When you’re hot, you’re hot.
And Kings prospect Linden Vey is more than warm right now. His November already includes back-to-back Player of the Week honors from his junior team, the Medicine Hat Tigers. Plus, he was named the WHL Player of the Game in the just completed Subway Super Series.
His scored a goal in the second game of the WHL vs. Russia portion of series (Russia had previously played a pair of games against both the QMJHL and OHL). That meant four of the five Kings prospects had goals in the tournament. Of course, that excludes their sixth prospect (goalie JF Berube) for obvious reasons – as in, he was busy guarding his own net, not trying to score in the other one.
Vey, a 6-foot right wing taken in the fourth round of the 2009 NHL Draft, came into the series following a four point night for Medicine Hat (1g, 3a) – which topped his three point effort the game before (1g, 2a).
As hot as he was though, it was the cold that almost kept him from playing against Russia this week. In the interview below he tells us all about what happened and provides some thoughts on a few other Kings prospects, his play so far this year and the upcoming World Junior Championships…
MM: This was your second time playing in the tournament. Overall, how would you compare last year’s experience to this year – better, worse or just different?
LV: I think this year you have to give the Russians credit. I think they brought over a much better team. This year they were really competitive and it showed over the six games they played in the series. So, it was just a little bit different. But, it was fun both years.
[note: Russia won the overall series for the first time in the eight year history of the tournament. Their overall record was 4-1-1, including a perfect 2-0 versus the WHL]
For those who didn’t see your goal in game six, walk us through how the play developed…
It started with a scramble by their blueline. The puck came to me and I just chipped it by both guys and it turned into a one-on-one. I just tried to get a quick shot on net. When I saw the five-hole was open I put it there and it snuck through.
Besides your stats, how would you rate your performance in the series? Were you happy with your overall play?
In the first game I struggled quite a bit. I had a lot of travel issues the night before. We had a blizzard in Medicine Hat. So, there was no travel out and I couldn’t get to Calgary. The weather wasn’t very good the next day either. My assistant coach had to drive me to Calgary so I could get to Kamploops (for the Super Series). It took us almost twice as long as normal to get there. So, it was quite the journey. By traveling all day and not getting there until the afternoon of the first game (game five of the series, the first against the WHL), I didn’t feel myself. So, I struggled a little bit – especially with my legs. I thought I was better in the second game, but we still didn’t come out with the win.
Knowing that Russia had never won the tournament before, how disappointing was it to lose both games to them this week?
Real disappointing, especially the first night. We were up 3-0. Then, we had a two goal lead going into the last 10 minutes of the third period and we let it slip. So, it’s frustrating. At the same time, you just have to put it behind you because there was another game to play. You have to give them credit too. They played well. They sent over a real good team and battled hard. I thought they played real well, especially in the second game when they got up a couple goals on us. They made sure to take everything from us. They sat back and played that trap style and they played a strong team game.
Team Russia featured a recent Kings draft pick, Maxim Kitsyn. Several of the other guys we’ve spoken with over the last week or so have talked about his speed. Any thoughts on what you saw?
I think he’s a real good player. One of the big things is he’s hard on the puck. He battles well and holds onto the puck real well too. He obviously had a good six games with the Russian team. Before our games I read up on his stats and I also watched one of the other games where he scored. So, I already knew he had been playing real well.
[note: Kitsyn led all players in the series with four goals and six points…he also scored in the shootout at the end of game four]
In game five one of your teammates was Jordan Weal (drafted by the Kings in June 2010). What did you think of his performance?
He’s a good player and had been ever since he got to the Western Hockey League. He has a lot of skill and he’s a fun player to play with when you get the chance. He’s having another good year even though his team is having an up and down year there in Regina. But, he showed what a good player is by scoring a goal and then picking up another one in the shootout. He was in the (hotel) room next to me at Kings camp this summer and we hung out quite a bit. He’s a good team guy, so it was nice to get to know him then. We actually hung out again this week at the Super Series too.
Just last weekend you guys were on opposite sides of the ice when Medicine Hat played his team, the Regina Pats. You went off for four points that night. So, do you try to elevate your game at all knowing you’re playing a fellow Kings prospect or is that not really a factor for you?
I think whenever you’re playing against the top players in the league you have a little extra desire to want to win. You want to compete against the best players. I just think that helps out going into the game. It helps you prepare. Weal was in the three in scoring last year and he had a real good year as a 17-year old. So, you know and you kinda watch out for those games. You want to play real well in them.
Back at Kings camp you also met quite a few other prospects who weren’t from the WHL. Have you been keeping tabs on any of those guys this season?
I haven’t really been following too many of them. I checked up on a few of the guys in Manchester though. I already knew Brandon Kozun and Martin Jones, having played against them quite a bit the last few years. So, I’ve kept an eye on them. Kozun is having a real good start there.
[note: both Kozun and Jones played for the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen]
You’re currently second on the Tigers in goals and first in assists and points. Did you set any personal goals for yourself coming into the season?
I think any time you come into a new season your goal is to always win a championship. The Tigers have a tradition and history where we’ve always had a good team. Since I’ve been there we’ve only made it to the second round (of the playoffs). Coming into this year we set a goal that we wanted to at least be in the league finals. We have a real good team. We haven’t had the best start and maybe underachieved a bit. But, we’re getting better each day and hope to be right there at the end of the season.
Along those lines, the Tigers are in the middle of the pack in the Central Division. What adjustments are needed to make a run at the division title this season?
We need to be more consistent. At times we’ve played real well and then the next game we’ll go in and play real average. The top teams in the league all play consistent game in, game out. They never change their style. I find that our game is different in each game we play. We have to get back to Tigers hockey, which is that high tempo, aggressive style. When we play like that we’ll end up with a lot of wins.
Is there any particular area of your game you’re trying to work on this year?
I don’t think you ever stop improving at any part of your game. This summer the Kings made sure I worked on my conditioning. It showed during the first part of the season and it’s really benefiting me. Throughout the season I need to keep that up and maintain my conditioning so it can benefit me in the second half. I also want to remember to round out my game. Sometimes I get caught trying to create too much offense and not worry about my defensive zone. So, the coaches have really been getting after me to make sure I’m focused and working hard at both ends of the ice.
This summer you attended Team Canada’s evaluation camp for the upcoming World Junior Championships. As we’re less than two months away from the start of the tournament, are you thinking much about it or is it something you’re still trying to keep in the back of your mind at this point?
It’s tough. It’s every Canadian kid’s dream to play in the World Juniors. So, it’s tough to keep it out of your mind. However, like I said before, I need to stay focused on what I’m trying to do with the Tigers. There’s a lot of stuff to do still. But, at the same time, I have to stay focused. If it happens, it happens and it would be a great opportunity.
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Vey and several other Kings prospects will find out in mid-December if they’ve been included on the final rosters for the World Juniors, which kick off in Buffalo, NY on December 26th.
Team Canada was already gunning for the U.S. after the Americans took the gold medal from them last year. After this week they probably have a score to settle with the Russians too.
One final note on Vey – a few years from now he may get to battle current teammate Emerson Etem (Anaheim Ducks 2010 first round pick) in a different Subway Series. Last season the foot-long sandwich specialists were brought on board as the tile sponsor of the Kings-Ducks Freeway Faceoff Series.