For the second article in our 2019 Development Camp Preview series we turn to a player who is fairly new to the Kings organization.
After previously being drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs, defenseman Sean Durzi was traded to Los Angeles in a package of assets for Jake Muzzin. As if that isn’t enough for a 20-year-old player to process, he was also part of an OHL trade that sent him from Owen Sound to Guelph earlier this year. That one worked out great, as the Mississauga native won the OHL Championship as a member of the Storm.
If you missed the first article of this series, click here for Five Questions with Goaltender Jacob Ingham, a sixth round selection by LA in 2018. We’ll conclude the trilogy with forward Akil Thomas on Tuesday.
In his debut appearance on MayorsManor, here’s Sean Durzi…
MM: Obviously you were selected by Toronto at the 2018 NHL Draft, but you were a consideration for LA that year too. Do you remember talking with their scouting staff in the months leading up to the Draft – and, if so, does anything standout about those conversations?
Absolutely, they were a big part of the pre-Draft process. Honestly, going into Draft weekend, I thought that being selected by LA was a strong possibility. You try to keep an open mind towards anything happening, but I had spoken to the Kings a few times; including a 40 minute conversation where we spoke about everything. Just to speak to them was exciting because I really looked to them as an organization. With all the history they had while I was growing up — watching them win their championships — that made it really exciting to talk with them.
One thing I liked about the LA interviews was that they really tried to put you on the spot and see how you reacted in certain situations. I actually remember it pretty well. They asked about a lot of key game situations to see how well I remembered the situation. I ended up doing pretty well, breaking down the plays they talked about. It’s funny because they explained to me afterward that if I tried to make anything up or didn’t remember it properly, they had the video clip ready to go. It was fun because they talked about some awkward turnovers and would ask, ‘Why’d you do this and why’d you do that?’ just to see how I’d react. They put you in a tough spot. At the end of the day, though, they are doing their jobs and trying to find out what kind of person might be coming into their organization. If you look at their track record of who they have drafted and, like I said, winning Stanley Cups, they’re doing something right. It was obviously a lot of fun going through the process and seeing a couple friends go though it this year brought back some good memories.
MM: A little over six months after the Maple Leafs selected you, you’re traded to the Kings. It’s been about six months now; looking back, what are your memories of how it all went down?
I remember the day very well. I was actually about to hop in the shower, to get ready for dinner with some of the Leafs development guys. I saw my phone ringing and it was Kyle Dubas. I thought to myself, ‘It’s 7pm in Guelph, what could this be about?’ I had no idea what was about to happen. He thanked me for my short time with the Leafs organization and wished me the best. Right away, I was in shock. You don’t really know what to expect and it was obviously my first time going through it. It was a little different because I wasn’t really with any professional club yet. I was playing junior hockey. I called my parents and then got a call from Mike Futa. I remember one thing he told me. There was a big snowstorm in Guelph at the time, and he told me, ‘Look out your window. See that snow? There’s not much of that in LA, so it’s going to be a big change and you’re going to enjoy the warm weather!’
It was nice of him to throw that in there and take it easy on me. Mike was a big part of easing me into it. At the end of the day, the trade was out of my control. I think it’s nice that a team wants you that bad in deal for Jake Muzzin. To be compared to guys like him, and to be involved in trade for him, it was kind of surreal. I’m really excited to get things going in the Kings organization and I want to control what I can control moving forward.
MM: It’s been such a whirlwind 12 months for you. There was the Draft, some injuries, the OHL trade, the NHL trade, signing your first pro contract, and the playoff run. How do you even begin to sum up the past year?
A lot of adversity. If you look back at my whole career, it’s been filled with a lot of adversity. I’m a big believer that it not only makes me stronger as a player, but also as a person. I think everything you go through in your career, every single battle you win and every single battle you lose, that it really makes the person you are. There are some tough times that I’ve gone through in my career and looking back on them I’m thankful. Now, with that experience, I take it with an open mind.
