EL SEGUNDO, CA — Wiry but rugged right wing Wayne Simmonds turned a lot of heads at the Los Angeles Kings’ 2007-08 training camp after being selected in the second round (61st overall) of the 2008 National Hockey League Entry Draft. Almost one year later, he turned heads again at the team’s annual Development Camp last month.
Standing out at the camp comes as no surprise, given Simmonds’ performance in training camp last season as well as his improvement in junior hockey.
To illustrate, in the 2006-07 season, his first in the Ontario Hockey League, Simmonds scored 23 goals and added 26 assists for 49 points in 66 games with 112 penalty minutes for the Owen Sound Attack.
But last season, Simmonds turned on the jets while splitting time with Owen Sound and the Sault Ste. Marie (Soo) Greyhounds, also in the OHL.
In 31 games with Owen Sound, Simmonds scored 16 goals and added 20 assists for 36 points with 68 penalty minutes. After being traded to the Greyhounds, Simmonds scored 17 goals and tallied 22 assists for 39 points with 43 penalty minutes in 29 games.
In all, Simmonds scored 33 goals and 42 assists for 75 points with 111 penalty minutes last season, a 26-point improvement over his 2006-07 season.
To be sure, Simmonds plays a physical style, but he is certainly not a one-dimensional forward.
“I’m just full intensity,” said Simmonds. “If I can get a lick on you, I’ll get a lick on you, but I think I’ve got a little bit of a finesse game at the same time.”
Despite his improvement last season, Simmonds still has a lot to work on.
“I’ve been working hard all year long on parts of my game that I think are weaker,” said Simmonds. “I’ve been getting better at certain things. I’ve been working on puck protection skills and going through the neutral zone with the puck and not stick-handling as much.”
His work on his game notwithstanding, Simmonds might have a problem because he plays a rugged, physical style, but does not have the size to do that at the NHL level.
Indeed, when you look at Simmonds without his hockey gear, the word “skinny” comes immediately to mind. Clearly, getting stronger and adding bulk to his 6-1, 162-pound frame has to be the Kings’ biggest concern. In fact, one look at Simmonds makes one wonder if he can bulk up enough.
“The main focus has been to get bigger and stronger” he said. “I’ve put on a little weight and I got a bit faster.”
Assuming Simmonds can bulk up and get stronger, he would be a welcome addition to the Kings, who have often been pushed around in games over the last few seasons because they have lacked skilled forwards who play with an aggressive, physical edge and can effectively stand up for their teammates.
To be sure, Simmonds is no stranger to dropping the gloves.
“It’s part of my game,” he said. “The aggressiveness comes naturally to me. I don’t really go looking for it, but if it presents itself, I’m not shy.”
Next season, Simmonds is likely to wind up with the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate. However, even though he is twenty years old, he could find himself back in the OHL.
“I have an over-age year in the OHL, but next year, I’m eligible to play in Manchester,” said Simmonds.
But like all young prospects, Simmonds is hoping to make the Kings’ lineup out of training camp, which starts on September 20.
“I think I’d benefit more playing at the pro level against men who are bigger and stronger,” said Simmonds. “It would be better for me to get used to that. But I’m just going to come into camp focused. I’m going to work as hard as I can and see where that takes me.”
“It would be nice to make the team, that would be a thrill. But whereever they put me I’ll be happy.”
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