LOS ANGELES — It’s not all that often that a skilled player comes out of major junior hockey in Canada who is better on defense than he is on the offensive side of the puck. But in the case of Los Angeles Kings center prospect Michael Amadio, at this point in his development, that seems to be the case.
As reported in this space in August 2016, the 21-year-old, 6-2, 205-pound native of Sault. Ste. Marie, Ontario was well-prepared on the defensive side of the puck by his coach with the Brampton Battalion, and after the team moved, the North Bay Battalion, of the Ontario Hockey League.
“He’s an incredible student of the game, and he takes pride in his play away from the puck,” said Kings assistant general manager Michael Futa. “That’s the same way he was in junior, when his team moved from Brampton to North Bay. He had an excellent junior coach in Stan Butler, who really worked on his 200-foot game, and his accountability away from the puck.”
“He kind of mastered that, and became so efficient in junior, and then, in his last year in junior, he scored 50 goals. All of a sudden, this guy must be a contender for the [Maurice] ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy,” added Futa. “That’s not Michael’s game, but it’s a part of it. He’s a got a very quick, deceptive release, and he hasn’t lost that accountability.”
Amadio, who was selected by the Kings in the third round (90th overall) of the 2014 National Hockey League Draft, scored 16 goals and added 25 assists for 41 points, with a +5 plus/minus rating and four penalty minutes in 68 regular season games last season with the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League.
“He was like most of the young guys,” said Reign head coach Mike Stothers. “He was up and down. Some nights, he looked great. Other nights, he looked like there’s still some growth that needs to happen. But the way he finished up the season, which was strong—the last few home games—you know what? It was a good experience for him.”
“I thought I had a good season,” said Amadio. “I got off to a slow start, adjusting to the new league again—I got a taste of it [in the 2015-16] season in the playoffs. I think it was just a little adjustment, getting used to the speed and strength of the players. After that, I think I settled down and started playing my game about 15-20 games in. Things were good from there. I started feeling more comfortable and confident that I could start making plays—I didn’t have to be scared to make a play.”
“The speed of the game—you have to know what you’re going to do with the puck before you get it, and that’s true all over the ice—neutral zone, offensive zone, or breaking out of your own end,” added Amadio. “Once you get the puck, you have to know what your options are—who’s open, what your next play is. In junior, you have more time, but when you make the jump to the AHL, you have guys right on you, so you have to get the puck and make a play right away.”
Aside from adjusting to play at a higher level, Amadio focused a lot on his defensive responsibilities last season in order to make sure that he earned Stothers’ trust.
“What I really liked was when Michael finished the [2015-16 season with the Reign during the playoffs], after his [final] year in junior hockey, he only scored one goal, but it was an overtime winner,” said Futa. “It was the same kind of goal as the ones he scored in junior—quick, deceptive release. Then, he comes to Ontario for his first full year as a pro, and I can guarantee you that what was going through his mind was, ‘I’ve got a new coach in Mike Stothers. I’ve got to win this guy over with how honest and how efficient I am with the puck.’”
“In any game I was at, he probably wasn’t too noticeable because he’s so efficient, and he’s not making a lot of mistakes,” added Futa. “As a first-year pro, that’s excellent. Quietly, his numbers started to improve—he got a little bit better. I really feel that now you’ll see him start to make some strides. You’ll notice more what he can do, and the plays he can make.”
As solid as he already is on the defensive side of the puck, Amadio said that he still needs to improve his defensive play.
“There’s always room for improvement,” he noted. “I’m not perfect. There’s definitely areas that I can work on—better coverage, not losing my guy, maintaining a good gap, and not giving my guy room to get a shot off. Just little things like that.”
“Sometimes, I’d get beaten off the wall [going] back to the net,” he added. “[Stothers is] big on that. Also, plays behind the net, in the corners and along the walls. I can’t lose my guy when they twist and turn. I’ve got to pin’em up against the boards, get the puck and make a play.”
