Good Afternoon, Insiders!
The approach has changed here as we hit Day 6 of training camp. While nothing is set in stone, and we’ll expect to see select players shuffled up and down between Group A and Group B, today was our first real look at a true split between players targeted for the NHL and players targeted for the AHL. Group B consisted of five lines and nine defensemen, all of whom are players who are expected to at the very least compete for a full-time roster spot.
Group A today consisted of a preview of what we could potentially see on Opening Night, with four lines that we’ve seen used somewhat consistently throughout training camp. The defensemen did not necessarily stick to a strict structure in terms of pairings, with nine blueliners on the ice, but we saw the nine healthy defensemen who do have a visible path to the opening-night roster.
Linked HERE is the group that took the ice today for Day 6.
In terms of those either not on that list, or those who have had injuries during training camp, Phillip Danault is now 100-percent healthy and will make his preseason debut tomorrow against San Jose. Danault had a small muscle issue on the first day of training camp, missed one skate and promptly returned from there. He’s good to go. Speaking with Danault the other day, the injury was extremely minor and he’s back on track for his first game of the exhibition season.
Regarding others, Cal Petersen can be considered “day-to-day” at this point, while Sean Durzi is “close” to rejoining the full group for camp skates. Viktor Arvidsson continues to progress on his own timeline, while Alex Turcotte is also back on the ice and working towards a return to action.
“Cal received treatments today, we don’t think it’s anything serious but it’s obviously something we don’t want to fool around with, he would be day-to-day,” McLellan said. “We’re not anticipating a long injury, but who knows… Durzi is getting close to joining our group, I assume, and he’s starting to extend his rehab into more contact. Arvidsson is doing really well, still some time and Turcotte is working hard to get back, he’s feeling better.”
Carl Grundstrom has played NHL games with the Kings now in four straight seasons, dating back to his debut with the club in 2018.
Acquired at the trade deadline from Toronto in January of that year, Grundstrom progressed quickly through the AHL ranks with Ontario to his NHL debut that March. He’s gone on to play games in every season since, but something he’s never done is feature among the 12 forwards in the lineup on opening night.
That appears set to change. Grundstrom has been given a regular place on a line with Blake Lizotte and Brendan Lemieux here early in training camp, setting the stage for Grundstrom to snap his streak and be selected for that lineup in the first game.
“I want to play every game, that’s my goal for this year,” he said earlier today. “That’s the goal at least, to prove that I can play in every game. Playing in the playoffs was a great experience and I’ll take a lot of that confidence with me into this season.”
That goal of 82 games begins with Game 1 and Grundstrom appears ready for the challenge.
Grundstrom put in some very useful minutes during the 2022 postseason, as he scored three times from six games played, often finding himself in the top six. He does have that goalscoring ability in him, and he’s showcased an offensive skillset in the AHL, but he’s also able to play a sandpaper style of hockey, blending hard work with physicality in a direct approach to the game.
McLellan has seen growth in Grundstrom during each of his now four training camps with the Kings, thinking back to the unfinished product he inherited back in 2019.
“In my mind, he has grown every year,” Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “There was a time really early, maybe three or four years ago, where I think he was very confident but maybe didn’t have all the tools yet to show that. Then, it’s hard to get it back sometimes.”
McLellan pointed to Grundstrom’s success in the high-pressure environment that the playoffs brought last season. He’s also seen growth and development from Grundstrom each and every year he’s coached him here with the Kings.
Typically, when Grundstrom was out of the lineup last season, it fell to circumstances outside of the players’ control. At least at the beginning of the season, that could change for the 24-year-old winger, potentially alongside Lizotte and Lemieux.
“I think he’s gotten better every year, he’s shown that he’s very capable of playing in high pressure situations, in the playoffs last year,” McLellan said. “Even leading up to that, yeah he wasn’t in the lineup for a couple of nights but there were other reasons for that. We think he can be a full-time player and be an effective full-time player.”
Later on this week, we’ll have a deeper look at the line of Lemieux, Lizotte and Grundstrom, including thoughts from all three players on their style of play, how they mesh with each other and their expectations for the season. As we saw last season, an effective and energetic fourth line can go a long way, driven by the established pairing of Lizotte and Lemieux.
Open Mikey Night
Last season marked the exhibition debuts of many players, including defenseman Mikey Anderson.
Yesterday evening in Las Vegas, Anderson partnered young Jordan Spence, who wound up as the game’s time-on-ice leader with more than 25 minutes played. In many ways, Anderson feels like the perfect partner for several of the team’s young defensemen, with his responsibility and mentality, although first and foremost, he’s proven to be an excellent complement for Drew Doughty on the team’s top defensive pair. As we get closer to the season, and the roster begins to take a clearer shape, that’s likely where Anderson will wind up.
Last night, however, was Anderson’s first test of the preseason as he prepares for opening night.
“It’s always hard jumping right back into it, after the first period you feel a little bit more comfortable,” Anderson said of his preseason debut. “It’s nice getting back into penalty kill situations, real life, game-like situations rather than just playing in the scrimmages. It’s more contact, more physicality, so it’s nice.”
Anderson figures to be an important part of the penalty kill, as he mentioned, and one sequence in particular stood out to me as an observer while a man down. Facing a dump in and a heavy forecheck, Anderson and Spence executed two passes that broke through the pressure and gave the Kings an easy, full-ice clear. A small play in a preseason contest, but an effective penalty kill is one that can prevent established entries and get quick clears. A good moment early on.
That’s a lot for Game 1, though.
Anderson discussed the focus points from the first game and getting back up to game speed, while he also spoke on a goal of trying to add more offense into his game. The former was certainly accomplished against the Golden Knights and he’s confident in being able to help out with the latter as well.
“The first game is usually tough to feel it right away it’s trying to get back up to game speed, but since last year, I’m trying to add more offense,” Anderson said. “I want to find more ways to be active and contribute if I can, I’ve done it before in the past, so I’m trying to get that back in into my game a little bit if I’m able to.”
The Juicy Podcast
Finally, a longer-form interview with forward Adrian Kempe, who joined the All The Kings Men podcast in an episode that dropped yesterday morning. Coming into training camp with newfound expectations, off of a 35-goal season and a new, four-year contract with the Kings, Kempe is determined to follow up on his success with another strong season.
We got our first glimpse of the man they call Juice in last night’s exhibition win over Vegas, with Kempe scoring the overtime game-winning goal on the power play. Full interview is available below –
Coming up later today, Ontario Reign contributor Jared Shafran will have a feature coming on reactions from players who have played with the AHL’s Reign on the upcoming preseason game tomorrow evening at Toyota Arena. While the game group has yet to be finalized, several players who are alums of the Reign will dress for the Kings tomorrow in familiar territory. Coming your way in a few hours time!