With the Kings set to open training camp tomorrow, LA GM Rob Blake spoke to the media via zoom this afternoon to share his thoughts on a variety of different topics. The session lasted about 30 minutes. Below are quotes from the first-half of that chat…
[Note: some answers have been slightly edited for brevity and/or clarification]
Blake on if some of the prospects at the World Juniors will eventually be brought to LA for camp and/or if there will be any other additions:
We’ll make a decision on bringing them back once we see how they do on their teams. A lot has to do with the status some of the leagues are currently in – some are paused, some haven’t started — so there’s a different availability to them. Regarding the current list of 36 skaters we put out today, two names that aren’t on there due to injury are Cole Hults and Johan Sodergran. Hults is recovering from hip surgery and Sodergran hurt his back playing in Europe.
On if the entire camp roster will available to participate on day one or if any need to first quarantine for a period of time:
Andres Athanasiou will be the only one who has to go through the quarantine process. He arrived Monday night and our protocol right now is eight days, with four negative tests during those eight days. Then you can enter into the facility. I think he tested yesterday for the first time.
On if the same quarantine rules will apply to any of the World Junior players eventually brought to training camp:
We’re looking at a few different options because they are coming from a bubble situation, where they are being tested every day. There’s a possibility they can be brought back in, depending on how they travel from from the World Juniors to here. We’re discussing that with the league and with the health officials. A lot of it’s directed by by the county health department. It’s a little different situation, like I said, because they are currently in a bubble and being tested every day. They’d be brought into a protocol where we will be doing regular testing as of tomorrow.
On if he thinks there will be positive COVID tests in the NHL this season, like the other pro sports leagues have been experiencing:
I think you have to be be aware of it possibly happening. Like I said, everybody that is on our roster now has cleared protocol. The majority of them skated yesterday and today, so everybody’s in. But you have to think – you have to be reasonable, and expect, at some time it will creep in. We’re gonna do the best we can. [Trainer] Chris Kingsley, along with our doctors and the NHL protocol itself, this is very intense and the education process is really good between the NHLPA and the NHL. They’ve been educating players of the risk. And I firmly believe no player wants to be the result of spreading this or having to shut something down. So they’re being very aware. But, if you look at the other sports, and particularly football and basketball, it does creep in and you have to be aware of that.
On if he has any clarity on where OHL players like Quinton Byfield and Arthur Kaliyev may be sent once the NHL season gets going:
What we’re exploring and our understanding right now — especially with the OHL, which hasn’t started up yet, and that’s where those two are from — most likely we can bring them here. Whether or not the American League is participating in training camp by then, we may have that as an option. We also have the availability of the taxi squad until the OHL formally announces their return to play plan.
On a possible date in mind when the Ontario Reign can being their AHL training camp:
There are conversations going on right now with the American League on proposed schedule start dates and they have calls again tomorrow and the next day. It hasn’t been completely communicated to us or explained to us when training camp could start for the American League, so we’re gonna wait and see on that. [For Byfield and Kaliyev], I think it will coincide with them returning from the the World Juniors, whatever protocol there is to get back into our facility here. From there, whether it’s American League or taxi squad, we’ll figure that out.
On how success will be defined with all these young players this season:/strong>
First and foremost, we had our introduction meeting today with the players in training camp. Todd spoke, and he spoke about a foundation and process that was fully engraved last year as the season went on. Now it’s time to reinforce that and build on it. I think we have that in order. It’s a little different roster this season, with the taxi squad, and where you can place players and the how they can acquire their development. We’re waiting on the American League schedule and training camp they’ll have, so we’ll be in a position to continue to develop. We’ve been fortunate to be able to operate in phase two of the NHL protocol for a number of weeks and months leading up to this. Our development staff has been hard at work already, continuing the development of these young players and just watching their bodies mature during this time. It’ll be nice to get them on the ice and see where they’re at.
On the possibility of using their extra cap space to acquire an asset, similar to what Ottawa recently did:
Yes, we’ve looked at different options. We do have that availability of cap space and we’ve looked at different options there. It’s just another way to acquire an asset, if things would work.
On if there have been any contract talks yet with Alex Iafallo:
No, we haven’t really had any discussions with him on that yet. We we like Alex. Obviously, we like his progress here the last few years and feel he’s becoming part of that leadership group moving forward with our team. I envision those talks going on as the season gets going. We really didn’t do anything before because we weren’t sure what was going on with the season length and everything. We were busy getting that in order. Now, we fully intend to explore his contract situation as we get going here.
On his thoughts thus far on the play of Quinton Byfield at the World Juniors:
A majority of the kids playing in that tournament, they have three tournament games played in like the last eight or nine months, so there’s a level of progress. Understanding the pressure these kids are under on a day-to-day basis and everything… Byfield had a big game yesterday, which was really nice to see. I think his work, trying to do the right things, and being in the right positions has been there from day one. We’ve been pleased with the progress of all of our prospects at this tournament. It’s nice to see them playing in a very competitive situation again.
More on prospects at the World Juniors:
For the most part, it’s peer-on-peer evaluation and the best of each country; the competitiveness of that and everything. With some of these kids, you’re going to want time to see them in your own organization. You’re going to want time within the development system. Like I said, they’re young guys, but it’s really nice to see them in that competitive environment going against the best of their their age group.
On the reasons behind signing forward Andreas Athanasiou:
We’ve been in discussions with him for the past month and a half. We’re trying to sort out the roster and different things. I think the number one thing with him, speed and then the goal scoring ability. He didn’t have a great year last year, but the year before he put up a lot of goals. We like his ability to play both wings. He’s also a guy who has played some games in the NHL also. Once we we knew the roster situation, what you could carry and what you could carry on your taxi squad, I think it makes for a competitive group of young forwards that are vying for jobs here.
On plans for Byfield and Kaliyev when the World Juniors is over in a few weeks:
We believe we can work with them until the OHL gets started, possibly. Until the OHL is up and running, we’ll have to better understand the start dates on the American League. The NHL will direct what will happen, if for some reason the CHL did not continue this year – meaning, where you could place those junior age players. We’re kind of waiting and seeing, with the idea that we would be bringing them in here for at least a few weeks to get a little bit of a camp feel and be around the NHL players. With us, we’re really fortune to have the Ontario guys and LA guys play out of the same building.
More to come shortly.
UPDATE: Part Two has been posted here.
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