EL SEGUNDO, CA — Considering their record of developing goaltenders who have enjoyed success in the National Hockey League, Los Angeles Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford and Dusty Imoo, who handles goaltender development for the Kings, are, arguably, considered to be the best goaltending coaching and development staff in the NHL.
That conclusion was not lost on goaltender Cal Petersen, who signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Kings on July 1, 2017.
But Petersen did not sign a contract with the Sabres and became an unrestricted free agent after last season, his junior year.
“I looked at kind of everything after the season was done,” he noted. “After I had a chance to decompress, I kind of looked at my options and talked with my agent, my family, and gave Buffalo a chance to kind of have their pitch and see, and then right at the time, I let them know that I had this opportunity and I was going to take the opportunity to look around, but I still kept Buffalo as one of my top places because I still felt that they’re a tremendous opportunity.”
“It was just with the opportunity I had presented [to me] after my junior year that I could look at other places,” he added. “They were obviously disappointed but they understood, and I definitely respected how professionally that they handled the whole thing.”
“I just wanted to make sure that I handled everything professionally. [I] did everything by the book, made sure that there were no shortcuts being taken, and gave Buffalo a chance to do their thing and see the opportunity that was presented there. So, again, I was really appreciative of how professional they were with handling that situation.”
Although the Sabres remained in the running until late in the game, it was Ranford and Imoo that tipped the scales in the Kings’ favor.
“It’s a first-class organization,” said Petersen. “They’ve won Stanley Cups, they have Hall of Famers in charge. But the real thing that it came down to for me was the goalie coaching with Dusty Imoo and Bill Ranford. I kind of felt those guys were guys who have developed goalies in the past to be successful in the NHL and could definitely help me get to that place. They’re as respected as anybody around the league, so that was definitely a huge part of it that really drew me here.”
“That was kind of the big thing, looking at goalies who they developed in the past— [Jonathan] Bernier and [Martin] Jones, seeing what they’ve done with their careers, turning into NHL starters,” added Petersen. “I kinda looked at that, and saw the guys they were working with. That’s a path that I wanted to try to get to. This was kinda the clear way to that.”
Familiarity with Imoo certainly didn’t hurt.
“I trained with Dusty two summers ago,” he noted. “He was one of the coaches at a camp that I was at, but that was the only thing. Other than that, just when I visited here, meeting with Billy and Dusty, that was kind of my first interaction.”
As it turns out, Imoo had his sights set on Petersen, too.
“When we were looking at free agents—every year—I get a list of all the college [goalies], and I already knew him from before,” he said. “I had been following him because I knew him. I said, ‘I’d get him,’ but he wasn’t available [Buffalo still held his rights]. Then it was revisited and I was all over that. I really pushed for that. We were really, really lucky.”
Participating in his first full pro camp, was a bit of an eye opener for Petersen.
“Now is kind of when it feels real, and it’s obviously very cool, but it’s kind of a whole new level of play that you have to bring every day, so that’s definitely an adjustment,” he said. “[I’m] just trying to keep my head down and get to work, but any time you can put on this jersey and play, it’s a really good feeling.”
“[The] expectations [are greater]—the intensity every day,” he added. “In college, you have the shortened schedule. It’s not as demanding, every single day, as [it is] in pro hockey. That’ll probably be the biggest adjustment. Then it’ll be about being around better players [and] staff who expect a lot more. You don’t get baby sat as much as you do in college. You kind of have to take responsibility [for] your own game, so it’s something I’m looking forward to.”
Imoo indicated that Petersen is already pretty sound, technically.
“He’s got a good technical package,” he noted. “It’s going to be a lot of fun because I’m not going to have to do a whole lot of changes with him. There’s going to be some adjustments because there’s things in the pro game that are different. But just getting him to adjust to becoming a pro is going to be the biggest thing.”
Petersen discussed some of the differences he’s already begun to work on.
“They have a big emphasis on skating, which I love,” he said. “Right now, it’s just adjusting—playing within my parameters in the [crease], knowing when I can use my athleticism and knowing when I have to use my size a little bit more. That’s something I’m always working on, kinda just having that ice awareness. We’ve already gotten some work done earlier in the summer [in August], which was really beneficial before coming in here.”
“We kinda touched on everything, but the coolest part of it was being able to skate with [Jonathan Quick] and [Darcy] Kuemper, and some of the other NHL guys—just getting to learn from those guys and figure it out,” he added. “It wasn’t as intense as trying to make the team here in rookie camp, but it was good to get my feet wet with that.”
An issue that Imoo and Ranford noticed immediately was that Petersen needs work on handling things when the play is behind his net.
“I’ve been working on how I handle plays behind the net—which shoulder to look over, and different scenarios that they saw when looking at me in video—how I can tighten up and eliminate some goals against,” said Petersen. “That was one thing we really talked about right away. Once it was brought up to me, there was a world of difference. I understood what was being said, and we got some chances to work on it [in August].”
Imoo also indicated that Petersen’s game might be a bit too technically oriented.
“As we go on here, I’ll get him to loosen up a little bit,” he noted. “You can tell that he’s been schooled a lot. He’s very technical. [I want] to give him a little bit more freedom.”
“A lot of guys go to a lot of [goaltending] schools and get a lot of training,” he added. “It looks good, and they’re very good skaters. But I want him to have a little bit more freedom to express himself, have fun making saves, and not [think that] we’re always on him for every single skating movement he does.”
As a first-year pro, Petersen seems to understand that he needs to work on his entire game and be the proverbial sponge.
“With me, it’s just tightening up my game,” he observed. “I’m totally open to criticism, and any pointers [Ranford and Imoo] might have. I’m one of those guys, and I’m not defending my game, or anything, [but] I’m very open to trying new things. [They have] a world of knowledge that I can’t wait to tap into.”
Petersen is likely to play for the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League this season, probably as the backup to Jack Campbell. That said, with NHL training camps still a handful of days away, all that is a bit premature.
“It’s a little too early,” he said. “I’m not a guy who needs things guaranteed to him, or anything like that. I’m just trying to come here and get better every day, and hopefully, that translates into wins for whichever team I’m with.”
“If I can do that, put my head down and get to work, I’m pretty confident with where I’ll end up,” he added. “I mean, it’s pro hockey. There are good goalies on every team, so I’m kind of excited to be able to work with whomever I’m with.”
Speaking of being excited, as Imoo alluded to earlier, he’s thrilled to have Petersen in the fold.
“We’re getting along really well now,” he said. “He seems really open. I’m really excited about having him. He’s a great competitor, a great kid, a great talent. I think he’ll be good.”
Credit an assist to LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen for his contributions to this story.
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings goaltending prospect Cal Petersen, shown here during the Kings 2017 Rookie Camp at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California, on September 8, 2017. Photo: Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.net.
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