ONTARIO, CA — When Frozen Royalty last checked in with Los Angeles Kings forward prospect Maxim Kitsyn, who is playing for the Kings’ current ECHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign, his determination to improve was the thing that stood out the most.
As the 2014-15 season nears its conclusion, the 6-4, 202-pound native of Novokuznetzk, Russia, remains as determined as ever.
“He’s a quality person, and you like working with kids like that because they’ve got that focus, drive and determination to get better,” said Reign head coach Jason Christie.
Kitsyn, 23, is now finishing his second season with the Reign. In 57 regular season games this year, he scored 26 goals and tallied 17 assists for 43 points, with 155 penalty minutes and a +16 plus/minus rating.
In 17 playoff games this season, Kitsyn has scored four goals and has added seven assists for eleven points with 17 penalty minutes and a +4 plus/minus rating.
When asked to look back on his season, Kitsyn was, at first, hesitant to talk about his game.
“Maybe I’m moving a little bit faster,” he said. “I’m older, stronger. But I don’t want to judge myself. I want others to judge me. I want wins, my goals, points, and plus/minus to show if I improved.”
But statistics aren’t everything, right?
“I think I’m skating better than I was at the beginning of this year, and last year, as well,” said Kitsyn, who was selected by the Kings in the sixth round (158th overall) of the 2010 National Hockey League Entry Draft. “Playing physical—it is no problem for me to hit big guys or to get hit by big guys.”
“I think I’ve gotten a lot smarter, especially in the defensive zone,” added Kitsyn. “But I’ve got to improve my offensive skills. If you want to play at the next level, even on the fourth line, you’ve got to be better in the offensive zone.”
One area of concern about Kitsyn’s game was that he often held onto the puck for too long, something that is common among young players coming out of Europe and Russia. But Kitsyn appears to be making the adjustment to the quicker, up-and-down North American style of play.
“Now it’s not a big deal to dump the puck in the corner and go off for a [line] change when it’s at the end of a shift,” he noted. “Before I could try to go after it off the rush. Now I’m getting smarter in those areas.”
With his team just one win away from advancing to the ECHL’s Kelly Cup Final for the first time in their history, Kitsyn is focused on doing whatever his team needs for them to win.
Funny thing is that those are the same things he needs to do consistently to advance to the next level.
“I have to play hard, go into the dirty areas, win one-on-one battles, take pucks to the net, make plays, and work hard in the defensive zone,” he said. “But it’s nothing different from the rest of the team. Anything I can do for the team, I’m going to do.”
Christie has witnessed Kitsyn’s development the last two seasons and he consistently points to Kitsyn’s dedication, drive and determination to get better.
“Max is a competitive kid,” said Christie. “He puts everything he’s got into each and every game. He’s a guy who definitely wants to be at the next level, for sure.”
Christie said that getting his nose dirty is the area of the game in which Kitsyn needs to improve the most.
“It’s the determination to go to those tough areas to score goals,” Christie emphasized. “This is something that he keeps working on. He’s a guy who’s got to make sure that he’s grinding it out to get those quality chances. He’s also got a good shot that he’s got to get off a little quicker.”
Overall quickness is another aspect of Kitsyn’s game that must improve.
“He’s just got to get a little quicker,” said Christie. “The game is definitely quicker at the next level, so he’s got to keep working on that.”
Kitsyn acknowledged that his quickness needs work, but he also had other ideas.
“I think it’s my skating, still,” he said. “I’m faster now than I was before, but I still need to be even faster. I also need to be smarter in my decision-making and in my hockey sense.”
“I hope I’ve taken a step forward,” he added.
His coach seems to think he has.
“His game is coming along,” Christie observed. “He’ll will himself to get better. He’s a guy who, when you walk in the locker room, you know he’s ready to go every night.”
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings forward prospect Maxim Kitsyn (number 13), shown here with the ECHL’s Ontario Reign. Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography.
Frozen Royalty’s Maxim Kitsyn Coverage
- LA Kings LW Prospect Maxim Kitsyn: “It’s Just Me. I Have To Be Better…It’s Not Anybody Else”
- Dedication And Work Ethic Are Pushing LA Kings Prospect Maxim Kitsyn’s Development Forward
- Transition To North American Game Hasn’t Been Easy For LA Kings Prospect Maxim Kitsyn
- Playing In Traffic (No, Not Like That) Is The Plan For LA Kings LW Prospect Maxim Kitsyn
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