This afternoon, the first of two back-to-back games between the Ontario Reign and San Diego Gulls will get underway.
And that number ‘two’ is the key word; just for a different reason.
As we explained in an article earlier this week, the six exhibition games coming up carry extra importance for the immediate future of a pair of the Kings top prospects – Quinton Byfield and Arthur Kaliyev.
To tee up Game 1 of Ontario’s preseason slate, we checked in with the team’s new bench boss, John Wroblewski, for some pregame thoughts….
On any key takeaways from his ongoing conversations with Kings coach Todd McLellan
I can’t even tell you how many hundreds of items that I’ve learned in the last few months here. Regarding not only our system work, but all the details that go into the NHL and AHL relationship – being in the same building, the nuances with players, up and down the gamut of different things. We had so much time to go through all of it. He was very, very helpful. For a lot of people, that time off was really hard and I think we utilized it as best as possible; especially for myself, being able to try and settle into a new gig and really having a better understanding was helpful.
On how he will manage the upcoming preseason games
I think instead of looking at the situation as maybe being worrisome, how is this guy going to play or anything like that, I’m really excited to just get a base point for everybody. While there are expectations, say for [Quinton Byfield] and [Arthur Kaliyev] to perform, I think that just getting a baseline for every single one of these guys and for our team, where we’re at physically compared to an opponent, where we’re at structurally. Then of course, the individuals, being able to get something tangible for these guys to be able to start working with them and to spike their development.
On the lineup for the upcoming games
It’s somewhat fluid right now. There are certain items that are so up in the air from a management side. We’re also still trying to get some sort of collaboration with Anaheim as to whether it’s going to be players with veteran status or players with a little less experience.
On his thoughts on where Byfield and Kaliyev fit into the lineup
I think right now, it would make a lot of sense to put those two guys together, try to breed or grow any type of chemistry for them. Hopefully, it’ll be there for a long time in the organization. As of right now, they are placed together. I think with Quinton’s speed game and vision and tenacity in the corners, he’ll be able to dig pucks out and find [Kaliyev], and you know what he does when the puck is on his tape. We’re just going to toy around with that and see how that works, let those guys hopefully grow together and we’ll give other guys opportunities as they earn them to be placed amongst some of the big names that we have in our lineup.
On if Rasmus Kupari will play center or wing, and who he would be paired with
He’s at center. As of right now, he and Sammy Fagemo are together for a Swedish-Finn combination. They are both really agreeable guys and I really like them both as people. I think they’re tremendous players and they’ve gotten along well, so far. As long as they move the puck to each other at the right times, there shouldn’t be any issues. I like their skillsets, they both have the capability of creating really solid buzz with playmaking. They both can really trigger a puck as well. It’s an intriguing combo, and we’ll just see how it goes here.
On if Cole Hults is ready to play, after only recently getting into camp following off-season surgery
We’re still gauging that. I think you can expect him in the lineup, but he’s not sharpied in, let’s put it that way.
At this point, we wouldn’t call this a Roster Projection, as much as we’d call it a somewhat educated guess…
Ontario Reign [Maybe, Sorta, Might Be] Lineup Outlook for Jan. 16 vs San Diego Gulls
Madden – Byfield – Kaliyev
Eyssimont – Thomas – Dudas
Imama – Kupari – Fagemo
Byron – Rymsha – Halloran
Brickley – Strand
Phillips – Durzi
Moverare – Hults
Tomorrow's Reign game vs @SDGullsAHL also features some high-end Ducks prospects:
Trevor Zegras (Fwd)
Jamie Drysdale (D)
Lukas Dostal (G)
Unfortunately, no streaming options available, radio only.#KankoCup https://t.co/L7ahP8nsNg
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) January 15, 2021
Quick follow-up on Ontario Reign #KankoCup schedule:
1/16, 1pm – at SD (Irvine)
1/17, 3pm – vs SD (Irvine)
1/22, 3pm – vs San Jose
1/24, 1pm – vs Tucson
1/25, 1pm – vs Tucson
1/30, 5pm – vs Bakersfield
We hear ONT is feverishly working on stream options. Could be ready by 1/22.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) January 15, 2021
SCHEDULE UPDATE – Following the cancelation of both preseason games vs San Diego last weekend, Ontario was able to get one of those rescheduled for Friday 1/29. The Reign should now have five exhibition games before the regular season begins on Feb 6.
Here are some bonus thoughts from Friday, when we asked McLellan about his expectations for this weekend’s Ontario Reign exhibition games…
“We we’ve spent three months together,” Mclellan said, regarding his developing relationship with Wroblewski. “We had a Hockey Summit, for lack of a better title, from about October 1st on. We met four days a week, going through situations with our NHL coaching staff the American League coaching staff, and a lot of the development team. We laid it out real clear to everybody in the organization of how we wanted to do things, the language we use, the type of drills that we made.”
As for the games themselves, it’s back to that word ‘two’ again…
“Wrobo’s mandate is two-fold,” McLellan explained. “It’s to win twice. What does that mean? It’s to develop and make sure those players are ready for good, long NHL careers. That would be winning the first time. Over and above that, you want to win as many games as you can because there’s no better teacher than competition. He has to have a little bit of leeway to manage situations and make adjustments to the game plan, but for the most part, when players arrive here, they should understand very clearly how we want to play. They should just fit in. They may lack the experience, but they should not lack the knowledge of what’s happening on the ice.”
Today also marks the AHL debut for Craig Johnson, who has joined the Reign staff as Assistant Coach this season.
We also had an extended chat with Wroblewski just after he was hired in Ontario a few months back. If you missed it, be sure to check out that conversation using the link below.
Kings Of the Podcast: Ep. Q14 with John Wroblewski, Ontario Reign Head Coach
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Can’t wait for the AHL to start. More hockey please!!!