Mike Futa on LA Kings Prospects and 2018 Rookie Tournament

We have notes, quotes, and photos from the Kings first two games of the 2018 Vegas Rookie Faceoff tournament already posted on the site – see here.

Now we turn our attention to a chat we had with Kings Assistant GM Mike Futa following the opening two days of action. With the Kings dropping both of their first two games, the initial question was an obvious one…

Futa on if winning matters at tournaments like this, or if it’s more about development:

“Well anybody who says winning isn’t important is full of it. You come to this and part of it – we’ve talked about culture [in the past], it’s about creating a winning culture. That being said, there’s a lot of good things that have gone on and we continue to build on the positives. But you want to win. You want to know that you’re setting the same standard and the same tone against your division rivals at every level. So you don’t want them to have one-ups on you at any juncture. Again, for the younger guys, it’s a little different – in that you don’t have set power play units and stuff, it’s all new for everybody. But it pisses everybody off when you lose.”

On 2018 second round pick Akil Thomas possibly being a bit nervous in the first two games:

“There are certain kids here of a different age; this is new for them. I know with Akil, he was a little banged up at the World Junior evaluation camp, so maybe he was set back a little bit. But I think this is a new thing for everybody. The kid had an incredible junior season last year. And those kids, they don’t worry me at all – the ones where this is their first kick of the can. You expect there to be some positive nerves and nervous energy. It’s their first time pulling on a Kings jersey when it’s not in a photo booth [at the NHL Draft], so it’s exciting for them. They’ll learn. You’d like some of the older kids and some of the college players that have played against bigger, stronger guys to be able to settle those guys down and help them build on it.”

On the coaching and evaluation that has gone on the past few days:

“The mentality of all these kids, some of them think they’re coming in and – you know, some kids are probably looking a little further down the road to main camp and whether they’ve got a shot at making the big club, while other kids are just dipping their toes in the water for the first time. Again, it’s just about learning how to be a pro. I think that’s where [Mike] Stothers and the group does such a great job of teaching them how to be pros and the expectations. I was in some video sessions this morning and they were just outstanding. They went over the positives and some other things, like the fact we’ve had so many opportunities [this weekend] where guys who have worked hard at scoring — and scored in the past — weren’t in in the right spots and having trouble here. Take one of the leading scorers in college hockey, Sheldon Rempal, and I’m sure he’d be the first one to tell you that he was in some spots where he normally pulls the trigger. More often than not, those are going to go in. I think it’s about staying positive, but at the same point, not taking losing lightly. You want to build on it. Obviously, there have been system breakdowns, where guys are not familiar with each other, different goalies with their first opportunity to get in there. Also, you’re evaluating everybody. It’s not like a Development Camp, though, where you’re teaching a lot. You’re evaluating all the time. This is something, it’s another level of evaluation. Some of them are exceeding expectations and some have some work to do. That’s just the nature of the beast.”

On how exciting it is to have all of these top prospects under one roof for a tournament:

“You know what excites me, when you see guys trying to make plays and the speed of the game here. And then you think about the fact Gabe Vilardi isn’t here; Rasmus Kupari, Bulat Shafigullin, Daniel Brickley, Matt Roy, Cal Peterson, and a few of our other guys aren’t even here. That excites me because we’re still putting kids out there who are playing hard, competing the right way, and there’s some real quality guys. How many interviews have we done about finally having two first round picks and capitalizing on them? Neither of them are here, sure. Vilardi is dinged up, we know that. Yet, we have one kid playing on the top line [with his team] in Finland and we have a Russian kid playing on the top line in the KHL – that kind of thing is only going to add to this. It excites me to see all of this energy [surrounding our prospect pool]. It’s a different dynamic. It’s about staying true to your identity, being hard to score against – which is clearly the big club’s M.O. – but when you start to see some of these younger kids coming up, they’re making plays, they can skate, and they can fly, and they’re skilled. Once they get their feet wet it’s going to be fun. I think Ontario will be a fun team to watch this season. And that’s exciting.”

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