Last season, Linden Vey made his pro debut with the Manchester Monarchs and went on to post 19 goals and 43 points. A fine rookie season indeed, but a far cry from his 46 goals and 116 points the year prior – en route to winning the WHL scoring title. Yet, that’s what often happens when you make the jump from junior hockey to the AHL. As nearly every player will tell you, when the defensive aspect of the game becomes so much more important, offensive numbers tend to normalize.
This season though, the former fourth-round draft pick was joined by a pair of highly rated prospects on the Kings’ AHL affiliate, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson. Selected two years apart, Toffoli in the second round of the 2010 draft and Pearson in 2012′s first round, they’re actually only separated by a few months in age.
Back in January, the duo were rated as the top two prospects in the entire Kings organization and they more than delivered, with Toffoli winning the AHL Rookie of the Year title.
They might even go on to become future linemates in Los Angeles, but for now it’s more about the threesome – one that includes Vey as their center. The trio formed what was known as the ‘White Line’ in Manchester (as explained here). And they were one of the most deadly lines in the entire league, despite their youth and limited pro experience.
Flanked by such talented wingers, Vey nearly doubled his assists and finished with 67 points - tops among all players in Manchester and fifth best in the entire league.
Meanwhile, Toffoli and Pearson have now gone from being top prospects, to playing in the NHL playoffs.
Seeing Toffoli in the line-up vs. the Sharks on Saturday wasn’t much of a surprise. Coincidentally, he had made his NHL debut in March against San Jose. A mere starting point for the 10 games he played towards the end of the regular season. During post-season action, the 21-year old forward has also been effective since being inserted into the line-up midway through LA’s first round series with St. Louis.
But Pearson? When Darryl Sutter opted to start him on Saturday night in San Jose for his NHL debut, it seemed to catch a lot of people off guard – including his former center.
“A little bit,” said Vey. “Just because we didn’t expect a guy to come up and play. He had such a great year in the American Hockey League though and obviously he’s a great young player. He deserves everything he gets. He’s a guy who works real hard and you just have to appreciate it. I wish him the best of luck, he had a great game and it’s good for him to get in.”
Ever the student, Vey says there is lots to learn from watching others do what he someday hopes to experience.
“You just take little bits and pieces from everybody,” he shared. “The guys here, even the older guys, are unbelievable. They make sure, even for me, to feel apart of it and it’s been great. I think for Tanner, obviously he went through that, especially a playoff game, it’s that much more exciting. Everybody helps you out, and at the end of the day, it’s a hockey game. You just got to go out there and try to play your game and hopefully one day I’ll get the same opportunity as he did.”
For now, he’s taking it all in, learning and processing as much as possible because you never know what could be right around the corner. Originally summoned to be part of the Black Aces, Vey has been skating with the big club during practice for the last few days.
“It’s great,” he said with a smile. “It’s a good experience for me just to be around the guys and the environment of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s exciting for me too, especially how well they did last year, just watching. I get to be a little bit more a part of it this year.”
Regardless of the group he’s on the ice with though, Vey is trying to keep an even keeled approach to what’s going on.
“It’s the same thing in practice, you want to make sure to get better and work on things. The practices in LA compared to Manchester are quite a bit more up-tempo and everyone is a lot sharper. So, you have to be make sure you’re focused and ready to go for practice.”
As for Saturday night, about the only thing Vey didn’t like was the outcome.
“It was a real big game, and they were so close,” he explained. “It’s tough anytime you get a 5-on-3 going into OT. It’s tough to kill and they almost killed it. But that’s the way hockey goes. I think sometimes you don’t get the breaks. You look at the game before, same thing. The Kings had double power plays at the end of the game and ended up coming back. So, it’s unfortunate, but they’re still up 2-1 and they feel like they can steal one in Game 4.”
For now, it’s still ‘they’ to Vey. Someday though, perhaps as early as next season, he’ll join the other members of the White Line and together they’ll become ‘we’ when talking about the Kings.
Until then, let’s just hope he keeps dealing out more great nicknames.
Tyler Toffoli on his NSFW nickname – and if Linden Vey came up with it
Interview with WHL Scoring Champion Linden Vey – March 2011
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