EL SEGUNDO, CA — Just before the end of the 2012-13 regular season for the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, the primary minor league affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, Frozen Royalty spoke exclusively with right wing prospect Brandon Kozun.
That interview was an eye opener due to Kozun displaying a maturity level that the media covering the Kings had never seen before, and that lack of maturity earlier in the 23-year-old’s career had proven to be a big obstacle in his path towards advancement.
“Often times, the smaller players who score in the leagues below [the AHL]—they’ve got to learn humility, they’ve got to learn patience,” Monarchs head coach Mark Morris said about Kozun in January 2012. “Sometimes your egos get bruised when you’re playing in a league where guys are bigger, stronger, and intense. It gets frustrating for a guy that things came easy to at lower levels.”
“He sure was sure of himself when he started, and I think a lot of people [on the team] took that the wrong way,” Morris added in that April 2013 interview. “I’ve had a lot of talks with him over time. He’s become a better listener. I think he’s trying to figure me out. He’s trying to figure out how I can get this guy to believe in me.”
“He’s seen other players [including those younger than himself] get what he’s after, and I’m probably harder on him because I know what it’s going to take for him to turn the corner and really allow him to reach the heights that he knows he can. He knows, in his own mind, which is a great attribute, that he has enough skill to play at the NHL level.”
As that April 2013 story indicated, Kozun has taken some big steps towards seeing the light.
“There was a lot of tough love at the beginning [from Morris], but it made me grow up a lot, as a person, and start to realize that there are a lot of things in my game that I need to work on, and every year, I’m getting better and better,” Kozun said on September 6, during the Kings’ 2013 Rookie Camp. “Hopefully, if I get a chance, I can show that.”
If you rewind back a couple of years, Kozun would have had a very different mindset, one that did not have the concept of team firmly in mind. But now, instead of focusing solely on himself, he’s talking about his teammates, and being a leader for the younger prospects.
“Playing in the American league for a couple of years now, you realize that it’s a bigger stage, and there’s going to be a lot of people watching,” Kozun noted. “You want to make the players around you better. That’s the sign of a good player, that you can play with anyone and make them better.”
“I’m trying to go into these [rookie] games as more of a leader,” Kozun added. “I’ve been around for a couple of years, so maybe I can help the other guys out, and show what I can do.”
Another indication of the sea change in Kozun’s mindset is that once the top line for the rookie games against the Anaheim Ducks on September 7 and 9 was determined to be Tanner Pearson, Linden Vey and Tyler Toffoli, Kozun shrugged it off.
“I’m not worried about that,” said Kozun. “Those guys are unbelievable together. They have great chemistry. I’m just going to go out there, and do my best, work hard, and see what I can do with it.”
With the Kings training camp opening on September 11 (on-ice sessions begin on September 12), even though he knows the odds are against him, his goal is to make the Kings roster.
“Coming into a camp, you want to have the attitude that you’re going to try to make the team,” he stressed. “If you come in with the attitude, ‘I’m just here to have fun,’ that’s probably not the right thing.”
“I’m a competitive guy, and I want to play in the NHL, but at the same time, you try to soak up as much information as you can, and try to become a better player,” he added.
Kozun was signed to a one-year contract on June 19, 2013, a two-way deal that will pay him $600,000/season at the NHL level, and $55,000/season at the AHL level. But as Frozen Royalty discussed with him last April, his road to the NHL, should he ever improve enough to get there, might not go through Los Angeles.
Indeed, with right wings like Jeff Carter and Justin Williams firmly entrenched on the Kings’ first and second lines, Kozun, who is ill-suited to a checking role due to his 5-8, 162-pound stature, has almost zero chance to make the Kings’ 2013-14 roster. As such, barring a trade, the Kings would try to assign him to the Monarchs. But Kozun must clear waivers in order for that to happen, and the chances are good that another NHL team would claim him off of waivers—the Kings would lose him without compensation.
Despite having that strong possibility looming over his head, Kozun emphasized that he is not worried about that.
“I’m not even thinking about that,” he noted. “It’s part of the business. At the end of the day, hockey is a business. You can’t think about those things. You have to separate the on-ice from the off-ice, and just go about your business.”
“I’m just here to soak everything in, show them what I can do, and play my game.”
Video Interview With Brandon Kozun via FrozenRoyaltyNHL on YouTube
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Frozen Royalty’s Brandon Kozun Coverage
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- LA Kings Right Wing Prospect Brandon Kozun Is Not Allowing His Size To Be An Obstacle
- Los Angeles Kings Forward Prospects Brandon Kozun and Linden Vey Face Similar Challenges
- LA Kings Right Wing Prospect Brandon Kozun Is Finally Growing Up
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