EL SEGUNDO, CA — Given the odyssey that defenseman prospect Derek Forbort had to endure just to get to Southern California after being recalled by the Los Angeles Kings, he’s lucky to have made it here at all.
Forbort, who has played this season with the Kings’ current American Hockey League affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, was scheduled to leave Boston on February 9, but Mother Nature refused to cooperate.
“I was in Boston, sitting on the plane for about an hour and a half,” said Forbort. “We were on the runway, waiting for the snow to let up, and it never did, so I had to go back to Manchester for the day.”
“We get a blizzard every Monday,” added Forbort. “We literally have about, I think, like six or seven feet of snow. We get it by the foot every Monday, it seems like.”
So back to Manchester he went.
“I was about to drive,” Forbort joked. “It sucked, but there’s nothing they could do about it. I had to take a cab [back to Manchester]. Terrible cab ride.”
“I was pretty excited about the call in the morning,” Forbort added. “Things like that happen, though, so hopefully, I get another chance.”
After the one-day delay, Forbort arrived in Los Angeles late on February 10…or was it just after midnight on February 11?
“I got in late last night,” said the 22-year-old, 6-4, 219-pound native of Duluth, Minnesota. “I got delayed in Manchester a little bit, so I got in around midnight.”
A little more than twelve hours later, Forbort had completed a full practice with the Kings, got in some extra work with associate head coach John Stevens, and then found himself surrounded by the local media.
“You never really know when [the call-up is] going to come,” he noted. “You’ve just got to stay mentally ready. When [Monarchs Director of Hockey Operations] Hubie McDonough gave me that call, it was a pretty exciting feeling.”
Forbort, who was selected by the Kings in the first round (15th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, was in his second full season with the Monarchs at the time of his recall. He discussed his development after practice on February 11.
“Just my practice habits, making very rep count,” he said. “I think that’s led to my game growth, and my level of play increasing over the last couple of years. I’m just trying to work my hardest every day.”
When Forbort was selected by the Kings in the 2010 draft, President/General Manager Dean Lombardi labeled him as a “project,” adding that was a bit of a raw talent.
So in what aspects of his game has Forbort, who played three seasons at the University of North Dakota before joining the Monarchs at the end of the 2012-13 season, made his biggest strides forward?
“My overall compete [level], being hard to play against, being tough to play against in the defensive zone and being responsible,” he noted. “The next step is making that play, getting the forwards going the other way. I feel like I’ve done a lot better job this year doing that than maybe last year, or in college.”
Head coach Darryl Sutter indicated that he has only seen ten of Forbort’s games this season.
“He was getting some experience as a second-year player, playing minutes, playing more situations,” said Sutter. “I think he’s got probably, what, about 120, 130 games under his belt now? Experience would be the main thing coming out of school, just like every other defenseman.”
“He’s not unlike any other young player who comes out of college or junior,” added Sutter. “Unless you’re somebody who jumps into the lineup as a high first round pick, it usually takes two or three years. That’s what Derek’s doing…we called Derek up because, obviously, we’re in a situation that we’ve been in all year where we need defensemen.”
Although Forbort is expected to be assigned back to the Monarchs once defenseman Alec Martinez (concussion-like symptoms) returns to the lineup, he knows that when it comes to his arrival in the National Hockey League, patience is a virtue.
“I mean, [waiting for a chance to play at the NHL level] gets a little tough at times, but a lot of guys here have gone through that, so you know it’s just kind of what you have to do,” he said. “I’m willing to put in that time to develop and be a good NHL player.”
One huge draw that Southern California has, compared to Manchester, New Hampshire, is the weather—when this interview was completed, it was 87 degrees at the Kings’ practice facility, the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California.
“I put on jeans and a long sleeve, and I was like, ‘wow, I’m a little overdressed,’” Forbort observed.
Frozen Royalty’s Derek Forbort Coverage
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- Transition From College Hockey To The AHL Hasn’t Been Easy For LA Kings D Prospect Derek Forbort
- LA Kings 2010 1st Round Pick Derek Forbort Isn’t A Project Anymore
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