Rookie Left Wing Dwight King Has Been Quite The Surprise For Los Angeles Kings

FROZEN ROYALTY EXCLUSIVE: Left wing prospect Dwight King, who turned heads for all the wrong reasons during a brief stint with the Los Angeles Kings last season, is doing so once again this season, but with dramatically different results.

Los Angeles Kings left wing Dwight King is turning
heads with some surprisingly solid play.
Photo: David Sheehan
EL SEGUNDO, CA — Left wing prospect Dwight King was recalled by the Los Angeles Kings on November 16, 2010, and made his National Hockey League debut the next night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

But after a less-than-remarkable six-game stint with the Kings last season, one in which he generally looked lost, and like he did not belong on NHL ice, he found himself back with the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate, where he would remain for the rest of the season.

After that poor showing with the Kings, which was not entirely unexpected for a prospect who was a fourth round draft pick (109th overall, 2007 NHL Entry Draft) who was never thought to be a highly-skilled sniper or playmaker, King was written off by many as a prospect who would likely never be more than that…a prospect.

With the Kings adding some talent up front over the summer, King was not going to make the big club’s roster out of training camp this past October, and wound up back in Manchester. But he made the best of things, scoring eleven goals and tallying 18 assists for 29 points, while earning a +6 plus/minus rating with twenty penalty minutes in fifty games.

Perhaps more important, he was effective on the forecheck, and was solid on defense, and when it was apparent that the Kings needed a player who could provide energy and solid forechecking, King got a phone call on February 10, learning that he had been recalled.

Since then, King has played in 14 games with the Kings, scoring three goals and adding five assists for eight points, with a +3 rating and two penalty minutes. Moreover, his play, especially on the forecheck, has earned him the right to play on the Kings’ second line, with center Mike Richards and right wing Jeff Carter.

That is certainly a huge change from the player he was last season.

“There’s a little growth, as a player, understanding the game a bit more, understanding what things you can do out there to be more effective in certain situations,” the 22-year-old 6-3, 234-pound left wing noted. “That’s just a part of developing.”

“You grow as a player, but that was over a year ago,” King added, shortly after his recall. “The mental aspect of the game…that was the biggest thing, knowing how to prepare myself for every game, every shift, and to focus more on the little intangibles. So far, that’s been working well for me.”

“You hear people say [the game] eventually slows down, and they become accustomed to the league. But I think it’s just that, as a player, you adapt to the situations. You know [what to do] in the situations you have in front of you. That’s a part of [having gained] experience.”

King assisted on Carter’s go-ahead goal late in the second period on March 10 at Chicago, after winning a loose puck battle along the left corner boards.

“I got the puck, and I was trying to see where Mike was going,” King explained. “I was going to try to get him the puck, but I couldn’t find him, so I dumped it in, and tried to create a loose puck for my line mates, and I got it back, off the wall.”

King won a critical loose puck battle, with the puck going to Richards, who passed to Carter in the slot for the goal.

“Getting pucks back off the forecheck is the goal,” said King. “The more opportunities [you have] to do it, the better you get at it, and the better the results get.”

After off-ice workouts on March 11, Richards explained why King has been a big surprise.

“He’s so strong on the puck, and he protects it so well, that he buys you time to get to places that you need to be, especially when the game is as fast as it was last night [at Chicago],” said Richards. “He holds the puck, he protects the puck.”

“For a young player, in the situation that he’s in, playing against a lot of the top lines, the confidence he has with the puck, in making plays, and in being in the right position, is something a lot of people overlook,” added Richards. “He’s a very smart player. I think how simple he keeps [his game], and how much confidence he has in himself to get to those places, and [how well he knows his game are] the biggest things for him.”

“His hockey IQ is so high, he just knows where he needs to be on the ice, and knows what plays he has to [make]. Rarely do you see him make a mistake. When you play against top lines, that’s what you need to do—just keep it simple. When you try to do too much, that’s when you start getting in trouble. He just keeps it simple, and it’s effective.”

King’s defensive play has also raised some eyebrows.

“He doesn’t give up anything defensively,” Richards noted. “He’s not taking those chances, and he really does what he needs to do against those top lines. He has that confidence in himself to make those plays, and hold [onto] those pucks. He doesn’t turn pucks over when he has the puck in the neutral zone.”

“I think it’s just his presence on the ice,” said center Anze Kopitar. “He’s a really smart player. He makes strong plays all over the ice, and he’s really responsible. That’s all you want from a call-up like that.”

Kopitar pointed to the fact that not only is King playing against the opponent’s top forward lines quite often, but he is also up against their top defensive pairs.

“He’s been put into a pretty difficult situation, too, and it’s not easy for a guy like Dwight,” Kopitar stressed. “He played [with the Kings] last year for a few games, but this year, he’s handled it very well. He’s playing very [well] for us.”

“He sensed what it takes last year, a little bit, so I think he’s a lot more comfortable now, than he was last year,” Kopitar added. “There’s no easing in for him, too, because we need points, and we need wins. Everything is on the line. He’s playing big minutes for us. We need him to keep playing like he is.”

King is certainly taking advantage of the opportunity to fill in as a top six forward with the Kings, taking the place of skilled left wing Simon Gagne, who remains out of the lineup due to symptoms of post-concussion syndrome, and because of the demotion of left wing Dustin Penner, who has been incapable of contributing offensively.

Going forward, although he has not looked out of place, King does not appear to have the potential to be a first or second line winger in the NHL, and is likely destined to play in an energy/checking role, assuming he makes it to the NHL to stay.

But for now, King is concentrating on what got him to the NHL a little over a month ago.

“[I want to] continue to work hard, get in on the forecheck, and do the little things, so I can be a bit of a spark out there,” he said. “Those would be the keys for myself.”

“The main thing is that as long as you work out there, you usually create a little more opportunities for yourself, and that’s all I’ve been focusing on.”

Raw Audio Interviews: Los Angeles Kings Off-Ice Workout, March 12, 2012

(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed)

Dwight King (3:33)

Mike Richards (4:16)

Anze Kopitar (5:06)

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Tickets for the Kings’ upcoming home games against the Detroit Red Wings (March 13, 7:30 PM – Red Wings vs. Kings), the Nashville Predators (March 17, 7:30 PM – Predators vs. Kings), as well as for other games on their schedule, are available from Barry’s Tickets, an official partner of the Los Angeles Kings. Use the code, “Royalty010” to get a 10 percent discount on their “Best Value” tickets.

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