TRAINING CAMP: Left wings Dwight King and Jordan Nolan shared their thoughts about the coming season, as well as what playing in the American Hockey League during the lockout did for their conditioning and preparation for the NHL season. Also, defenseman prospect Thomas Hickey talked about his future in the weeks before he was claimed off waivers by the New York Islanders.
EL SEGUNDO, CA — Last season, forward Jeff Carter coming to the Los Angeles Kings from the Columbus Blue Jackets made all the headlines as being the lynch pin, at least from the player personnel aspect, to the Kings’ dominating run through the playoffs, on their way to their first Stanley Cup Championship in the 45-year history of the franchise.
But even though they didn’t get as much of the media exposure, just as important was the contributions of three rookies, left wings Dwight King and Jordan Nolan, along with defenseman Slava Voynov.
Each of them got to hoist the Stanley Cup, their names are now engraved on hockey’s Holy Grail, and they each had the opportunity to share the trophy with family and friends back home. But by that time, the National Hockey League lockout was in full swing.
When the time came for the 2012-13 season to begin, the three players careers took an unwanted diversion, due to the lockout. Indeed, instead of returning to the Los Angeles area for the Kings’ training camp, Nolan and Voynov joined the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League (Kings’ primary minor league affiliate), with King following them a few weeks later.
“After having a start like that to your NHL career, finishing off a season by winning the Stanley Cup, going back to the AHL was pretty disappointing,” Nolan told Frozen Royalty in an exclusive interview. “You want to start in the AHL, and you work hard to get to this point (playing in the NHL). It was a shame that there was a [lockout], but I’m happy to be back.”
“I didn’t know what to think, with the lockout,” added the 23-year-old native of Garden River, Ontario. “I went on, playing my game, but in the back of your head, you’re thinking, ‘it’s got to end soon.’ I worked hard to get to the NHL, and that’s where I want to be. But I was in the AHL, and I had to work hard to get back here.”
“It was tough, mentally, to go through [the lockout],” King told Frozen Royalty in an exclusive interview. “But overall, now that it’s settled, it’s a good feeling, and I’m ready to come in here.”
Indeed, both King and Nolan were disappointed to have to go back to the Monarchs and the AHL, especially after winning the Stanley Cup last season. But they had no choice in the matter, and they made the best of a bad situation.
“It was good, it was nice to be playing,” said King, who scored five goals and added twelve assists for 17 points, with a +4 plus/minus rating, and 13 penalty minutes in 28 games with the Monarchs this season. “I was awfully familiar with the whole situation. Being able to play with guys who were all looking to get better, and then, end up here, was huge for me. Our record could’ve been better while I was there, but overall, the experience was good.”
“Some of the guys who [did not play during the lockout] have played in [the NHL] for awhile, and are more comfortable,” said Nolan, who scored two goals and added four assists for six points, with a -3 rating and 21 penalty minutes in 21 games with Manchester this season. “But I’ve only played a couple of months, so I thought it would be better for myself to get myself back into the grind of playing games and practices, and then, coming here without [needing much of a] transition.”
“I worked on consistency, and keeping my game simple,” added Nolan. “That’s what got me in the lineup last year, and helped me contribute. That’s what I’m trying to do again this year. I have to earn my spot—it’s a tough lineup to make, so coming in here and working hard has some value.”
Like others who played during the lockout, King and Nolan are already in game shape.
“It’ll be nice not to [have to] start feeling it out again from square one,” Nolan remarked. “I’ll be right back in game shape, and at game speed.”
“I think there’s a lot of guys who wish they were in my shoes, [along with King and Voynov] to keep on top of our games,” Nolan added. “It’s going to help us in the long-run. Some guys could get off to a slow start, but we’ll be on top of our game.”
“No matter how old you are, you want to stay sharp,” King noted. “Being in Manchester, in one of the top leagues running while the lockout was going on, was definitely a good thing.”
Even though playing during the lockout gives them an advantage, in terms of conditioning and timing, Nolan believes it will only take a short time for the Kings to regain their form.
“Some guys looked a little sluggish out there, but these guys are professionals,” he said. “They’re in top shape. It might take’em a day or two [to get their legs and timing back], but they’ll be back in time for [the start of] the season.”
“Every team is in the same situation,” Nolan added. “Every team is going to be feeling the same out there, just getting their game going—it might take one or two games. But teams will be ready for that first game because they know how important it is.”
That said, there is virtually no room for error in an abbreviated season.
“In a short season, you don’t have as much time to make up ground if you fall behind the eight-ball,” King noted. “Focus and preparation is going to be a huge part of this season.”
“Guys getting their bodies ready this week will be a big thing for most teams, with injuries being [more prevalent among] those who haven’t been in game action for awhile,” King added.
Hickey Talks About His Future
As reported on January 16, defenseman prospect Thomas Hickey was claimed off of waivers by the New York Islanders.
Hickey was the Kings’ first round selection (fourth overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, but they were forced to place him on waivers before they could officially assign him to the Monarchs, now that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is in place.
In early November, Frozen Royalty spoke exclusively with Hickey, and asked him if he thought his road to the NHL might not go through Los Angeles, even though he had been drafted by the Kings.
“I couldn’t quite tell you that,” said Hickey. “I’ve said the same thing the past few years. I just want to play, and [I] want the opportunity, fully understanding that the organization recently won the Stanley Cup, and that makes things tougher.”
“I don’t know what the future is going to hold, I don’t know what they plan,” added Hickey. “I just want to play. If I get the opportunity with [the Kings], it would be great. If not, you hope to get [to the NHL] somewhere.”
“It’s something where you’re just looking for an opportunity. If you can get that chance, and prove yourself, then you’re worthy to play. I’m just looking for that opportunity. I think I’d do very well if I got that chance.”
“Somewhere,” for now, anyway, is the Islanders. But for Hickey, as it is for every NHL prospect, it is all about opportunity, and it is not like he didn’t want it to come from the Kings.
“You could hand-pick and say it would be easier to play here or there, [but] the bottom line is that you play the hand you’re dealt, and that’s the team that just won the Stanley Cup,” he noted. “Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”
“It’s definitely a challenge,” he added. “You want to be part of it, so you can’t look at the numbers. You just wait for your chance, and understand that for every organization, every player, there’s different opportunities everywhere. You just have to make the most of it.”
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Dwight King (3:16)
Jordan Nolan (3:01)
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- LA Kings Training Camp Update – Day 2: Kopitar Tests His Knee, Stewart Arrives From Carolina
- LA Kings Open Short Training Camp Ahead of Abbreviated Season
- LA Kings’ Jordan Nolan Honors Family, Community Back Home In Garden River With Stanley Cup
- LA Kings Winger Dwight King Maintaining Positive Attitude With AHL’s Manchester Monarchs
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