The past 12 months have been unbelievable. With an OHL Championship under my belt, especially having a short regular season, just 35 games played – I think about having trouble to stay healthy and especially all the work I put in last summer. I’m now working to get my mind and body ready to play a full 68 games in the American Hockey League. That’s the nature of things and we play a physical sport, injuries happen no matter what. It’s good that these injuries are out of my control and something I don’t have to worry about in the future. Fortunately, I was able to get through that and get drafted into the NHL. Yes, I was traded too, but I’m just really thankful for the last 12 months and looking forward to the next 12 months.
MM: I’m assuming strengthening your body, as you alluded to, is a key focus as you take the next step forward in your career, transitioning into becoming a pro hockey player…
It’s funny, even as much I worked on last summer; it’s really out of my control. It’s a physical game and these injuries could happen anytime. It’s an awkward situation with your body and no matter what I did last summer it really couldn’t help [what happened]. It’s the nature of the sport and I think the only thing I could focus on is improving as a player. Taking that time, making my body right after having an ankle injury the year before, I felt 110% going into this past season. I was confident in my game and the way I was playing. I was happy with everything and one hit the wrong way, things turn upside down and more adversity. Injuries aren’t something you want to think about, and as soon as you do, you start playing with less confidence. If you don’t want to get hit here and there, you’re going to stop playing your game. All I do every day is go out, compete as hard as I can, and try to do my part to win hockey games.
Footnote on yesterday’s Kings game… Newly acquired prospect @seandurzi (Muzzin trade) was at the stapler. He’s in town to get his shoulder looked at tomorrow. Had been crushing it since traded to Guelph, w/ 20 points in 17 games and +20.
More on Durzi https://t.co/BmL7npHkOU
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) March 3, 2019
MM: Having experienced so much change already over the past six months, the injury did provide one positive thing for you. It gave you a chance to come to LA. Not only did you get to see a specialist, you also took in a Kings game at Staples Center and sort of got the lay of the land at their training facility. That should ease a little of the uncertainty that’s natural for players coming to Dev Camp in LA for the first time.
I think you said it best, there’s always that little bit of uncertainty and what to expect. Being with the Leafs organization, I was focused on learning their system, the way they want their defensemen to play and how those guys handle themselves; now it’s a complete flip. My mentality going into each of those camps was to soak everything in and learn everything possible. Now, you pull a switch and it’s a fresh start. It’s kind of exciting, you just try to be a sponge and learn as much as you can and try to have fun. There really shouldn’t be any nervousness in a camp like this because everyone here has the same goal. They want to get better and do their best to improve themselves.
The tough thing to realize about Development Camp is that they’re trying to make you a better player; it’s not so much a tryout. You can make a statement working really hard and really focusing on yourself to make yourself a better player. It’s more of development and it’s in the name, right? You go there and they’re there to make you better. You give everything you have and they’ll give you all the resources to improve as much as you can in a short time, just five days.
Still, there is always that awkwardness, but I think a lot of guys should be excited about it. There should be lots of excitement about skating on the Kings ice for the first time and doing the training that they want and to see how they want their players to play. It’s really exciting to me.
MM: We love bonus questions, so tell us something about the Kings organization that people might not expect you to know much about….
One thing I know a little more about is that 0-3 comeback against the San Jose Sharks in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. I went through a similar situation this year and the biggest motivation for our team was watching documentaries and watching what it took for the Kings to pull that off. We studied and watched interviews and everything we could about it. Our motto through each game of our comeback in Guelph was taken from the Kings comeback against the Sharks. It was about win one game at home; Game 4 and that was the hardest win. Then, Game 5 was the game changer, that’s where you flip a switch and put some doubt in the other team’s mind. Then, Game 6 at home – nobody loses Game 6 at home. Finally, anything can happen in Game 7. Watching the Kings win that series, that was a big motivation for us in Guelph.
There actually are two other elements to the story, as well. When, I came to LA in March, Matt Greene drove me around the city a little bit and took me to a Kings game. He also gave me a tour of Staples Center. Looking back, knowing he was part of that 2014 comeback, I later wished I had asked him more about it.
Drew Doughty actually came to see us for one of the games. When he came down to the dressing room to tell us his story, we took in every word he said and that was our motivation. It was kind of meant to be, I guess. Having him come down and saying we could do it, it just gave us even more belief we were going to win that series.
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