AUDIO: Story includes audio interviews with Brayden McNabb and head coach Darryl Sutter.
EL SEGUNDO, CA — The Los Angeles Kings have finished their 2014-15 pre-season schedule, they have closed up shop on training camp, and after all the ice chips settled, there will be no surprises whatsoever on their 2014-15 opening night roster, which will be released later today.
In fact, the only real “question,” if you can call it that, was whether or not two young players, left wing/center Andy Andreoff and defenseman Brayden McNabb, would make the big club’s roster out of training camp.
But as previously reported in this space, both were a lock to make the Kings’ opening night roster, making the “question” pretty much a moot point.
Those locks were secured on the morning of October 6, when the Kings placed forward Adam Cracknell and defenseman Jeff Schultz on waivers. Both were expected to clear waivers on October 7 and be assigned to the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League.
(UPDATE: Hours after this story was originally published, Cracknell was claimed by the Columbus Blue Jackets.)
“I thought Adam had a really good camp,” said head coach Darryl Sutter. “Jeff got better as camp went on. But at the end of the day, there’s only so many spots. They’re still part of the team…that’s the way it works.”
Waivers is a key reason Andreoff and McNabb are still with the Kings, and it might be the biggest reason. Both would have to be placed on waivers before being assigned to the Monarchs, and in all likelihood, both would be claimed by another team—the Kings will not risk losing them for nothing.
“[Andreoff’s] contract situation has a lot to do with that, in that he would [have to clear] waivers—there would be 29 teams lined up to get ahold of him,” said Kings assistant general manager Rob Blake. “It’s a big summer for him. He was sat down, early in the summer. We explained the scenario that this is the time to push to really get on this team.”
“[McNabb is] another guy, similar to Andreoff, with his contract status,” added Blake. “This becomes a very important year. We’d like to see him in that lineup.”
“That’s what we explained to these guys, to [use their] summer [wisely because this is probably] their best opportunity right here. We can’t afford to lose you guys on waivers, so you’re going to get an opportunity to play with the big club. Let’s make sure when that opportunity comes that you’re ready to step in and play here.”
When asked about both players, Sutter wasn’t interested in the waiver issue.
“I think they both got better as camp went on,” he noted. “Based on that, they’re deserving of a roster spot.”
Andreoff, who will wear jersey number 15, recalled his meeting with the Kings.
“They said it’s a big summer for me [and that] I have a good shot at making the team,” he said. “So I worked with [Kings assistant coach Davis Payne] throughout the summer and he helped a lot with a few things—just working on the wall play and stuff like that, face-offs, little details that’ll help my game to make it to the next level.”
Sutter pointed out that although Andreoff has made the big club’s roster, he has a long, uphill battle ahead of him just to earn some ice time.
“He’s got lots to learn, but he’s like Brayden, in that sense, where he’s coachable,” Sutter noted. “He wants to play in the NHL.”
“There’s four guys at center who are ahead of him, if they’re healthy, for sure,” Sutter added. “Then, there’s four or five left wingers ahead of him, for sure, so he’s slotted in the right place.&rdquo>
As a defenseman, McNabb is playing a completely different role compared to Andreoff. Nevertheless, he faces similar challenges in trying to get comfortable with the Kings’ system and trying to find his niche with the team.
“It was a pretty smooth transition being here last year for playoffs [as a Black Ace],” said McNabb. “The coaches do a great job of preparing the players and getting the systems down. It maybe took me a couple games to get everything figured out, but the last two or three games, I thought I felt pretty good with the systems. There’s obviously still a lot to work on, and I’ll continue to do that.”
Sutter indicated that McNabb made a strong impression in training camp.
“I thought—Brayden especially [earned a roster spot], because of the position [he plays]—it’s not easy,” said Sutter. “But I think one thing we’ve seen from him is that he’s willing to work on his game, he’s really coachable, he can play—he’s a left-handed defenseman, who can only play the left side, but he can play with any of our right-handed defensemen, which is something I really like.”
“A lot of times, guys come in and they only play with a certain partner,” added Sutter. “Drew [Doughty] is Drew. Slava [Voynov] and Greener (Matt Greene) are, obviously, different players. So to be able to say that we can, comfortably, put Brayden with any one of those guys, it’s good for him, it’s good for us.”
Although McNabb made a good impression, he knows there are things he still needs to work on.
“There’s a lot of reads,” he explained. “We’ve been doing video after almost every game, myself and Coach John [Stevens]. There was a game where I had some bad reads. We went over that with my lines and staying within the dots—just little stuff. It’s something I need to continue to get better at.”
Lots of work, indeed. That said, McNabb, who will wear jersey number 3, is in the National Hockey League, for now, anyway.
“It’s really exciting to be a part of the Kings,” said McNabb. “It’s an honor. It’s a great organization. I’m thrilled to be here and I’m just looking forward to getting better each day and hopefully, crack the lineup.”
“It’s something you dream of as a kid,” added McNabb. “It’s here, but I’ve got to continue to work and try and get better.”
One way McNabb will improve is by watching Doughty, who he was paired with during the Kings’ final pre-season game against the Colorado Avalanche in Las Vegas on October 4, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena—the annual Frozen Fury game.
“He’s one of the best, if not the best, defenseman in the league,” McNabb noted. “That being said, it was great.”
“I mean, when you’re playing with him every shift, you really see how good he is and what he does with the puck and the little things [that] watching the game, you don’t really see and appreciate,” McNabb added. “He’s obviously a great talent.”
McNabb also took note of how Doughty communicates during games.
“He’s [very communicative],” said McNabb. “He’s pretty loose on the ice. It kind of helps everyone else to be less uptight and stuff, so he’s good to have on the bench and obviously on the ice.”
Stick tap to LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen for contributing to this story.
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Brayden McNabb (2:27)
Darryl Sutter (5:09)
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