Usually when you move across country it takes a little while to make new friends. In the case of Anthony Stewart, things may come pretty quickly.
“I’m familiar with a bunch of the guys here,” said the Kings’ newest forward, acquired Sunday in a trade with Carolina for Kevin Westgarth and two late-round draft picks. “I played at Team Canada with Richards, Carter and Fraser; and I’ve played against Richardson too.”
Showing that he doesn’t just know Brad Richardson the hockey player, he knows him, Stewart added – “He’s an avid golfer and he’s pretty good. He likes to talk about golf a lot.”
Yep, he knows him.
Although Los Angeles is 2,500 miles from Raleigh – and even further from his Canadian hometown of Lasalle (Quebec) – Stewart also has some connections here in Southern California.
“My fiancée’s family is from out here. They all live in the Long Beach area. So it’s definitely a good change of scenery and I’m looking to make the best of it.”
A new team and a new city have also brought another chance for the former first round pick (25th overall in 2003, Florida Panthers).
“I was a bit surprised when I got traded from Carolina, but there’s no better team to get traded to,” he told MayorsManor. “So, I’m really excited.”
Everybody says something like that after they get traded, right? Well, when you come to the Stanley Cup Champions, you can be sure they mean it.
Yet, what is his role here? As we’ve written about several times over the past two weeks, the Kings are already over the roster limit. Jordan Nolan helped them go 16-4 in the playoffs last year - and there might not be a spot for him in LA come opening day.
“You know, with me being a big body, I can skate. That’s perfect for a forechecking role,” Stewart remarked. “I’m not here to score goals. I’m here to mix it up a bit and get into a fight here or there – to play a physical role.”
At 6-foot-3 and 230lbs, he fits the mold for the role he just described. However, most teams don’t use a first round draft pick for a probable fourth-line player. There was once hope the three-time 30-goal scorer in the OHL would develop into a top-6 power forward in the NHL.
“I just feel the game is all about timing and opportunity,” explained Stewart. “Some guys have gotten different circumstances and have had better opportunities at different times.”
Along the way he had to overcome a wrist injury that cost him most of his rookie season, followed by four years of very little production with the Panthers. In the summer of 2009 he was signed by the Atlanta Thrashers and it looked like he might finally be headed in the right direction.
“I was in the minors twirling around for a bit, but I had my best year two years ago in Atlanta where I was playing on the second line all year and I performed,” he said, referring to his 14 goals and 39 points in 2010-11.
“So, it’s a bit of a catch-22. If you give me more ice time, I’ll show you what I can do and they say, show me what you can do and we’ll give you more ice time.”
Regardless, time is likely running out for the 28 years old.
“My back is almost against the wall,” he shared. “I’m on the outside looking in (with the Kings). I just gotta figure out a way to find my role quickly and do it to the best of my ability. At the same time, I have confidence in my game and I think I can contribute and be an impact player for this team.”
Off the ice, he already fits in pretty well.
Upon hearing the news, Stewart tweeted out – “Thankful for the opportunity to play for the defending Stanley Cup Champions #doigetaring”
No, but that’s a solid opening chirp.
Just don’t expect him to come in and challenge Richardson or Jarret Stoll for the team’s top fashion award.
“I’m more underground casual,” Stewart joked. “However, I’m a big Obey guy and a lot of their clothing has the Kings logo. So, now that I’m on the Kings I can actually start wearing more of their stuff!”
Yes, but does he tuck? We didn’t tackle that on day one.
Let’s give him a chance to settle into his new surroundings first.
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