Kings rookie Gabe Vilardi, who was credited with a goal in Saturday’s OT loss to the Wild, met with local media members following practice on Monday. During his extended chat, Vilardi offered up thoughts on a variety of topics, including faceoffs, coach Todd McLellan, and even talked about a recent FaceTime he had with Kyle Clifford…
Vilardi on the pride he takes in being the team’s primary right-handed faceoff guy right now
Kopi is the lefty center, and we have Lizzo is another lefty. If it’s on the right side, I want to take those draws and I need to be better. Last came, I wasn’t as good as the first night. But, I do take pride in that and I have to be better for for my linemates and for my team. If I don’t win the draw, we don’t have the puck. If we don’t have the puck, we’re chasing from the start. You get tired that way and it’s tough. I think last game, especially, I felt like I watched the shifts and we didn’t have the puck much when I was on the ice. The faceoff is what starts it.
On working on cutting down penalties as a team
Todd talked about it. I don’t think there is anything we can work on for that. It’s just mental. Two of those [on Saturday night] were from too many men and that that can’t happen. In terms of other penalties, we just can’t take as many penalties – it’s that’s simple. It’s tough to get into the flow of the game if you’re on the PK six times a night.
On what he did to get through the long layoff in 2020 after the season was cancelled
It gave me a chance to train. I haven’t had a summer to train in the past three years. I’ve always been rehabbing for whatever injuries I was dealing with. We had a long lay off here and I thought I took advantage of it. I put on some muscle. I was here in LA in early August. I spent the month prior back home in Kingston with my family, which was nice. Not just for athletes, for everybody, the world was kind of a shit show, it’s crazy. Everyone is going through it together here. We’re always learning and that’s the world we live in right now. I did a lot of training and just went with whatever was going on.
On anything he did to work on having a stronger game away from the puck
In terms of faceoffs — it’s tough — I’m up against guys that are older than me sometimes. Sometimes they just outmuscle me, I can feel it. I was watching draws and it’s tough. In the last two games, I was up against [Nick] Bonino and [Zach] Parise, those are veteran guys who have been in the league for a long time and they’re good at draws. I have to do my best to try and outmuscle them or out technique them on the draws. In terms of my play without the puck, I think it hasn’t been bad. Like I said earlier, when I’m not winning draws we’re not getting the puck. I feel my line really hasn’t had the puck much in the o-zone. We haven’t had many very good o-zone possession shifts, where we’re really grinding them down. We have to do more of that.
On several teammates commenting about the additional weight he put on during the offseason
I’m happy. Again, for me it wasn’t about putting on a bunch of muscle. I did put on a little muscle and I’m happy with that. The biggest thing for me was conditioning this summer. I already feel much, much improved in the first two games compared to last year. My shifts are carrying longer and I have more juice out there, so I’m happy with that so far.
On the confidence coach Todd McLellan has shown in him thus far
In the last game, I was terrible at faceoffs in the first and second period, yet he kept throwing me out there. I appreciate it – no, I don’t appreciate it, I have to do better. He’s expecting me to win those draws and I have to do better. It’s nice. I want to win. I want to be on the the ice and I want to help the team win, in whatever way that is, whether it’s winning a faceoff or scoring goals.
On how much video he gets a chance to look at, specifically on face-offs and tendencies of opposition players
I don’t really watch other players like that. I don’t like to do that. I like to read and analyze as the game goes on. If a guy is doing something in the faceoff, maybe being one way, maybe the next draw I’ll try and do something else. Other than that, I don’t really like to work on face-offs much. I think it’s something that you’re either good with technique or you’re not.
On the importance of this season to him, personally
Very important. I want to be a difference maker out there. I want to be a good player every night. I don’t want to just show up every couple games. I think that’s what I did last year. I had a couple good games and then kind of quiet one night. I want to be a difference maker every night. I want to help this team win, however that is. Like I said earlier, if that’s killing penalties, scoring goals, on the power play, whatever it is. I just want to help this team win. I think we have an underrated team. I think we’re really good and I think we can surprise some people. I want to help this team win.
On the biggest difference between being a full-time NHL player compared to previous levels he’s played
I think practicing hard every day. In junior it’s completely different. You can go out there and — I don’t want to say screw around, but you can half-ass it almost and you’re still like the best player out there. Here, if you’re not working hard in practice, you’re wasting your time, you’re wasting your teammates time, and it’s not good for anyone. I think bringing it every day, that’s something I’m going to learn throughout this year and moving forward throughout my career. I have to come to the rink with a plan to get better every day and I try to do that and I have to keep doing that.
On working with Jarret Stoll and Craig Johnson
Right now, [Stoll] isn’t able to get on the ice with us; we have practices as a team. In the summertime, we worked a lot with him and CJ. I’d like to work with them more, right now it’s tough. But when I do get the chance to talk to [Stoll], he’s always helped me out. I really appreciate that and he was great on draws, so he’s someone that I talk to about faceoffs. … CJ is a hockey geek. He’s crazy and he’s creative about the game. I love that because I’m kind of like that too. I can talk to him about pretty much anything in the game and he’ll tell me something that I can keep and take with me moving forward.
On any challenges that may come from playing with wingers as speedy as Austin Wagner or Adrian Kempe
I wouldn’t say it’s a challenging. I have to help them out. Like I said, we talked about it a bunch today – the draws. Last game, I wasn’t good. I didn’t feel like we had the puck much on our sticks, that’s tough for them. It’s out out of their control really, whether I win the draw or lost the draw. If I lose it, we’re chasing. If I win it, then hopefully we get the puck we can make plays. In terms of playing with them, they’re both crazy fast. I have to be able to see where they’re at, especially with Wags. He’s pretty quick off the gates. We were talking about it on the bench; If I can use like a bank play or something, trying to get it to him down the wing, I know he’ll beat the defender. With Juice, I need to get him the puck in the o-zone more. I have to try and help them out, they’re both skilled guys. I think we can generate more here and I’m looking forward to tomorrow night’s game. I think we’re gonna have a good one.
On changing his jersey number to 13 this season
It was my number growing up, pretty much my whole career until I got here. I just talked to Cliffy about it, he said it was cool. … Cliffy is an awesome guy, I’m friends with him. So last week, I have him a FaceTime, asked him what’s going on how’s life. I told him I was planning on 13 and asked him if he was cool with that. He said, ‘Yeah, for sure.’ He’s a nice guy so there was nothing really to it. I just wanted to make sure he was cool with it.
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