Murray told me to give my best every year and he said don’t stop, keep working.”
On the thoughts going through his head during the plane ride back to LA this weekend, Voynov said – “I was so excited. I had been waiting for this moment for three years.”
On any advice the coaches game him prior to last night’s game – “Nothing. We just spoke about things a little bit right now during practice and he told me to correct a couple of (things), like d-zone play with the pucks. But nothing before.”
Murray’s reasoning for not talking too much to Voynov beforehand was simple.
“The information I gave him ahead of time was basically just go out and play the game like we saw in training camp,” explained Murray. “It was his first game, so there was a lot going on in his mind and he wants to play well. Adding too much information to the mind on the day we’re playing a game can be too confusing. So, normally, I just let a kid go out and play.”
On Monday, Murray referred to Voynov as ‘more like a man than a kid’ and said he had no hesitations about playing big minutes vs. the Blues.
How would he grade his performance last night?
“He did a very good job, especially with the puck. There’s work to be done, no question about that. There’s some reads that we need to bring some attention to on the checking part of the game, in his own d-zone. But, overall, the marks are pretty good (for his first NHL game).”
Murray went on to say he’ll be following up with Voynov on the areas of concern prior to tomorrow’s game in Phoenix.
He also added – “The composure side of his game is incredibly high. He has a tremendous amount of confidence in his game and his ability to play at a high level against NHL competition. I think he exuded that through the training camp and it’s just continued through to the game last night. He’s very controlled, composed, sees the ice well and makes good plays. There’s a very nice upside to his game.”
To read Murray’s comments about Voynov from Monday (referenced above), click here.
Raw audio from the interview with Voynov