Russian defenseman Slava Voynov has become a mainstay in Los Angeles since they traded Jack Johnson midway through last season. In 54 regular season games with the Kings he produced eight goals and 20 points. Voynov also suited up for all 20 games in the playoffs.
When the lockout hit he was able to play in Manchester for the Kings’ AHL affiliate, a move GM Dean Lombardi says he took like – well, a champ.
“Voynov could have been whining about going and gone to Russia,” explained Lombardi. “They were all over him again, ‘Come back here, you shouldn’t have to go back to the minors, you won a Stanley Cup, we’ll pay you $2 million dollars’ and so on. His agent asked me once and I said, ‘No, I can’t do that.’ He said ‘Okay, I get it.’ The next thing (I wondered is), ‘Is the guy gonna follow through?’ For the most part, he played his ass off and that was a pleasant surprise.”
Each player during the lockout had their own story to tell. Anze Kopitar wanted to play with his brother. Dustin Brown wanted a family-friendly league to play in. But, for Kyle Clifford and Trevor Lewis, it was just about finding a competitive place to play and stay in shape.
“I think (Voynov’s situation) was a little different too than those two because there was the temptation of big money over in Russia,” Lombardi explained. “When he didn’t get permission, it didn’t affect him at all. He has grown so much as a person and maturity since he was drafted and I was really impressed with that because once I said no, I was expecting him to just go through the motions.”
He didn’t just go through the motions. Voynov scored 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in 25 games with the Monarchs before the NHL returned.
Now six games into another season with the Kings, we caught up with Voynov after practice today for a quick Q&A. Here’s what he had to say – through his thick Russian accent…
– On playing against former Monarchs teammate Rich Clune last night: “It was the first time I’ve ever played against him. He plays with a lot of aggression.”
– On the overall game last night vs. Nashville: “I think it was a very tight game. There weren’t a lot of shots. Tough game, I think.”
– On if it means anything to him personally to face the Ducks, a division rival: “For me, nothing. I play the next game and try to get a win/”
– Evaluating his game over the first two weeks of the season: “I feel great and have played well. I can play better though.”
– On being paired with Alec Martinez: “I like Marty. He has played very nice and helped me too. So, it’s all good.”
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