Dev Camp Quotes: Cernak, Leslie, and Lintuniemi Could Play on Reign Blueline

Lintuniemi Kings Camp by SheehanThe battle for playing time on the Ontario Reign blueline next year is expected to be rather fierce. Derek Forbort, the Kings 2010 first round pick, may or may not be back in the AHL – depending on what happens during the team’s training camp in September. Kevin Gravel will be back, as will Nick Ebert and Jeff Schultz, just to name a few. Jamie McBain also recently signed a two-way deal with the club, so he’s yet another option.

Alex Lintuniemi (second round, 2014 NHL Draft) and Zac Leslie (sixth round, 2013) are expected to be among two of the major additions to coach Mike Stothers’ defensive group. The former is a rugged, stay-at-home player and is coming off a year in which he skated with the Kings in a preseason game against the Arizona Coyotes, suited up for five games with Finland at the 2015 World Junior Championships, and played his OHL regular season schedule with the Ottawa 67’s. Meanwhile, Leslie’s OHL season was cut short following shoulder surgery in early March.

A wild card in all of this will be recent draftee Erik Cernak. The Kings top pick at last month’s NHL Draft, Cernak has several options to sort through in the months to come. He could return home to his native Slovakia for one more year. Cernak could also play in the OHL or come to the AHL and begin his pro career in Ontario. Although he was selected by the Erie Otters in the recent Import Draft, he is not obligated to play there before moving to the AHL because he was selected by the Kings straight out of Slovakia. Thus, the 19-year-old, who is already cut like a pro athlete, may find himself on the fast track to being a professional in North America.

Note: Kings Director of Scouting, Mark Yannetti, had a lot to say about Cernak here. If you missed that article, it’s well worth your time.

Below are comments from the trio of defenseman gathered this week at Kings Development Camp…

Lintuniemi on the differences between his second camp this year and his first last year:

“I’m a lot more confident than I was a year ago at this point. I think that helps me a lot.”

Lintuniemi on if playing the preseason game last season helped his confidence:

“Those games helped me during the whole season. I think I had a pretty good season. I was a lot more confident than the year before.”

Lintuniemi on if he pays attention to the trades the Kings have made regarding defensemen:

“I don’t look for it. But if I go on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook or anything I have friends who like to watch hockey, so obviously I’ll see what’s going on. But I don’t look for it.”

Lintuniemi on his outlook on the offseason, knowing he’s competing for a lot of playing time next season in the AHL:

“I’m just going to do my best, work really hard and get a good spot there. I’ve heard good things [about Ontario], it has good weather too.”

Lintuniemi on what has changed in his game over the past year:

“Not a lot; just maybe a bit more calm than before. I used to run around a lot, but now I use my stick more than my body to defend. That helped me a lot too. I don’t get out of position as much as I did a year or two ago.”

Lintuniemi on what the Development team has asked him to improve in his game:

“We have the position and use of the stick a lot. [Mike O’Connell] actually talks about that all the time. We spent the morning watching 30 minutes of video clips on the positioning of [Alec] Martinez.”

Lintuniemi on if the defensive personnel turnover at the AHL level has created a competition at Development Camp:

“No, we don’t talk about that. Actually, no one really talks about it. It’s just something you have to earn by working hard and showing the coaches you’re able to do it.”

Lintuniemi on the number of large skaters at camp:

“Yeah, a lot of big boys out here. That’s nice. Hockey is a tough game so you need big boys too.”

Leslie on not making the Monarchs roster to start last season:

“I think it’s always tough when you essentially get cut from a team that you wanted an opportunity to play for. It’s obviously not easy. On top of that, I was going back to a team [in the OHL] that really had a big transition from the team we had the year before to a younger team with a lot of younger players. A lot of guys just getting their feet wet in junior hockey. So it was something that was definitely a whole different experience for me. I didn’t have the best start to the year that I think I would’ve wanted. I think, coming back from Manchester I wasn’t really into it as much, I guess. As the season went on, I really came into my own. I felt like I was playing really well up until I had to get shut down.”

Leslie on stepping up to the AHL this upcoming season:

“It’s exciting that it’s kind of a new scenario for everyone going to Ontario. No one really knows what we’re going to expect yet. They’ve had an [ECHL] team for a little bit, so we know that there is definitely a fan base there, but it’s something new for everybody. I think, to have the opportunity to play there for their inaugural AHL season, it excites me. Being off as long as I have [due to shoulder surgery], it excites me to get back going. It’s nice being around the guys. When your season gets cut short, you don’t have that experience with the players going to the playoffs and stuff like that. So it’s nice being around the guys and starting to get revved up and ready to go for training camp… There’s not much I know [about Ontario] right now. It’s California, so it’s a whole new ballgame for us Canadians. But I think it’s something that I’m excited for and I’m excited for the challenge to earn a spot there and to produce.”

Leslie on his development since last summer:

“I think like any player coming back, you mature over the course of a season. I think this year, especially, I did a lot more maturing having to help out and be a bit of a mentor to all of the young guys. Back in Guelph, that was something that I hadn’t had that experience. Most of the guys on my team were always my age or older, so that was a whole new experience. I think I did a good job helping out those young guys and that was something new for me that I’d never had the experience of doing before. So I think that’s just going help me mature going forward.”

Leslie on if the rehab process was what he expected:

“Not really, I think it’s what everyone [else] expected, but I’d never had a major injury like that before. It was a long process, especially not the first month or so but two months, three months in it starts to feel good but you’re still at that place where you can’t really push it to where you want. That was the most frustrating part; it felt fairly good, but I still wasn’t healed enough to where I could really push it. Now that it’s starting to get healed and I can start getting back on the ice and getting into some shooting, it’s nice to just play hockey.”

Leslie on if having former teammates on the team in Ontario will help with his transition to the AHL:

“I think it’s going to help a lot. Obviously, the time I spent in Manchester, I started the year and then again visited in the playoffs just to do some rehab – I know a lot of the guys there. I’m familiar with [coach Mike Stothers] and I know [asst. coach Chris] Hajt from my junior days in Guelph, as well. There are lots of familiar faces going there. I think it’s going to be an easy transition for everyone; it’s going to help having the familiar faces around.”

Leslie on if this is the most important summer of his career:

“I think moving forward; every summer just gets more and more important. This is my chance to push for a spot in Ontario now. After that, you just want to keep developing and keep working towards the goal of playing in the National Hockey League for the L.A. Kings.”

Cernak on being drafted by the Kings:

“L.A. Kings are a very good organization. I’m very happy they drafted me. This is my first time in L.A. and I like it.”

Cernak on if Marian Gaborik is one of his favorite players:

“My favorite player is Drew Doughty. Marian Gaborik sent me a [text] message about the draft. It was a good feeling.”

Cernak on his already well-defined body:

“It’s a very hard game to play. When I am strong, it’s good.”

Cernak on what he’s learned so far at Development Camp:

“They are long weeks. This is L.A., everyday [we train twice]. It’s good practice”

Cernak on what the coaches have told him to work on so far:

“Improve my details.”

RELATED CONTENT:

Yannetti on Erik Cernak, LAK 2015 Second Rounder

LA Kings Top-10 Prospect Rankings

Draft 2014: Kings Second Round Pick, Alex Lintuniemi

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Comments

  1. Really great stuff! Zac Leslie is especially articulate and thoughtful. Reading articles like this makes me excited about the Kings’ future.