Looking Back, Looking Ahead With Los Angeles Kings Forward Prospect Linden Vey

2012 DEVELOPMENT CAMP EXCLUSIVE: The Los Angeles Kings 2012 Development Camp for their young prospects begins today, at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California. Frozen Royalty begins its coverage with a look at forward Linden Vey’s 2011-12 season with the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate.

Forward prospect Linden Vey, shown here during the
Los Angeles Kings 2011 Development Camp at the
Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California,
July 11-12, 2011.
Photo: Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.net
LOS ANGELES — The young prospects of the Los Angeles Kings hit the ice for the first time today at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California, for Day One of the team’s annual Development Camp.

The Development Camp runs through Tuesday, July 10, with three on-ice sessions each day (schedule and camp roster available below).

For one camp veteran, forward prospect Linden Vey, who scored 19 goals and added 24 assists for 43 points in 74 regular season games for the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League in 2011-12, this is a time to push harder on his strength and conditioning regimen.

Indeed, one of the knocks on Vey while he was in playing in the Western Hockey League with the Medicine Hat Tigers was his strength and conditioning. That contributed to him dropping way down in the pre-draft rankings, and he ended being selected by the Kings in the fourth round (96th overall), in the 2009 National Hockey League Entry Draft.

“I had always struggled a little bit with my conditioning and strength,” Vey told the media last summer. “[In the 2010-11] season, I think I took big strides in that department, and it helped me to be more consistent throughout the year.”

That season, Vey was so consistent that he won the scoring title 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.

“Being in better shape, I could play each and every night,” said 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,” added Vey.

This summer will be crucial to the 21-year-old native of Wakaw, Saskatchewan, and his efforts to add strength and increase his stamina.

“They said that I really need to bear down on [the strength and conditioning] work,” the 6-0, 183-pound Vey told Frozen Royalty in an exclusive interview. “The unfortunate thing for me is that I got a little bit of a later start on that.”

“I didn’t start focusing on training until I was 18 years old (the year he was drafted),” Vey added. “I just need a couple of good summers, and I really need to bear down the next two years.”

As young players moving up through the ranks so often say, as you move up to the next level, the players are bigger, stronger and faster, something that has been a challenge for Vey at the AHL level.

“You’re going up against guys who are 6-3, 6-4, 6-5, who are 220 or 230 pounds, and you’ve got to win battles against them,” said Vey, who is not one of the bigger players, at 6-0, 183 pounds. “You have to make sure that you work even harder in the gym.”

Having to face players who are bigger, stronger and faster on a consistent basis for the first time in his career was not the only challenge.

“It was a transition from junior to pro hockey,” he noted. “I didn’t have the start I wanted to. It took me awhile to get used to [it]. [But] I got better as the year went on, and that’s something positive I can take into next season.”

“It’s a big jump [up to] pro hockey,” he added. “I had a few things to learn, coming out of junior, [such as] playing better in my own end—in all three zones. That’s the reason I didn’t play as much as I wanted to at the start [of the season]. I need to work on some things in my own end, and get a little sharper, and more reliable, so the coaches can trust me.”

In December 2011 and January 2012, the Monarchs were hit by several injuries, forcing head coach Mark Morris to shuffle his lineup around. That gave Vey an opportunity to see things from a different perspective.

“He’s made some real nice improvements,” Morris told Frozen Royalty during an exclusive interview in January 2012. “His big jump in improvements happened when he moved from center to wing. He couldn’t handle the defensive end in the early going, but, because of injuries, he’s been put back at his normal position.”

“When he got on the wing, he was afforded an opportunity to get his offensive game in order,” Morris added. “[Then, when] he moved back to the center position, he had a better understanding of the responsibilities down low. He’s still working on that, but he’s vastly improved.”

“It took me awhile to figure out [his defensive responsibilities],” said Vey. “But I set a goal to get better every day, and I just worked at it. By the end of the season, I was playing a lot more, and in a lot more situations.”

“That’s all you can ask for, to get better each and every day,” added Vey. “If your goal is to, one day, play in the NHL, you have to make sure that you improve, and never stop getting better. You always want to work hard, keep improving, and make sure that you’re doing everything you can to, one day, make the Kings [roster].”

