Similar to what the rest of the world is experiencing in nearly every aspect of life, NHL training camps look a little different this year. Due to additional safety precautions, the NHL has limited training camps to a maximum of 36 skaters this season. And although the Kings have been practicing and scrimmaging since last Thursday, several changes are about to take place to the roster – well in advance of any final decisions about who makes the 23-man opening night list.
Forward Andreas Athanasiou took his final COVID test yesterday and was cleared last night after being required to quarantine for eight days with four negative tests.
With that now hurdle cleared, he must be checked out by team doctors before getting the green light to participate in practice with the team. LA’s medical staff was not allowed to perform a physical and medical testing while Athanasiou was quarantined; they had to wait for the last negative test result to come in.
Once all of that is out of the way, there will one more bit of housekeeping to take care of before Athanasiou steps onto the ice in El Segundo – the Kings will need to make room for him by removing another body from their camp roster.
During a normal training camp, this type of move is done by assigning a player to the AHL, their junior team in Canada, or their club team in Europe. However, things are a bit different this year. For starters, all of the players in camp are targeted to play in North America for at least the next five months. This should rule out Europe. Second, none of the players in camp will be going back to junior. On the surface, this only leaves the AHL, yet training camp dates for the Ontario Reign haven’t even been established. Thus, this could lead to a unique situation where the player cut to make room for Athanasiou is in a bit of limbo for a week or so.
Regardless, somebody will need to be cut in order to make room for the 26-year-old forward.
Below is the current group of forwards participating in camp:
Michael Amadio, Jared Anderson-Dolan, Lias Andersson, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Aidan Dudas, Mikey Eyssimont, Sammy Fagemo, Martin Frk, Carl Grundstrom, Alex Iafallo, Bokko Imama, Adrian Kempe, Anze Kopitar, Rasmus Kupari, Blake Lizotte, Matt Luff, Trevor Moore, Akil Thomas, Tyler Madden, Drake Rymsha, Gabriel Vilardi, and Austin Wagner
From what weve gathered, Rymsha is expected to be the odd man out. He’s the player least likely to make a push for an NHL job this season, so it does make sense.
In 303 NHL games played, Athanasiou has recorded 84 goals and 72 assists (156 points) and 117 penalty minutes. Last season, he notched 11 goals in 55 games for the Red Wings and Oilers. As noted previously, this was a depth signing for LA, as Athanasiou is expected to push the Kings younger forwards for playing time – specifically, in a bottom six role.
On the addition of Anthony Athanasiou, who is known more for his offense than defense
Well, you know what we do, we look at as plus-minus and we say he’s not a very good defensive player. If you drop him into a team — and I say this with all due respect to Detroit and LA — sometimes those numbers are skewed just because of the performance of the team and the situation that he’s in. I don’t know where all his minuses came from. For example, in the case of Drew Doughty, he’s on the ice every time we pull the goaltender. I think we gave up 11 empty net goals last year. You get a minus for that and all of the sudden it’s not looking so good. Plus-minus isn’t a big number for me. I think it’s circumstantial. For Andreas, when he gets here we want to fit him into our structure and our system. We think that the structure can take care of the individual a little bit, make it predictable. He has to accept the responsibility of playing on both sides of the puck. Let’s face it, he can skate and he can score when he’s playing well. His career can go on forever, you know, if he gets the defensive part of it and the consistency part. What a great opportunity for him to come here. We know that and we’ll try to help him. If we can get that out of him and maintain some offense, we’ll be just fine.
On if Athanasiou will jump in at pretty much full speed when he joins the team
We want him full speed, we want him just to play hockey. It’ll be a shared responsibility between us as a staff and him as a player to get him caught up on what we’re doing in certain situations and why we’re doing it. We’ll spend time with him. The unique thing with him is, he’s been involved in every meeting that we’ve had through zoom, so he’s been able to see the video, he’s heard the comments. The one thing he hasn’t done is physically put it into play on the ice. Our players have been going pretty hard now for five or six days. In his case, he hasn’t been able to skate and he’ll need some catch up time there. But we understand that and I’m sure he’ll understand it.
More on Athanasiou, including what he needs to do to be a good fit for the Kings
We signed him because – one, we believe we’re gonna have a very motivated, hungry player. He’s at a point in his career where it’s time to step in and really get it going. prove to the world that you’re a legitimate 20 to 30 goal scorer every year. We believe we’re gonna get that from him. I think that he wants to produce at that level. So from an offensive perspective, we think that he can help us; speed, power play, forecheck, his shot is dangerous, he’s very good in the shootout. There are a lot of offensive areas that we think he can help us in. Defensively, and I said this the other day, we can all look at his plus-minus. It’s real obvious, it stands out. But you really have to dig deep and look at situations he was in to earn some of those minuses. How many empty net goals was he on the ice for? How many situations occurred where he wasn’t part of of the breakdown? And there’s things that he can continue to work on defensively. We think our structure will help everybody in that area, including him. We expect him to commit to both sides of the puck.
Where things will really start to get interesting is later this week.
Four LA Kings prospects are returning to Los Angeles today via a private jet from Edmonton. After completing their time at the World Junior Championship, Alex Turcotte, Arthur Kaliyev (who both won a gold medal with Team USA), Quinton Byfield, and Tobias Bjornfot are traveling via a charted flight with the hopes of limiting their quarantine time before joining camp, as they’re coming from being in a bubble environment for the past 30 days.
Once those four are officially cleared to join the Kings in camp, there will need to be four additional cuts from the current roster in order to maintain the NHL-mandated maximum of 36 skaters.
Among the forwards, names like Imama and Madden would be the most likely candidates. Again, players who are not expected to push for NHL jobs this month. To make room for Bjornfot, a defenseman like Daniel Brickley or Markus Phillips would make the most sense for similar reasons.
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Lead photo provided by LA Kings