Stop reading this.
No, seriously. Stop reading this right now.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath. Even do yourself a favor – take one more deep breath just for good measure.
We know the struggle is real, but hockey is almost here. It’s nearly that time again.
With the NHL Rookie Faceoff event in Irvine just a few weeks away we thought it would be a good time to check-in with several of the Kings top prospects. Side note, if you missed last week’s article, we took a quick look at the Kings projected roster for Rookie Camp here (and we also broke some news in there, as well).
First up, we chatted with Tobias Bjornfot. When the Kings selected him at No. 22 in the first round of June’s NHL Draft many people questioned why they were taking him so early. Considering he wasn’t projected to go until the second round and so many talented forwards were still on the board, ‘Why would the Kings play their cards in that manner?’ seemed like a reasonable question.
As we reported at the time, it came down to two players. Along with Bjornfot, they really liked forward Philip Tomasino of the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs. He’s a player they scouted well and had plenty of insightful information on, as he’s teammates with Akil Thomas.
Kings had at least one offer for the pick at 22. The return wasn't what they would have needed to slide down.
LA had two players on their list for the pick. I'm told it was a "dead heat" – and the deciding factor on selecting Björnfot was "how they want to build the team."
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) June 22, 2019
In the end, they surveyed the landscape and looked not only at what was available to them at No. 22, but also which players should still be on the board when they picked again at No. 33. The thinking was, as much as they loved Tomasino , there were probably about 4-5 forwards they really liked who should still be on the board at No. 33. Meanwhile, high-end blueliners were flying off the shelf like it was Black Friday at your favorite department store. Thus, they surmised two key things – first, if they wanted Bjornfot, he wouldn’t last until No. 33, somebody was going to scoop him up before then… and second, as we reported heading into the Draft, their plan was to take two forwards and one defenseman with their first three selections (Nos. 5, 22, and 33). If they used 22 to select another forward, that meant they’d have to go D at 33. With Bjornfot most likely gone at that point, they believed there was a deep drop off to the next level of defensive players. This made the decision pretty easy. And, in the end, it worked out exactly as they projected. Sitting at No. 33 was Arthur Kaliyev. The Kings scored.
Standing at about 6-foot and weighing in at 205 lbs, the left shot defenseman has already provided several encouraging signals to support the team drafting him in the first round. After being one of the standouts of LA’s Development Camp, Bjornfot continued his impressive summer with a solid showing at the recent World Junior Summer Showcase – an event designed to provide healthy competition for players looking to make the respective World Junior rosters of the U.S., Canada, Sweden, and Finland.
LA Kings prospects, three stars of the Summer Showcase:
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) August 3, 2019
When he signed his NHL Entry Level Contract in July it became known Bjornfot planned to attend Training Camp with the Kings in September. Once again, a few eyebrows were raised. For starters, he has a contract to play in Sweden this season. Further, this seemed like a bit of a departure from the way the Kings have historically operated. Astute observers may notice that during the current regime there has been a greater emphasis on getting European players over to SoCal for camps. Even though GM Rob Blake and the Kings don’t always have control or input into when a player comes to camp, they’re doing everything conceivably possible to get players to LA for camp, helping to indoctrinate them into the organization. This early stage of integration could be key to their development and eventual hopes of playing in the NHL.
Bjornfot has continued a busy summer schedule since being in LA for Dev Camp and then joining Team Sweden for the WJSS. For much of the past three weeks he’s been on the ice twice a day working out with Djurgardens in Stockholm, leading up to their first exhibition game.
— Sixten Funqvist (@Funqvist) August 15, 2019
MM: Let’s begin our chat with a quick recap of the recent WJSS in Michigan. Any thoughts regarding your play and/or other impressions of your time there with Team Sweden?
It was a good camp and great experience playing against the U.S National Team and all of their good players, as well as playing against Canada and Finland too. We had a lot of good games and good practice and it was a good experience there. In the tournament, we lost our first game against the USA, won our second game against the USA, then we lost against USA and Canada. We really wanted to win that last game against Finland though; it’s a rivalry and it’s a big game for both teams so you want to win the game.
MM: Coming up through the ranks over the past few years, you’ve always been the captain for Team Sweden in various international tournaments. How different was it coming into camp where you were one of the younger guys?
I think it should not matter if you have anything on your chest or not, I’m a good leader too. But, it’s a new group and a new coach. It’s a new experience for me. I just tried to learn from all the guys and learn from the coaches. I think I’m a leader, but it’s tough in the beginning.
MM: One of your teammates and fellow Kings prospect, Samuel Fagemo, had a fantastic tournament. He looked to be one of Sweden’s best players, especially against Finland. Any thoughts on how he played throughout the week?
Yeah, he’s a hell of a player. He has a tremendous shot and he’s a goal scorer. He has a great work ethic and it’s cool to look at him in the gym and on the ice too. He had those three goals against Finland and he’s a game changer. It was also fun to play against [some of the Kings other prospects, like] Kaliyev, Turcotte and Akil Thomas. It’s fun to talk on the ice, but you still want to win. So when the puck drops, it’s game time.
MM: We know you met with Kings coach Todd McLellan at the Draft in Vancouver and again during Dev Camp in LA. As we understand things – while nothing is set in stone – the general plan appears to be for you to come over for camp, and either make the Kings roster or head back to Sweden to play out your contract over there. Is that correct?
Yes, exactly. I’m very happy they wanted to sign me and I think I’m going to play my best hockey and then we’ll see what happens. I have a contract back home in Sweden, so right now I don’t know if I’ll be playing in Los Angeles or back home in Sweden. Going into camp in LA, I’m going to play my best and let’s see after the camp. Realistically, it’s probably back home to Sweden, but you never know.
MM: Now for the all-important question, can you teach us how to say your name the correct way? We’ve heard too many pronunciations since the Draft.
[Fair amount of laughter] In Sweden, they say Bee-yorn-fut; while in English, most people say Bee-yorn-foot. Even between Canadians and Americans, they seem to say it a little bit different.
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