EL SEGUNDO, CA — With the Los Angeles Kings having been so keenly focused on amateur scouting and drafting young players since Dean Lombardi took over as President/General Manager on April 21, 2006, the team now has a stable full of talented prospects.
Indeed, no matter what position you look at, the Kings have skilled, young players who are developing in Canadian junior leagues, in collegiate hockey, and at the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League.
On the offensive side of the ledger, the Kings have a few forward prospects who lit up Canadian junior hockey, finishing among the top scorers in their respective leagues, if not leading all junior leagues in scoring.
One of those prospects, right wing Linden Vey, finished the 2010-11 season as the top scorer in the Canadian Hockey League, which encompasses all Canadian junior hockey leagues, scoring 46 goals and added 70 assists for 116 points with a +37 plus/minus rating and 36 penalty minutes in 69 regular season games with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League.
In the playoffs, Vey scored twelve goals and tallied 13 assists for 25 points with eight penalty minutes.
Last season was a breakout year for the 6-0, 181-pound native of Wakaw, Saskatchewan, compared to his 24 goals and 51 assists for 75 points in 72 regular season games in 2009-10.
Vey’s 2010-11 post-season numbers were also a big improvement over the previous year, when he scored just two goals with six assists for eight points in twelve playoff games.
Selected by the Kings in the fourth round (96th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Vey said the biggest reason for his improvement last season was added strength and better conditioning.
“Last summer, I spent a lot of time training with [Kings strength and conditioning coach] Tim [Adams] here in Los Angeles, and I think that was one of the things that benefitted me the most,” said Vey who was in Southern California in July for the Kings’ 2011 Development Camp. “I had always struggled a little bit with my conditioning and strength. Last season, I think I took big strides in that department, and it helped me to be more consistent throughout the year.”
“Being in better shape, I could play each and every night,” added Vey. “When we had three games in three nights, I could play at a high level each night, [as opposed] to a couple of seasons before, I’d have a good first game, but then I’d have to take the next couple of games slower.”
“When you’re in [good physical] condition, you can play more consistently throughout the whole season.”
As stated earlier, Vey’s 2010-11 numbers were not only the high mark for the WHL, but he led the entire CHL in scoring. But, as far as he is concerned, that is old news.
“[The CHL scoring title is] something you don’t think about too much,” he stressed. “Last year is done with. Now I’ve got to focus on the upcoming season. This is a big summer for me, training-wise. I want to make the jump to pro hockey, and I know I have to enjoy last season, but make sure to put that behind me and start getting ready for next year.”
Vey, 20, played four seasons with Medicine Hat (plus two regular season games in 2006-07), and has reached the age limit for Canadian junior leagues. Although he could play an over-age year with Medicine Hat, given what he has already accomplished during his junior career, the Kings are virtually guaranteed to have him play within their system, either with the Monarchs, or with their ECHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign.
In either case, Vey said that, in addition to other aspects of his game, like last summer, he must focus on his strength and conditioning once again this summer. To that end, he will do some strength and conditioning work in Minnesota, before returning to Los Angeles for more training with Adams.
“It’s a big thing for me to work on my strength,” said Vey. “I’ve always struggled a bit with that. I’ve got to make sure to get stronger.”
“There’s nothing you can’t get better at,” added Vey. “You’ve always got to keep improving as you move up. I’ve got to make sure that I improve in all aspects of my game this summer. I’ve got to be a well-rounded player, someone who’s able to play in all areas of the rink. Just to be able to play in the NHL one day, it doesn’t matter what role you’re in. You just want to be able to put on that Kings uniform and be a part of the team.”
As in Toffoli’s case, Vey used the snub as motivation.
“It gave me extra motivation to go out there and work harder in the second half [of last season],” Vey noted. “I knew that I didn’t have the best camp I could when I went to the World Junior camp.”
“You can’t let those things affect what’s going on in your season,” he added. “You just have to push through, put it behind you, and use it as motivation. Every kid in Canada wants to play on that team, but there’s only twenty spots. You have to make sure that when you go to those things, you have to play well.”
“You don’t really worry about [things like] that. You can’t control [them]. The only thing you can control is what you do on the ice, and how you prepare. That’s what I focused on. All those other things are not up to you. I just have to stay focused. My dream is to play in the NHL one day. I just have to keep improving, one day at a time.”
Something else Vey shares with Toffoli…a very special role model.
“There’s a lot of guys you look up to, and you take things from each [of them],” Vey emphasized. “I just like the way [Pittsburgh Penguins superstar center] Sidney Crosby plays. He’s got that competitive edge, and he’s a guy who can play in every situation.”
“You want to be that kind of guy,” Vey added. “Not everybody’s got the skill that Sidney Crosby’s got, but his work ethic is pretty amazing.”
Vey also has some extra incentive to make it to Los Angeles as soon as possible…getting out of the icy cold back home.
“In Saskatchewan, where I grew up, the winters are a little tough,” he explained. “When you get the -40 degree weather, it’s not much fun.”
“I think I could handle the weather here [in Southern California]. I don’t think it’s too hard to adjust to this kind of weather.”
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