Thoughts from Kings coach Todd McLellan on Thursday, January 7…
On having Andreas Athanasiou on the Lizzote-Carter line, and if that was the plan when they signed him
That’s a fair assumption, yeah. When we sat down and we knew he was signed and coming to join our team, we thought he would fit well with with Lizzo and Carts. Then, Wags would fit well with some of his older linemates, and maybe playing the off-wing. There was some thought put into that, yes.
On where he plans to play Turcotte in camp, winger or center
Well, I think there’s a number of answers to that question. First of all, they aren’t going to be joining us quite as quick as we thought they would. They’re gonna have to go through their long-term health protocols. I think it’s going to take us seven or eight days to get them in. We thought we could hurry the process, but we have to follow what’s correct and what’s right, so that’s what’s gonna happen. So it’ll be a little while before they join our team. Each of those individuals are unique and different in their own way. Byfield and Turcotte, I think about Kupari in our organization – young centermen that are coming in, they’re not all gonna be able to play in the middle at the same time. Some of them are gonna have to transition over to wingers. But I think taking a centerman and putting him on the wing is a lot easier than taking wingers and putting them in the middle. We’ll continue to train them playing through the middle as much as we can but, they will get time on on the left and the right side as we go forward. Not all of them. but some of them.
More on the reasons behind why the four prospect will be delayed
It’s a customary, health directive, where we need so many days of testing. We thought there was a chance to to hurry it up because they came from a bubble. They flew private, which was nice for them. We thought we could speed the process up, but we can’t. We understand that, we accept it, and we’re gonna do whatever we can to protect those individuals and the rest of the group that’s here. We’ll be patient, we’ll wait for them, and they’ll eventually join our group.
On why he likes four forwards on the power play, as opposed to three forwards on two defensemen
We take a look at our personnel and what we have, and we feel like on the back-end right now we have a quarterback in Drew and a quarterback in Walks – with maybe some more coming, Roy could fill in a little bit there, and we’re not sure where Clague and Durzi are yet at the NHL level for running a power play. We feel that we have more depth upfront. It’s gone that way for a number of years, where breakouts, entries, having the puck in the forwards hands with the D quarterbacking is something that we believe in. One, it’s roster and having the tools that are presented to us. Two, its the structure of it.
On how important it was for Gabe Vilardi to have an extended off-season to get ready for this year
We believe it was really important. His past summers or off seasons, if you will, have been spent in rehab-mode rather than in training-mode. He looks like a different man right now; physically, he looks stronger. I think his engine is much better. We’re gonna find out in the games. But I think it was really important. The fact that he did all the work should make him feel comfortable and confident in what he can or can’t do on the ice. Having that confidence is a real big thing. I think he’d answer the question the same way as I did.
On Martin Frk scoring his way onto the roster last season and then coming in this year with more of a defined role
Marty scored his way all the way into the NHL, whether it was in Detroit or whether it was with Carolina, for a short period, or even here. He scored his way into the NHL. But you can’t be a one-trick pony. You can’t just rely on your shot. You have to do other things. At times, I think that’s why he has worked his way back to the American League and been up and down. We want, and we know, that we’ll get the shot from him and that he can unload it. We expect him to score some goals, but we also want him to play a full 200-foot game so we can trust him in every situation and get a more minutes. We’re working on that part of the game; and thus far in camp, I think he’s done a real good job.
On if there is any line combination or group of players that have exceeded his expectations thus far in camp
These types of questions are tough to answer. We’re really just seeing our group against our group. Everybody has a good day and a bad day. I’ll be better equipped to answer probably after the first two Minnesota games. The group as a whole has been really attentive. I thought today, we let our guard down a little bit. We got a little bit sloppy and we needed to be reminded that every minute of practice time is really important to us. We can’t take anything for granted. We’re not in that situation at all. So, today was a reminder day that our standards aren’t going to slip.
On the timing of reducing the number of players in camp and getting closer to the opening night roster
We are looking at our plan. I’ll give you our plan for the next three days – we’ll practice again tomorrow, we plan on going to Staples Center to have a an inner-squad, black-white game on Saturday, and Sunday is an off day for us. By the time we get to Monday, we’ll have a better idea of the direction of the organization – how many guys we want to keep initially. By that time, we will be in discussions to clarify the taxi squad, and perhaps how we’re going to use it. That doesn’t mean we’ll have final decisions made, but we’ll have a better and clearer picture, in and around that time.
On Vilardi needing to play more minutes this season if he’s moving into the 2C role
It depends if you consider his line, the second line or the third line – I don’t know. He’ll dictate, and that line will dictate where they slot in; first, second, third, whatever it might be. He’ll dictate the amount of minutes. Last year, we protected him a little bit. One, because it was brand new to him. Two, because his engine wasn’t… it ran high, but it ran high and petered out quickly. That wasn’t anything that we didn’t expect and I know that he’s worked on that. I’d like to turn him loose and play him as much as we possibly can. But he’s got to show us that he’s prepared to sustain a high level of play, and be able to handle those minutes against anybody. It won’t just be him, it’ll be his linemates, as we go forward.
On being a week out from opening night and when he’ll start game-planning for Minnesota
Not for a little while yet. We’re still reestablishing what the Kings need to do. Our pre-scout from their past, or when they played in the bubble, will come in maybe the last day or last two days prior to us playing. But we haven’t even begun to discuss what their tendencies are yet or how they’re going to do things. Too many reminders for our group right now.
On where bubble guys, like Carl Grundstrom and Matt Luff, might slot in
Let’s talk about their camp to begin with. Both of them were up and down players last year. They were players, initially, that we thought would have an impact on our season, coming out of training camp. Both of them needed a little bit more time down there. I can tell you that both had better training camps this year than they did last year, especially Matt Luff. He was noticeable, he was a factor, and he’s earned the right to be on our squad right now. As we move forward, we’ll have an opening night roster. He may be on it, he may not be. But we do expect them to get into games, both of them. And when they are in, it’s nose to the grindstone, and keep earning and earning ice time. Take somebody’s job, move up in the lineup, get more minutes. There’s that internal competition that’s going to be going on as we move forward. The deeper it gets, the more competitive it gets, that means our organization is going in the right direction.
More on Grundstrom
We see him as a left winger, third-fourth line player, heavy presence in and around the net, straight lines, physical, win a lot of loose puck scrums, get his nose dirty in and around the net so that he scores some ugly goals. He does have a good shot. He has to be responsible all over the rink. I could use that descriptor for a number of players, but that would describe Grunny to a tee. His nickname is Tonka for a reason. His teammates call him that because when he goes, and he’s heavy and hard to play against, the players call him Tonka because he’s like one of those old Tonka truck toys, where he’s big and heavy and hard.
On Kurtis MacDermid
Dermy fits right into the mix. I think he was one of our most improved, if not the most improved player last year. He brings an element that not a lot of the remaining players on our team do. Our players feel comfortable when he is when he’s in the game. They want him to be part of of the team on a nightly basis. So, I think when the puck drops each and every night there’s a good chance you’re going to see him in the lineup. Unless his game diminishes, or he loses something that’s important to him. I think that Dermy is a real effective player on our team and there’s a lot of nights that we need them in our lineup.
On the Moore-Amadio-Wagner line
So far, they have, yes. They earned some of that last year. Each of them are in different spots. Moore came in from another team, Mods had been in the organization for a little while, and Wags is slowly solidifying a spot. So they’re all in different spots. They all had different moments throughout the season. Together, the three of them, I think they can be effective. They’re working hard, they’re trying to prepare themselves to play on the on the 14th, and we’ll continue to work with them.
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