LOS ANGELES — Early on during the Los Angeles Kings’ 2013 Training Camp, there was more than just a murmur or two that rugged forward prospect Andy Andreoff had a legitimate chance to make the big club’s roster to start the 2013-14 National Hockey League season.
Despite that, the 22-year-old, 6-1, 217-pound native of Pickering, Ontario was assigned back to the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League in the second round of training camp cuts on September 21, 2013.
“There were a couple of rumors saying that I had a pretty good chance, but I guess they wanted the same team as last year, and [stay] with older, more experienced guys,” said Andreoff. “If there’s injuries, I’m sure I’ll get the call up, eventually. But so far, Manchester’s been playing really well, so I’m just taking that day-by-day.”
“They wanted me to get back to Manchester pretty fast to get on pace for the exhibition games, and to get ready for the regular season,” added Andreoff.
Although he did not last in the Kings’ training camp for as long as he wanted, the time he did spend there was valuable, as he tried to learn as much as he could from the NHL veterans.
“Those guys are a little bit older than I’m used to, coming from junior a couple of years ago, to playing in the AHL,” Andreoff noted. “Moving up to the NHL in training camp was a little different. Those guy’s heads are in it, they’re strong and quick, and they know where to be at all times. They’re always in the right position.”
“It’s the work ethic,” Andreoff added. “Those guys are the hardest workers. They’ll finish every check in practice. It doesn’t matter if you’re teammates. They don’t run a guy badly, but they always finish their checks in practice, just like they do in games. You learn from that in every practice, and every off-ice workout.”
Andreoff left camp more confident in his abilities than ever before.
“Since my first training camp, it’s the confidence that I’ve gained from the experience of being in a couple of [Kings training] camps,” he indicated. “After my first [full] year [in professional hockey] last year, it definitely helped, [in terms of] the experience level, getting to know the guys, and then, coming back to camp, where, unlike the first year, you know two guys, but now, you have ten or 15 guys who you’ve played with, so the confidence and experience has helped me a lot.”
As he packed his bags for Manchester, the Kings coaching staff, along with President/General Manager Dean Lombardi sent him off with a message.
“They were saying to keep working at it,” Andreoff noted. “It’s hard to make the Kings. They have a really good team. They just wanted me to come back and get a lot of ice [time] in Manchester, keep doing what I’m doing—improving on my skating, and my stick handling.”
“Defensive zone coverage is [also] huge for me,” Andreoff added. “L.A. is huge on defensive zone coverage, especially for a player like me. You have to get every puck out [from] along the walls. The walls are key for me. I have to be the best player on the walls, no matter what area it’s in.”
So why did Andreoff fail to stick around longer in the Kings’ training camp?
Monarchs head coach Mark Morris, who was present during much of the Kings’ training camp a couple of months ago, indicated that Andreoff probably had less of a chance to make the Kings’ opening night roster than some believed.
“He’s got a little ways to go,” said Morris. “But there are flashes of brilliance in his game. It’s just a matter of him working on his quickness and his awareness that will ultimately determine how quickly he gets there, [and] I think he’ll get there. It’s just a matter of how quickly he adapts.”
“It’s his explosiveness,” added Morris. “He’s got to be more explosive. He’s strong, but if he can add some urgency to his game defensively, and continue with all the things he does well now—he lugs the puck through the neutral zone as well as anybody, he’s got soft hands, and he’s a tough customer, if you want to tangle.”
Skating and developing an explosive first step is something the Kings have been pushing Andreoff on since they selected him in the third round (80th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
“The first thing they said was that you need to improve on your quick starts,” Andreoff noted. “From being drafted until now, I think that’s improved a lot.”
“The Kings got a new skating coach, and he helped me a lot over the summer,” Andreoff added. “I worked on my quick feet, pivots. I worked with him two or three times a week. I have a close relationship with him, and I’ll be doing that every summer now.”
Through twenty games this season, Andreoff has scored three goals and has contributed six assists, good for nine points, with a +4 plus/minus rating, and 28 penalty minutes.
“I’ve been playing my role,” said Andreoff. “At the start of the year, I was playing on the third line. But now that [right wing Tyler] Toffoli, [forward Linden] Vey [and left wing Tanner Pearson] have gotten the call to the Kings, I’ve been getting the opportunity to play on the power play with [Kings forward prospect Nick] Shore. [He’s] a really good player, and he’s helping me out a lot. I’m getting a ton more experience, so I just have to keep working at it, and take advantage of the opportunity.
Like so many young prospects, consistency and the mental game are areas Andreoff needs to work on as well.
“He’s improved in all aspects, [and] he’s way more confident in his abilities,” said Morris. “He’s best when his hackle is up. He competes real hard when the other team challenges him to play a rugged game. That’s when he’s at his best. His quickness is much improved when he’s in that element. In games that are sleepers, he has a tendency get a little [sluggish]. But that’s common with everybody.”
But Andreoff appears to have taken a bit of a backwards step this season, as his lack of speed and quickness, not to mention some inconsistent play in his own zone, has prevented Morris from playing him at center, where the Kings want Andreoff to develop.
“We started him at the beginning of the season in the middle, but the quickness factor was becoming more and more apparent,” Morris lamented. “He was a little sleepy on his coverages, so we decided to utilize his assets [at left wing]. He’s good on the boards, and we’re trying to use his ability to carry the puck through the neutral zone and get in on the forecheck, because when he’s playing aggressive hockey, he’s a different player. If he goes out there and just plods along, then he can be very average.”
“We’re trying to ramp up his intensity,” Morris added. “When he’s playing on the edge, he’s [at his] best. He can make plays, he’s got a good stick, he’s got very good hockey sense. But it boils down to trying to get a lot of these guys to really dial in, be ready for every game, and trying to keep your intensity up so you can withstand any team you play. If you’re going to make it to the next level, you’ve got to have that. You can’t allow yourself to daydream, sleep, or get lax.”
“You’ve got to be able to bring that without people barking at you.”
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