EL SEGUNDO, CA — Although he isn’t lighting up the league, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Derek Forbort has exceeded expectations to this point in the 2016-17 National Hockey League season.
The 24-year-old, 6-4, 216-pound native of Duluth, Minnesota has surprised many with one goal and eight assists for nine points, a +4 plus/minus rating and 34 penalty minutes in 28 games this season—numbers not expected from the stay-at-home defenseman who came into the season with low expectations.
Forbort, who was selected by the Kings in the first round (15th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, has been seeing more ice time since defenseman Brayden McNabb suffered an upper body injury on October 29 at St. Louis, and so far, he has shown some improvement, even though, as it often happens with young players, he has his share of good and bad moments.
“He’s been up and down,” said head coach Darryl Sutter. “I think that’s very normal and I don’t think that’s a criticism of him at all. That’s very normal for a first year player.”
“With Brayden’s injury, it has put us in a position to have to play him in situations that you normally wouldn’t,” added Sutter. “But he’s handled all that pretty well. I just think the inconsistency in his game—we’re just trying get that out of his game as much as we can, whether it’s early in the game, or circumstances during the game—things like that where he needs to be much sharper.”
“There might be one night where it’s a defensive assignment, or it might be a puck handling situation. For example, [on December 28, against the Carolina Hurricanes], I think he had a really hard time with the puck. That affects your whole team.”
Forbort indicated that he is feeling more and more comfortable as the season wears on.
“I think it’s just getting into the rhythm of each game,” he said. “The more you play, the more comfortable you get out there. Playing against high-end players, the more you play against them, the more you think, ‘hey, I can play against these guys and we can beat these guys.’”
“My whole thing has just been to be hard, defensively and make that first play coming out of the zone,” he added. “Those are the main things I think about going into each game. If I can contribute offensively, that’s just a bonus.”
Although he has scored just one goal, Forbort has been able to get his shot through quite effectively this season, resulting in deflection goals and scoring chances off rebounds—his ability to get his shot through has been more than noticeable and mostly unexpected.
Forbort credited his work with associate head coach John Stevens.
“It’s just working with John after practice on a lot of defenseman shooting drills—a lot of changing your angle to get that forward out of the [shooting] lane,” he noted. “It also comes with having confidence out there to hold onto that puck for another second and wait for that lane to open up.”
“[Stevens] does a good job of zeroing in on what I need to focus on, which is being hard in the corners, being hard to play against, and making that first play,” he added. “I’ve got to keep getting better with my puck plays—keep working on them in practice and like I said, just keep getting better every day.”
Maintaining his focus on what lies ahead, but not too far ahead, also seems to be working for him.
“If I look back on things, my mind won’t be in the right place, so my whole thing here is just on each day, each game and getting better every day,” Forbort stressed. “That’s all I think about. I don’t really look back.”
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings defenseman prospect Derek Forbort. Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography.
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Forbs is 6″ 4′ or 6″ 5′
That was a typo. Thank you for catching that.