LOS ANGELES — As reported in this space on October 15, the Los Angeles Kings have three, young forward prospects who are knocking on the door, just one player personnel move, or one injury, away from cracking the big club’s roster.
One of those players is 22-year-old, 6-0, 200-pound forward Linden Vey, who was selected by the Kings in the fourth round (96th overall) of the 2009 National Hockey League Entry Draft.
Vey, now in his third season with the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, was drafted as a right wing, but has played at center since last season, when his line, which included Kings prospects Tyler Toffoli on right wing, and Tanner Pearson on the left side, lit up the AHL.
“All three of us are back together,” Vey said, prior to this weekend’s games, when his line is expected to have defenseman-converted-to-forward Nicolas Deslauriers on left wing instead. “It’s kind of nice that we’ve had a year together. Hopefully, we’ll have a really good year this year.”
“It’s kind of a challenge,” Vey added. “We’ve come down here where we had a good year last year. We want to make sure to improve on that.”
Pearson will undoubtedly return to the left wing spot on the line with Toffoli and Vey, eventually, perhaps even this weekend. But in the meantime, like the rest of his fellow Kings prospects, Vey needs to remain focused on the task at hand, and like so many young prospects, his biggest challenge is his defensive play.
“Linden has a great gift to see things on the offensive side, and he has a high hockey IQ,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “As soon as he embraces the defensive game to the level that he needs to, the sooner he’ll be enjoying time on an airplane, instead of riding on a bus.”
“He’s a good person,” added Morris. “He works best with other players who think the game the way he does, and I think that sometimes, he gets a little frustrated that I’m going to demand that he plays defense first. But that’s the way it works. The better you defend, the more you’re going to have the puck on your stick, and that’s a challenge for guys who have led their leagues in scoring, and guys who have had a lot of accolades.”
“When you face situations where you’re being reminded about your defensive responsibilities, sometimes it’s not as flowery as you’d like it to be.”
Vey led all Canadian major junior hockey leagues in scoring in the 2010-11 season, scoring 46 goals and adding 70 assists for 116 points in 69 regular season games with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League. But he did that without having to pay much attention to playing defense.
“Junior hockey, especially where I played, [in the Western Hockey League], is a lot of run-and-gun,” he explained. “You can get away with a lot of cheating, offensively, and not playing so well in the defensive zone, because you can make up for it. But when you get to the pro ranks, if you make one bad turnover, if you cheat, you give the other team a chance to score, and they’re going to put it in your net.”
“The biggest thing for me, the last two years, was working on that—being on the right side of the puck, and it’s really helped me on the offensive side of the game,” he elaborated.
When he was assigned to the Monarchs from the Kings training camp back in September, the Kings coaching staff also focused on his defensive play, but indicated that they like the progress he has made.
“All they said was that you’ve got to keep improving, that you’ve come a long way, especially in the defensive zone,” said Vey. “But if you want play in the NHL and make an impact, you’ve got to make sure that all parts of your game are well-rounded.”
Over the past two seasons, Vey has become increasingly aware of that fact that he must improve his defensive play, and while in the Kings’ training camp last month, he watched the Kings centers closely.
“You just look at where [center Anze Kopitar] plays,” Vey marveled. “He’s got so much skill—he’s one of the best offensive players in the league, yet he’s so reliable defensively. That’s the reason L.A. is so good, because their best players are guys you can put out in every situation.”
Indeed, Kopitar is one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL, one worthy of consideration for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, awarded annually to the best defensive forward in the NHL, certainly a player that a younger player can learn a lot from.
“If you look at who’s on [the ice] at the end of a game, when they need a goal, or if they’re up a goal, it’s the same players,” Vey emphasized. “Guys like Kopitar can play in every zone. He’s so reliable at both ends of the ice.”
“If you look at [centers] like [Jarret] Stoll, [Mike] Richards and Kopitar, their games are so well-rounded,” Vey added. “They can play in all situations. That’s the type of player I want to be. I want to be a guy who can play in every situation.”
Another aspect of the game that Vey is working on is assuming a leadership role.
“He’s a young guy with some incredible gifts,” Morris noted. “He makes things happen for us here in Manchester. He sees things that most people don’t. We had a discussion recently where he told me, ‘I’d like to be a leader. I’m hoping to be a better listener now, and I respect that your job is to teach me to be a better defender, and I know that’s going to get me where I need to go.’”
Morris’ comments about Vey point to a marked increase in his maturity, and may be a reason that Vey was named as an alternate captain for the Monarchs this season.
“Now, what it boils down to is him just being the guy, and being the type of player who’s going to make those around him better,” said Morris.
Frozen Royalty’s Linden Vey Coverage
- Pearson, Toffoli, And Vey Are Still Dealing With The Sting Of Not Making LA Kings Roster
- LA Kings Forward Prospect Linden Vey Is On The Right Side of the Puck In Second Season With Manchester Monarchs
- Los Angeles Kings Forward Prospects Brandon Kozun and Linden Vey Face Similar Challenges
- Los Angeles Kings Right Wing Prospect Linden Vey’s Goal Is To Get Out Of The Cold
- Down On The Farm With The Manchester Monarchs: Departures Create Opportunities
- Frozen Royalty Audio: Phoenix Coyotes vs. Los Angeles Kings – Rookie Tournament 2011, Game 2
- Frozen Royalty Audio: 2011 Los Angeles Kings Development Camp – Part 1
- LA Kings 2009 Draft Goes As Planned
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