LOS ANGELES AND EL SEGUNDO, CA — Over the years, most hockey fans have probably read or heard their share of stories about a young player making his National Hockey League debut, probably enough to think that it’s not a big deal.
Indeed, in the grand scheme of things, a player making his NHL debut pales in comparison to many of the stories we see, read and hear in the news. But make no mistake…it still is a big deal, no question about it.
To be sure, when you consider the fact that a minuscule number of young players from all over the world ever get close to making it to the NHL, it is a blessed event when one does, a cause for celebration, something that young Los Angeles Kings forward Linden Vey was doing, albeit in rather subdued fashion, after making his NHL debut in a 2-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres on November 7 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“I was glad that it was at home, in front of the fans at Staples Center,” said the 22-year-old, 6-0, 200-pound native of Wakaw, Saskatchewan. “It’s something I’ll never forget. It was a pretty special time, for myself, and for my family as well.”
Vey had to shake off the usual NHL-debut jitters during his first shift of the game.
“The first shift was a little tough, but I think you realize that you’re finally playing in your first [NHL] game, and as the game went on, I felt a little more comfortable,” he noted.
“You’re in the moment, so it’s a little different,” he added. “I told myself that I was going to try my best to stay focused, but the hardest thing when you’re playing your first [NHL] game is to stay focused. At the same time, it’s just another hockey game. You have to go out there and play. But it’s tough when you’re that excited.”
To try to ease him in and help him control his emotions, the coaches tried to control the situations he was placed in.
“We tried to put him in opportunities to succeed, so we put him on the power play, and penalty-killing, which we talked to him about this summer,” said head coach Darryl Sutter.
“He played seven-and-a-half minutes at even strength,” added Sutter. “He had some trouble in his own zone on just about every shift. But he was good when he had the puck.”
Controlling the situations Vey was placed in was also intended to prop up his confidence.
“I was lucky the coaches threw me out there in all situations—penalty-kill, power play,” said Vey, who was selected by the Kings in the fourth round (96th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. “They kind of showed a lot of trust in me. That’s a big confidence booster going into your first game.”
Vey indicated that it did not take long for him to notice the higher level of play compared to the American Hockey League.
“The difference between the American league and here is that guys are in such better position,” said Vey, who scored three goals and added eight assists for eleven points in ten games with the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL, before being called up by the Kings on November 2. “In the American league, guys run around a little bit, but here, everyone’s in the right position. It’s a lot easier to play in your own end—the communication with the defense is a lot better here.”
“It’s a step up, [playing] against guys in their mid-to-late-20’s and early 30’s,” added Vey. “The strength—they’re a little bit bigger here.”
Although Sutter offered a mixed review of Vey’s performance, Vey seems to be focused on the positives.
“I think [his performance in the game against Buffalo] was all right,” Vey noted. “For the first one, it’s just taking it day-by-day. I’m just glad to get the first one in, and hopefully, there will be more to come.”
“That was my first game. I want to build off that.”
A former Monarchs and current Kings teammate was thrilled to see one of his peers earn the right to set foot on NHL ice in a game for the first time.
“It was exciting,” said Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin. “I’ve been watching Vey, and playing with him for two years down in Manchester. His development has been huge. He’s a really, really skilled player. He sees the ice well, and he’s got great vision. To see him last night, in his first [NHL] game, was really exciting for me, and it was exciting for him.”
“He handled it well,” added Muzzin. “He was pretty confident and calm. He knows he’s got the skill. He was good [on Thursday] night.”
Vey tried to make it just another game, but few young players are ever able to accomplish that with complete success…or come close, for that matter.
“It’s not [a normal game],” he observed. “I know it’s a lot bigger, but you’ve just got to keep telling yourself that if you build it up to be more than it is, [it can be] overwhelming.”
“I just wanted to play my game, like I’ve done thousands of times, since I was four years old,” he added. “Obviously, it was a big game. It was exciting to be a part of it.”
Despite the fact that he is an NHL rookie, Vey’s time in the Kings’ system helped him in his preparation.
“The good thing about the way I came up—I’ve been around so much—the last two playoff runs, I was here, including when they won the Cup, I’ve watched a ton of games, and I’ve practiced with them, so there weren’t too many surprises [about what to expect in an NHL game].”
Prior to the game, when he learned that he would be playing after Thursday’s morning skate, what was the first thing he did?
What else? He called home.
“I was excited,” said Vey. “The first thing I did was call the parents. They’re excited. They weren’t able to come down and watch, but they watched it on TV.”
“It’s a two-hour time [difference] back home,” added Vey. “But they were willing to stay up and watch the game.”
Vey also got a lot of supportive, congratulatory messages from friends and relatives.
“I’ve never had so many text messages,” he beamed. “I think I had 40 or 50 text messages, all from friends and family back home. It was pretty exciting to [look at his] phone after the game.”
Frozen Royalty’s Linden Vey Coverage
- LA Kings Forward Prospect Linden Vey Is “A Young Guy With Some Incredible Gifts”
- 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
Video Interviews With Linden Vey and Darryl Sutter via FrozenRoyaltyNHL on YouTube
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