Training camp brings at least as much optimism as you’ll find in pro sports. It’s that wonderful time of the year when (nearly) every fan is encouraged by moves their team made in the offseason, coupled with unbridled belief victories are just around the corner.
Specific to Los Angeles, when phase one of Kings Training Camp kicks off in El Segundo this Friday, onlookers will be curious to see which young players are ready to take the next step in their careers – further punctuating that excitement surrounding what the future may hold. Also at this time of the year, there is typically some curiosity surrounding camp invitees. And they come in two flavors – kids who weren’t drafted and are looking to hook on with an NHL club, along with UFA veterans who have yet to find a new home.
In the first group, the Kings will get a longer look at several holdovers from June’s Development Camp. One of the more prominent forwards invited to attend is Jonny Yantsis. Now 20 years old, he’s played the past three years with OHL Kitchener. His first two campaigns were nothing to write home about, statistically speaking. He scored just eight goals total over that stretch. Then, last season, Yantsis put up 50 goals in 68 games – tying him for fifth-best in the league and putting just one goal behind Arthur Kaliyev. Standing 6-foot-2, the right shot winger has developed into a good finisher with a nice set of hands, especially in tight areas close to the net. This has put him into consideration for an Entry Level Contract with the Kings.
On the defensive side of the puck, Billy Constantinou is the invitee to keep a close eye on in the coming weeks. We wrote about the talented blueliner prior to the Black vs. White scrimmage at Dev Camp (see here) and now we’re back with a follow-up interview. As we previously reported, team officials were impressed with his performance earlier this summer and are eager to see more during Rookie Camp.
2. OHL dman @billyc0068 (Billy Constantinou)
Per @TheDraftAnalyst – Skating is his strength, picks up attack speed in 2 or 3 steps & can change gears while maintaining puck control. He spins/pivots off of forecheckers w/ease… Loves to join attack, take puck deep into o- zone.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) June 24, 2019
In preparation for what could be the biggest month of his life – no pressure, right? – we spoke with Constantinou for the latest installment of our Summer Check-In series…
MM: It’s been a couple months now since Dev Camp. When you reflect back on it, what are some of your takeaways – besides the obvious feeling of maybe being that much closer to your NHL dream?
It was my first time being in LA, so it was a great experience. The staff was very professional and the Kings have incredible facilities. When the week ended, I was kind of upset and I didn’t really want to leave. I wanted to stay a little bit longer because it’s so nice there and I enjoyed my time there. Defensive-wise, working with the coaches and the development staff, it was great. Of course, it gives you confidence to keep up with all those guys and all that, but there’s a big step from juniors to the NHL. You’re playing against boys in juniors and full-grown men in the NHL. There’s still work to be done, like strength-wise and stuff like that. Obviously, I need to get better at that and some other things. Like at our exit meetings, I spoke with Sean O’Donnell and Mike O’Connell from the Kings development staff, they gave me a few pointers in the defensive end with positioning and stuff like that. I’m just looking forward to being back in LA to keep pushing ahead.
MM: Prior to last season’s trade to Kingston, you were teammates with Akil Thomas in Niagara. What’s it like to play against him instead of being on the same bench? Also, any scouting notes on playing against a few other Kings prospects in the OHL – Aiden Dudas, Arthur Kaliyev, and Jacob Ingham?
Akil is definitely one of those guys want on your team rather than having to face him. He’s very skilled, has a high-IQ, and he can make great plays. He’s a very high-end offensive player and a guy you need to watch out for as a defenseman.
Dudas is kind of an electrifying player. He’s really fast and highly-skilled, as well. He’s kind of like always on you. Being a defenseman and playing against Owen Sound, who are generally a faster team, he’s one of those guys who is always on the go. He’s not just good offensively speaking, he’s pretty great all around too.
Ingham is really good. When he was traded to Kitchener this summer, that was a big deal and it shows they’re going for it. Ingham makes big saves in big minutes, so he’s really good.
As a player, Kaliyev is the guy you want to give the puck to because if you do, you’ll probably get an assist. So why not give it to him? His one-timer is unbelievable and he’s a pure goal scorer.
MM: Where is your head at right now, as you think about going into camp and trying to earn your first NHL contract?
The whole summer, ever since I went to LA, this situation has always been in the front of my head and it’s the thing I’ve been working towards the whole summer. It’s never been in the back of my mind. It’s the first thing I think about in the morning when I wake up and the last thing I think about when I go to bed. That’s what I’ve been working on all summer and putting in all the work, so I can come to LA and get a contract out of it. That’s my end goal.
MM: In between all the workouts, did you find any time to squeeze in something fun this summer?
Well, to me, hockey is fun. I enjoy working out and getting better every day. That’s fun to me, so I didn’t really do much other than work out every day and try to be on the ice 24/7. I’ve been working on being ready for camp and I’m really looking forward to coming back to LA. I’m out to prove they didn’t make a mistake in letting me back!
MM: When people come home from their first trip to LA their friends and family usually ask things like, ‘What celebrities did you run into?’ Did you get any good questions?
I was asked if I tried In-N-Out Burger. Of course, I did. The team actually got it for us on our last day at Dev Camp. Several people asked me about it because it’s pretty famous around the world and a well-known business in the U.S., especially in California. To me, it was kind of like a Big Mac, but like a 100 times better. It’s hard to explain, it was really good.
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