Another challenge for Vey, who added two goals and four assists for six points in four playoff games with the Monarchs this past season, was the transition from teenager to adult—the sudden change came as a big of a shock, even though he had sought the advice of others, and had an idea of what to expect at the AHL level.

“The biggest [surprise] for me was that being on your own is a totally different aspect than in junior, where you’ve got your billets, and your family close by, so it’s a lot different,” he said. “You have to take care of yourself a lot more. The food you eat, managing your time—it’s a lot different from junior [hockey].”

“[At the professional level], you’re off on your own, and you’ve got to be a pro,” he added. “That’s what they talk about a lot around the Kings organization—the way you handle yourself, not only on the ice, but off the ice as well. You have to make sure you take care of yourself, keeping yourself in good condition, minding the food you eat, and getting lots of rest.”

“At the start, I wasn’t ready for that. I was used to having a good support system, but then, all of a sudden, you’re off on your own. You have to take care of yourself. It’s an adjustment. It’s something I got a lot better at throughout the year.”

Vey has picked up a few pointers from some of the more experienced Monarchs players.

“One guy I learned a lot from was [center] Marc-André Cliche,” said Vey. “He’s a guy who works hard, not only on the ice, but off the ice. He’s a model of consistency. He plays the same game, every night.”

“He’ll do anything for our team,” added Vey. “He the guy who comes up big in big games. There’s a reason he’s our captain, and a guy you can definitely look up to.”

At this year’s Development Camp, Vey will be one of the “older” players, participating in his third Development Camp.

“I’m one of the older guys this year, for the [Development] Camp [and the upcoming Rookie Camp],” he noted. “You want to lead by example, just because you’ve been around, and you know what to expect.”

At 21 years of age, Vey is a very, very young player. Despite that, he showed some maturity when asked, “if you could pick one thing as a highlight of his season, what would it be?”

Rather than talk about some personal achievement, Vey did not hesitate to deflect the discussion towards something the Monarchs accomplished, as as team.

“It would have to be that last weekend when we won our last three games,” said Vey. “Our backs were against the wall. You want to make the playoffs, and we had to win our last three games if we wanted to get in there. We played three really good teams [that] we’d struggled with all year, and to come out with three wins in three nights, that was pretty special for us.”

Speaking of playoff hockey, Vey was one of a more than a dozen players who were recalled, either from the Monarchs, or their junior teams, to be with the Kings here in the Los Angeles area during much of their playoff run.

“It’s a pretty special feeling to be there, to be part of the atmosphere,” he explained. “When they came out, onto the ice for the playoff games, it sent shivers through your body, with the excitement in the building, and thinking about the feelings the players must have. I know I was excited, and I was just watching.”

“It’s something you want to be a part of one day,” he elaborated. “To win the Cup is a pretty special feeling for them. One day, I hope to have a chance to feel that way. The Stanley Cup is a tough trophy [to win]. It’s 82 games, and a long playoff run. What the Kings had to go through to do that—the playoff run they had was pretty special.”

Things are certainly different for the Kings as a whole after winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in the 45-year history of the franchise, and that will be felt throughout their organization, right down to their prospects down on the farm.

“Just to be a part of the organization, a winning franchise, you have nothing but excitement,” said Vey. “You hope, one day, to be in their shoes.”

“As a player, there’s no better feeling than winning. Just knowing that you can be part of a winning franchise is pretty special.”

2012 Development Camp Schedule (all times Pacific Daylight)

All sessions are free, and are open to the public

Friday, July 6
Forwards – 8:00 AM; Defensemen/Goalies – 9:40 AM; Both Groups – 3:15 PM

Saturday, July 7
Defensemen/Goalies – 8:00 AM; Forwards – 9:40 AM; Both Groups – 3:15 PM

Sunday, July 8
Forwards – 8:00 AM; Defensemen/Goalies – 9:40 AM; Both Groups – 3:15 PM

Monday, July 9
Defensemen/Goalies – 8:00 AM; Forwards – 9:40 AM; Both Groups – 3:15 PM

Tuesday, July 10
Forwards – 8:00 AM; Defensemen/Goalies – 9:40 AM; Both Groups – 3:15 PM

You can download a printable copy of the camp roster here.

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