For most hockey players, transitioning to the professional ranks is fraught with struggles. It’s a story seen time and time again, and one that happens to even the best of players. As they face a stiffer level of competition, there is usually a transition period where players will battle to find their game and often not find success early in their rookie campaigns.
By watching him play, you wouldn’t know that this is Paul LaDue’s first rodeo. The first-year pro has hit the ground running during the 2016-17 season. He was able to secure a regular spot in the lineup for the AHL’s Ontario Reign, but not only that, logged big ice time and contributed almost immediately. His stellar play didn’t go unnoticed or unrewarded, as the Kings recalled him and the University of North Dakota alum played in his first two NHL games.
With the big club off until Thursday, the Kings returned LaDue to the Reign, where he immediately jumped back into the lineup for the team’s game on Sunday. The Reign play once more Wednesday, and then it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him jump right back up onto the Kings’ roster. We caught up to LaDue on Sunday after the Reign’s 4-1 loss in San Jose to talk about his first NHL action, Tampa, and more…
On returning to the Reign:
“It felt good. Obviously, we would have liked to get the win there. But, I thought our team played pretty well. The bounces didn’t go our way tonight. It was just one of those games. It’s good to be back. It’s good to be back with the guys, and hopefully we can move forward.”
On if the Kings spoke to him about their plans moving forward:
“No. There isn’t any discussion. They just told me I’m going to go down and play. I was excited to get back and get a game in, and I’m just taking it day-by-day”.
On his first taste of NHL action:
“It was great. I think it helped a lot, just getting that experience. First game, would have liked to get that win, but we followed it up with a win in Florida, and that was real good. Overall it was a great experience.
On if it was special to play his first NHL game in Tampa, where he ended his college career last year:
“It was cool to get back there. We were in the same locker room, so it was cool to see all that again. It definitely brought back some memories, but I just tried to stay focused as much as I could that day and worry about the game.”
On maintaining confidence transitioning from college to the pro ranks:
“It’s just another game. I got a few games in last season, and I think that helped a lot. Just seeing how fast it is and how strong guys are up here, it’s definitely a leap. Everyone in this organization has been great, including my teammates down here. They’ve made it easy on me. Getting help from everyone down here makes it that much easier of a transition.”
We also spoke to LaDue’s coach in Ontario, Mike Stothers, and asked him what he felt it was about LaDue that made him transition to the AHL and play at such a high level of confidence.
“First of all, that is the worst used word in the game of hockey – confidence,” quipped Stothers. “Guys come into my office and tell me they lack in confidence. It’s not a good way to start. Why would you be lacking in confidence? Did you prepare? Did you put the time in? Did you put the work in – whether it was off the ice, on the ice? Did you do your homework, video-wise and know what your assignments are? If you do all that, why would you not have confidence? If your plan is to graduate and you’re studying for your final exam, if you study, why would you be nervous? Now, if you didn’t do the work, maybe you had a week of partying, and all of a sudden you’re cramming for a test, maybe you should be a little concerned. Do the homework. You’ll be fine. That’s what we do. We’re a confident bunch. I’m not a big fan of that word. That usually doesn’t get very far. As soon as it’s uttered in the office, it’s a one-sided conversation.”
Note to webmasters/reporters: When recapping news or interviews from this site please remember to include a link to www.MayorsManor.com