Thoughts from Kings coach Todd McLellan on Monday, January 4
On Matt Roy
I think he made tremendous strides last year and I see him picking up exactly where he was at the end of the year – confident. We understand what his strengths and weaknesses are. His biggest asset is his legs, his ability to get around the rink, with and without the puck. We think that there is some power play opportunity for him, he sees the ice fairly well. Just his confidence level with with him on the ice, we feel good about it. And I think he’d answer the question the same way, he feels a little bit better now than perhaps the beginning of last season, with how we want to play and with us as a coaching staff.
There is a chance Andreas Athanasiou joins the Kings on ice tomorrow. His final covid test was taken today. If the results come back quickly enough, he'll be on the ice tomorrow. McLellan says he's already been involved in meetings via zoom.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) January 5, 2021
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.
On if he’s been watching the World Juniors
I’ve watched a lot of it, almost all of it and I will watch tonight. I think every every one of them, regardless of their draft position or what team they played on, has had moments in the tournament where they’ve really left their mark on games. We’re here scrutinizing our nine players there – unfortunately, Spence and Parik were only able to get into one or two games, so it makes it a little more difficult – but when you’re watching your own nine players, or narrow it down to six, if you will, and you’re watching every move they make, we can be very hard or harsh on them. If we were generally watching the game, I think we wouldn’t be near as harsh on them, and appreciate them a lot more. Again, I think they’ve all had tremendous tournaments. We’re excited about getting them here. They’re 18 and 19 years old. It’s hard to to keep that in mind, but they’re all 18 and 19, and they all have a lot to learn.
More on the World Juniors, including the level of play
Considering that the majority of those players hadn’t competed, I think the tournament started off at a really good level and it’s just gotten better as it continues on. I hope that will be an indicator for the NHL, as well. It will take us a little while to get going, but I hope we can get up to speed real quick and have good competitive games. The skill level, the competition level, the structures got better every night, goaltending has gotten better as the tournaments went on. It’s really been fun to watch, not only our players but all the players in the tournament.
On who he’s rooting for in the gold medal game
When it comes to countries, yes – being Canadian and having represented Canada in some tournaments as a coach, you root for them. But we also root for individuals – the three American players we have there, we saw them have a significant impact on the game last night against Finland. We hope they have a really, really good game. So you cheer for your home country, but you also cheer for individuals. It’s mixed. I’m just hoping for a really good game.
On the power play clicking at over 20% at the end of last season, which was really improved
Funny that you ask that question because we worked on some power play today for the first time. The knowledge base and the understanding of how we want to do things with different units is so much further ahead right now, perhaps the most significant area, than we were last year at this time. We needed time, we needed reps, we needed experience. We needed to fail, we needed to succeed. We needed to do all those things to get better. When you think about power plays, there are some nights you only get one, there are other nights you may get four or five, but they may be in pieces. It’s hard to get enough rep time in, in real game situations, to move it forward. But I think as the second half of the season rolled around, we were much improved. We became more familiar with the personnel, what their strengths and weaknesses were, moved some people around, and had two units that were competing against each other. I’d like to think that we can start that way again, but I do feel we’re further ahead. Wow the the work and the polish has to come in.
On if there is a secret or a strategy to drawing more penalties in the NHL
That’s a good question, again. Analytically, we talked about it today – I think Colorado had almost 50 more power play opportunities than we did last year; they may have played one or two more games, I’m not exactly sure, but certainly not enough to make up the difference. I think the speed-type game certainly creates more situations, where there’s hooking and holding. Look at some of the players that have drawn the most penalties in the league – I’m sure Connor McDavid is up there, at least he was when I was in Edmonton. His explosiveness and his speed, create situations where players are put into difficult situations. Tenacity of players, quick transition. These are all areas that we want to improve on. As we do that, hopefully we draw more.
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.
On having players come into camp hungry
I would much rather have a hungry player than a full player, that’s for sure. Sometimes you’re hungry for different reasons. I think in Andreas’ situation, he’ll be hungry player. The rest will be up to him. As far as having players that signed deals late in camp, Manny Maholtra, when I was in San Jose signed, I think day one of training camp. Looking back, what a great signing it was for us, and hopefully for him. He had a heck of a year, that led to a new contract in Vancouver – I think a three-year deal. From there, obviously a good career and a coaching career now. It was a springboard for him when he needed it and he took advantage of it.
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