Rookie Tyler Toffoli will make his NHL debut tonight on the Kings’ second line – playing right wing, with Jeff Carter sliding over to center and Mike Richards on the left side.
Toffoli, of course, is the Kings top rated prospect and was among the AHL leaders with 28 goals for Manchester prior to his call-up last Sunday. He also was a two-time 50-goal scorer in the OHL.
So, he admitted to feeling a little pressure heading into his first start, saying it reminded him of the emotions he was experiencing during the first few games of the year with the Monarchs. At the time, he just wanted to prove himself and earn a spot in the line-up. Now, he’s faced with a similar opportunity.
“This team is pretty set and we’re talking about the defending Stanley Cup champions, you know?” Toffoli said.
“But, I’m just trying to soak it all up,” he continued. “I have a lot of work to do and I’m trying to get better every day. If I get a chance to step into the line-up, I’m going to try and do the best I can to get my spot.”
This week has all been a bit of a blur for for the former second round draft pick, and tonight will likely be more of the same.
“It’s gone by fast, watching the games. It’s always fun watching the games live though. It’s exciting and it’s been pretty cool, to be able to skate with the guys and everything…It’s a lot of fun being around them and they’ve been great. It’s been a great experience, and I’m just looking forward to hopefully getting a chance to play.”
Since the call-up, he credits the Kings’ coaching staff for helping with his preparation.
“They’ve all been talking to me,” said the 20-year old right wing. “They’re all telling me to do little things and giving me tips to try to get me better…(They told me) to watch all the small plays, watch a guy like Jeff Carter. He’s obviously a great player, and I want to play my game kind of like he does. Just kind of watch him play and see the things that he does to try to get myself better.”
His dad flew down earlier in the week – “He hadn’t seen me in a while, so he came down right away.” – but has since returned to Eastern Canada. The entire family will be watching back home on TV tonight.
Toffoli has also been keeping in contact with his extended family back in New Hampshire as well.
“All the Legacy Park guys, the guys in my building – my roommate Owney (Brian O’Neill), Andy’s been talking to me (Andreoff)…everybody’s been giving me texts, and I’m trying to keep up and in touch as much as I can.”
Life in the NHL has certainly been a little different than what it was in the AHL too – even if it’s only been a week.
“Obviously it’s nicer on the plane, getting full course meals instead of having to pay for your meals on the bus, and hour-and-a-half drives to Providence,” he said with a big smile.
But, in a typical Toffoli answer – understand and respectful – he said his favorite meal so far was the burrito he had on the way back from San Jose Thursday night.
As for tonight, he’ll miss his usual pre-game meal at Olive Garden with Andreoff – an easy trade-off for a shot at the NHL though.
“I just want to do the best that I can,” he said.
Always gracious and always humble.
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I am super stoked to see this kid play. Its well deserved.