“It’s probably a positioning thing—getting myself on the wrong side the puck for even a half-second. You lose a step there and you’re beaten off the boards. You can’t get caught like that, so I have to make sure that I position myself better, keeping myself between my guy and the net.”
Amadio may have more to work on defensively, but he has already impressed the Kings from that side of the puck.
“It’s incredible how often this kid gets under sticks and how many [turnovers he forces] because of his anticipation, and just being there,” said Futa. “That translates to the NHL. It’s a little thing, but he literally [forces turnovers] in a positive way—getting under sticks and breaking up plays, allowing you to counterattack and go on offense. That’s something where I think he’s going to make huge strides in this year. He’ll get more responsibility. Mike Stothers has a ton of confidence in him.”
With that added responsibility, Amadio will get more ice time, and greater expectations, especially on offense.
“He’s going to play more,” Futa observed. “He’ll get more offensive opportunities, and now that he’s got that comfort level–that he can defend and be honest defensively, at that level, he’s going to take more chances on offense. That quick shot is going to translate. I really don’t see any reason that he shouldn’t be able to reach the 25-goal mark at the AHL level next year.”
Already possessing a good shot, Amadio has been working on it even more this summer, along with other aspects of his game.
“I’ve been working out five-to-six days a week, trying to get stronger, and I’m on the ice three days a week, working with the development staff on skills like how to separate from your guy in the corners, and different types of shots—specific skills.”
“He has a really, really deceptive release, and it’s something that our development guys are working on with him,” Futa noted. “It’s something he already has, but the job our development team does—the time they spend with him—just seeing him now, off the ice, you can already see that he’s stronger, and he’s starting to feel more confident. For a kid like that, that’ll be a big plus for him in game action.”
Futa discussed some of the things the Kings want Amadio to work on going forward.
“He needs to be a bit more of an explosive skater,” Futa noted. “He’s not slow, but he needs to be able to burst and explode. He’s almost a safe, third line guy, or a real safe fourth line guy. But there’s too much there. He’s got too much creativity, and he’s got that ability to [force turnovers]. The ability to make plays is there. I truly believe that’ll translate.”
“There’s another factor,” Futa added. “If you meet this kid, he’s so polite and nice that you want some of that not to translate, and that’s not a knock on him. But you want more ‘bite’ from him. He’s competitive. That’s not an issue at all. But you want a little bit more bite.”
“No matter what you think of him, as a player, and we love him and covet him, he’s just an incredible gentleman. He’s a soft-spoken, polite, young guy. You walk away thinking, ‘holy smokes! This is a really nice kid,’ and it’s genuine. His parents did a hell of job with him, and they’ll still love him if he’s a little meaner on the ice.”
Amadio indicated that he intends to get his nose dirtier in the offensive zone this season.
“I thought I was good, but I need to go to the net a little more as I’m driving down lower,” he said. “If I get a puck in the corner, maybe I’ll take it to the net, as opposed to last year. I was a little hesitant, and I stayed a little more on the outside. That’s a big thing because a lot of the goals are scored right around the net. I need to get a little dirty.”
With training camp just couple of weeks away, Amadio is focused on turning heads, and in the right way.
“I just want to be better than I was last year,” he noted. “I don’t want to just have a good camp. I want to stand out and open some eyes. But I’m going to stick to my game, and do what I do best. I don’t want to go out of my way and turn the puck over.”
“it’s going to be hard, especially going up against the NHL guys,” he added. “They’re the best in the world. It’s definitely going be a challenge, but it’ll be good.”
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings forward prospect Michael Amadio. Photo: Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.net.
Frozen Royalty by Gann Matsuda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may copy, distribute and/or transmit any story or audio content published on this site under the terms of this license, but only if proper attribution is indicated. The full name of the author and a link back to the original article on this site are required. Photographs, graphic images, and other content not specified are subject to additional restrictions. Additional information is available at: Frozen Royalty – Licensing and Copyright Information.