LA Kings forward Matt Luff is chomping at the bit, ready to show the world that he’s a full-time NHL player. After spending a full season with AHL Ontario in 2017-18, the lanky sniper bounced between the Kings and Reign over the past two seasons. As such, Luff believes this current training camp is the most important of his life. Here’s what he had to share following practice today:
On his approach to camp this year
Coming in, with my fourth camp here, it’s a pretty big one. Last year, I was one of the first guys cut, so this year I wanted to come in and show Todd and the rest of the coaching staff I took the right process here. I think I’ve been a lot more consistent with my game and it’s showing them I want to be here. I think I’ve done that so far. Just having those extra months off this year, I was just focusing mentally on making sure I come to work every day, like it’s a game day. I think I’ve done that.
On the loss of exhibition games this season and using scrimmage like Saturday to put his best foot forward
Saturday, I just kind of worked with my linemates, with Grundy and Lias. They’re both such good players; I played with Grundy before. We work well off of each other. I’ve been with the system before, so I kind of had to settle into it and come to camp not overthink things. I just kind of stuck to my game there. One thing I’m doing more this year is shooting the puck. I had a couple of opportunities there and then Durzi found me backdoor for a goal. That’s always good, I’ll take that. Working the d-zone away from the puck is key too. I want to be trusted in all four areas and that’s a big thing.
On if this camp is extra nerve-wracking because in addition to roster cuts there are guys coming/going daily
I came into this camp trying not to think about those things. I came in controlling what I can control, just making sure I go through the process every day – getting tested, making sure when I leave the rink I stay to myself and I sanitize everything, make sure I wear a mask everywhere. I’m just making sure I keep myself eligible to be playing and keeping myself in the conversation to stay here. I just follow Kinger [Chris Kingsley] because he’s the man holding all the information we need to know. I just go off what he says and so far it’s been going well. I’m still here, so that’s a good sign.
On if he agrees with Todd McLellan saying his camp is night and different compared to last year
I’d say this is probably the best camp I’ve had since I’ve been with the Kings organization. I think it’s just those extra months, again. I worked on my mental game with a mental coach; learning to not overthink plays and just settling into camp, looking at it like I’m playing on the Reign. I think that’s how I’m kind of looking at things, making sure I’m not fumbling pucks, I’m not nervous to make a pass that might get picked off. Things that worry me. So, yeah, to say it’s my best camp would probably be the right thing. It’s just night and day versus last year. I have more confidence with the puck, and away from the puck. I’m just playing more of my game.
On how encouraging it is to hear McLellan praise him when asked about players performing well in camp
It’s always good to see the head coach of the team you are trying to play for recognizing you. There are other guys who have been playing really well – Carl [Grundstrom] came in this year and he’s been a goal machine. He’s been really good on the defense side too. To hear Todd single you out, it’s pretty good, but you can’t just be satisfied with that. My goal is to play Thursday night and every night after that. I’m just going to keep working and keep giving them reasons why he has to put me in the lineup.
On how beneficial the longer offseason was for him personally
Actually, it helped me a lot. I got a new goal scoring coach, Josh Wrobel in Oakville. I think he helped me find my confidence again. We worked on different areas of shooting and scoring, and I think a lot of that came into play with a couple my goals here. I also owe a lot to Matt Nichol and his crew for the offseason. I think I came back, as some guys point out – I look bigger, look faster and stronger. With having those added months, I just prepared every day like I was trying to make the Kings. So, I think having those eight or nine months to prepare was huge.
On the types of things you can work on with a mental coach
I was just trying to find things that take my mind away from the game when I leave the rink. In previous training camps, I’ve gone home and Id overthink things I did and didn’t do. Now, I’ve figured out, with who I was working with, that I’m a big fan of art. So, I’ll find different art pieces that I like or that I’ve seen. I’ll start reading some books about it. I’ve also read some articles about different people that have been through it and stuff like that. It’s just finding ways to get my mind off things. We also worked on thinking about things that might go wrong in a game situation and how’d I work through it without getting down on myself, bringing my confidence down going into the next shift and such.
On the challenge of jumping from the AHL to learning how to consistently score a the NHL level
Anytime you make the jump from the AHL to the NHL it’s pretty tough. I got off to a pretty good start the first year, scoring the eight, and then last year just scoring one. It shows you that it’s a lot harder than I initially thought. You know what? You have to get in the dirty areas. Look at guy like Joe Pavelski. He’s great hockey player, but he probably gets six to eight extra goals by tipping pucks in or by staying around that blue paint because pucks just sit there. It’s about not passing up your opportunities too, don’t be afraid. If I’m going down the ice with Kopi and I have a shot, don’t feel like I have to try to thread the needle and risk a pass. Put it on net and it might go in. For the young kids, I think it’s just believe in yourself, you have that strength, you’re here for a reason. Don’t overthink things, just walk and do you. They called you up for a reason and it’s on you. Just have fun with it.
For more with Luff, be sure to check out his appearance on Kings Of The Podcast, linked below. It’s packed with some great stories.
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Lead photo provided by LA Kings