In advance of the Kings opening up training camp on December 31, LA coach Todd McLellan recently joined Kings Of The Podcast. While there was plenty of the usual banter and historical talk, the roughly 30-minute conversation also touched on what lies ahead…
McLellan on if the top line of Alex Iafallo, Anze Kopitar, and Dustin Brown will be kept together, in part because of their familiarity and the lack of exhibition games:
“I think that’s fair to say throughout our lineup. When you start with the D-pairs for camp, I think you’re going to see a lot of similarities to where we ended last year. Obviously, with [Olli] Maatta entering the fray, there’s a good chance he’ll be paired up with Drew and we’ll start camp that way. At least [the top line is] familiar with each other and their tendencies, for the most part. The lines, as much as we can keep them together — at least to start, to formulate a strong foundation right off the bat — I think you’ll see a lot of that as well. Obviously, we’ve lost some players, not everybody is back from last year. So there will be some holes to fill. But, without exhibition games, with a real short camp, we’ll try to keep it as familiar as possible to try and get off to a really good start. Then, as needed throughout the year, we’ll move players around. Players will earn promotions and players will, frankly, earn demotions as well based on their play. And that’s going to happen like any year.”
McLellan on keeping Gabe Vilardi with Martin Frk on the second line and then Blake Lizotte with Jeff Carter as the third line, and who will serve as left wings with those pairs:
“I think we’re going to start training camp with Kempe-Vilardi-Frk. Saying that, what we’ve found with Adrian Kempe is – one, he played better on the wing; two, he plays better when he’s the alpha on the line. And what I mean by that is, he is more seasoned; he’s somebody who the younger players will look to. You put him with Kopi and Brown and he tends to take a backseat to those two. If we can keep him the alpha on a line, and certainly with Vilardi with his inexperience — despite his talent level — I think that Kempe can help him get through some of the pitfalls that happen to young players. And Frky is a shooter, so maybe we can get him a puck every now and then and he can put it in the net. We’re looking at that as a line. [Then] Lizzo, Carter, and either [Trevor] Moore or [Austin] Wagner on wing. Then, [Michael Amadio] at the center ice position and a variety of different options.
“Everybody has to come in and earn a spot. As far as wingers go, we have some established players, we have some players that are on the cusp of either making it — or not — and they need to have really good training camps and a good start to the year. And then we have some unpredictable kids in training camp. We think that they are still… they are close to being ready. But if they’re not, the worst thing we could do to them is put them in a situation where they fail. We don’t need to do that with young players at the age of 18, 19, 20. They have to feel like they’re having success for them to grow. Lots of important decisions to make. Not only in the first couple weeks, but also in the next two months.”
Our full report on the 41 players scheduled to attend Kings training camp can be found here — it also features our projected roster for the season, plus what roles Lias Andersson and Andreas Athanasiou will look to fill.
To hear the full conversation with McLellan, enjoy the show below.
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