EL SEGUNDO, CA — Los Angeles Kings rookie right wing Tyler Toffoli has certainly made his presence known by scoring timely goals, including four game-winners, and even though his game slipped a bit for a few games, he has bounced back, and has looked better than he did when he was recalled by the Kings on November 2.
In 21 games with the Kings, the 21-year-old, 6-1, 196-pound native of Scarborough, Ontario has scored eight goals and has tallied seven assists for 15 points, with a +11 plus/minus rating and two penalty minutes.
Toffoli is ranked tenth in rookie scoring, seventh in rookie goal scoring, and he leads all rookies in game-winning goals (four).
Looking back, Toffoli was called up from the Ontario Reign (Kings’ ECHL affiliate). But he had been assigned there by the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League (Kings’ primary minor league affiliate) in a paper transaction in order to get him to Los Angeles prior to his November 2 recall.
Toffoli, who was called up to help fill the skate boots of forward Jeff Carter after he went down with a fractured right foot, has gotten plenty of ice time at even strength and on the power play.
“With Jeff’s injury, he gave us somebody who we could play, a little bit, in those situations,” said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. “I think he’s had ups and downs. We’ll just see how it goes.”
Toffoli is earning high praise from his teammates, including those who have not been watching him for very long.
“He was a good player in [training] camp,” said right wing Matt Frattin, who is in his first season with the Kings. “We had a little mini-camp this [past] summer, too. He doesn’t make too many mistakes, and when he plays with good players, he makes them better. That’s what you want to have on your team.”
“He’s a guy who puts up points,” added Frattin. “It doesn’t matter where he is. He’s a good player. He’s sound, he does everything really well. That’s something every team’s going to like. He has a nose for the net, and he knows the right areas to get to. That’s something he’s very good at, and something he needs to keep doing for our team.”
Frattin noted that the puck tends to find its way onto the sticks of good players, and that the puck seems to always find Toffoli.
“He’s like a magnet,” Frattin observed. “He’s in the right spots, and he definitely knows how to finish when the puck comes to him.”
“He’s a smart player,” Frattin added. “You’ve got to know where the rebounds are coming. Puck luck only lasts so long, but that’s been going [for him] ever since he’s been here. He has a [high] hockey IQ, he takes care of the defensive zone, he’s smart on the offensive blue line, and that’s what [helps] him going to the net.”
Indeed, instead of looking to shoot the puck all the time, Toffoli now looks to get himself to the front of the net more often, screening goalies and looking for rebounds.
“In the NHL, you have to be able to play more than one role,” said Toffoli. “I’ve been trying to get to the net, get the dirty goals, and I’ve gotten a couple of them this year. I’ve just got to keep going.”
In a relatively short time with the Kings going back to last season, it is readily apparent that Toffoli can put the puck in the net. However, what was not apparent was his attention to the defensive part of the game, as well as his play without the puck. But especially in his most recent games, there has been visible evidence of improvement.
“That’s what I have to do to stay in the NHL,” said Toffoli. “I want to stay in the NHL, and play here for a long time, so whatever I have to do to stay here, and be on a good team like this, I’ll try and do it.”
“This is what I want to do,” added Toffoli. “I want to play in the NHL, so I’ve got to do whatever I can to stay in the lineup, and help the team win.”
As he alluded to, the desire to remain with the Kings is certainly strong motivation. But what it comes down to is that Toffoli appears to “get it” now.
“I think it’s just the way the team is, the way the organization is,” he noted. “You have to do certain things, with and without the puck. I’ve been [in the organization] for four or five years. Every year, I’ve been getting talked at in Development Camp, so I’ve been trying to learn, and do those things.”
When asked if Toffoli was contributing more to the team’s success in recent games, Sutter, who is usually reticent to talk about individual players, indicated that Toffoli’s time with the Kings last season, along with the games he played with the big club since early November, add up.
“Sure he is,” Sutter noted. “He’s a year older. [Chalk it up to] experience.”
With his play trending upward, it would seem that Toffoli has found a place on the Kings’s roster for good. However, it is still very much a numbers game, especially in the era of the salary cap. As such, when the Kings get healthy again, Toffoli could find himself back with the Monarchs, simply because he does not have to clear waivers.
Despite that, Toffoli is not worried about that at all.
“It’s out of my hands,” he shrugged. “It’s in the coaches’ and [President/General Manager Dean Lombardi’s] hands. I just have to come here every day, be positive, and work hard.”
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