EL SEGUNDO, CA — Less than three minutes into his game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 2, Los Angeles Kings center prospect Michael Amadio had another dream come true.
The first dream was making it to the National Hockey League. He made his NHL debut on October 26, in one of hockey’s meccas, Montreal.
“I thought Montreal was just a dream come true for my first NHL game,” said the 21-year-old, 6-1, 204-pound native of Sault, Ste. Marie, Ontario. “It was pretty special, with all that rich history there. It was great to be a part of.”
“Going out for warm-ups, and then, my first and second shifts, I was a little nervous,” added Amadio. “After that, I settled down a bit.”
“My whole family flew into Montreal for the game, which was awesome to see. My brother and sister were there, too. That was an awesome experience. As a kid, I always dreamed of playing in the NHL, so we were talking about me finally making it.”
One week later, Amadio had another dream come true when he scored his first NHL goal less than three minutes into a 5-3 victory over the Maple Leafs at Staples Center in Los Angeles on November 2.
“It was a pretty indescribable feeling,” he beamed. “There’s a lot of emotions running through my body. It was a great pass by [Tanner Pearson off of a turnover]. Fortunately for me, it went into the back of the net.”
Like making his NHL debut in Montreal, scoring his first NHL goal against Toronto, another hockey mecca, was special.
“Growing up watching them, being from Canada. It’s a nice feeling, getting that one out of the way,” he noted.
But it really didn’t start to sink in until he got back to his hotel room next to the Kings practice facility in El Segundo, California.
“[It was when] I saw the highlights, seeing all the guys who were on the ice with me just as excited, maybe even more excited than I was,” he said. “I think that’s when it hit me, and it was a pretty special feeling.”
As special as it was for him, there’s a good chance it was even more special for his parents.
“They were happy for me, very proud,” said Amadio. “It was a dream come true to score my first NHL goal. They stayed up to watch it, which was pretty special. My brother and sister both texted me. I had aunts and uncles texting me. All my buddies texted me this morning. They saw the highlights. It’s been a pretty unreal experience.”
“It’s awesome, knowing that I have that support going forward,” added Amadio. “It’s nice to know that I have a lot of people behind me. But it’s just the start. I’ve got to keep going forward and build on that positive note.”
Through four games with the Kings, Amadio has not only scored that goal, but he’s also earned a 55.0 percent face-off win percentage. Combine that with his solid, 200-foot game, he’s winning over the Kings coaching staff.
“He’s played well,” said head coach John Stevens. “That’s why he’s stayed in the lineup. He’s a kid who scored a lot when he played in junior [hockey in Canada]. He’s very opportunistic around the net.”
“One thing we wanted to see from him—we knew he was skilled,” added Stevens. “We just wanted to see how hard he was going to be on the puck, and see how he handled play down low, because we knew we were going to see a lot of that. We’ve been pleasantly surprised.”
“He positions himself well, he’s got a strong stick on the puck, he’s able to get plays stopped up, and when he gets the puck, he’s able to skate pucks out of trouble. He’s got really good sense and awareness. He’s come in and done a good job for us.”
That sure is a big boost for a young player who has just one season of professional experience in the American Hockey League under his belt.
“They like the way I’ve been playing,” he said. “They’ve told me that. That’s been a bit of a confidence booster for me. I just want to go out there every night and be on the right side of the puck.”
“I’d like to contribute a little more, offensively, but I like the game I was playing, defensively, being on the right side of the puck,” he added. “I’ve just got to keep going, playing my game. Hopefully, I can stay up here a bit.”
As reported earlier, Amadio has an outstanding 55.0 percent face-off winning percentage through the four games. That might not seem to be significant, given the minuscule sample size. But as poor as he was in the face-off circle prior to this season, it’s an accomplishment.
“That’s been a big thing for me,” he noted. “Last year, I struggled with it. But this past summer was big for me, working on face-offs. The hard work is showing positively for me now.”
“I worked with [former Kings center and current development consultant Jarret Stoll] quite a bit,” he added. “We went over what to look for when you go into the face-off circle—what hand the linesman is using [to drop the puck, whether the opposing player is left or right-handed], what he likes to do, and just going from there.”
About That First NHL Goal Puck…It’s About Much More Than The Puck
Immediately after Amadio scored, line mate Brooks Laich was jubilant, probably more excited about the goal than Amadio was, and after congratulating Amadio, he skated to the net to grab that black, vulcanized rubber memento.
“I was still in shock,” said Amadio. “It was a pretty special feeling. [Laich] was in the huddle with us, and he raced right over to get the puck, which was awesome. It was great to see. He was a great line mate last night.”
It was a very special moment for Laich, too.
“At that point, it was a big goal for our line, and to start the hockey game,” said Laich, the 34-year-old native of Wawota, Saskatchewan. “But for him, too, to snap one home, he’s trying to create a role [for himself] as an NHL player on this team. I’m just super excited for him.”
“I don’t know if it made me think back to my first NHL goal, but you know the feeling,” added the 12-year NHL veteran who spent the vast majority of his career with the Washington Capitals before a trade deadline deal sent him to the Maple Leafs in the 2015-16 season. “It’s so exciting, and it’s such a monumental moment in his life. Just to be a part of it, and to be there with him, is so special. You take so much pride in each other, enjoying the game, and the long road he’s traveled to get here. We’ve all done that, and to see him rewarded like that is so much fun. It’s a contagious energy. I was just proud to be part of it.”
“Hockey is such a special sport. It’s a special thing to all of us. It’s so enjoyable, and to say that you’ve scored in the National Hockey League is quite a treat.”
Laich also reminisced about his first NHL goal.
“I remember that I couldn’t wipe a smile off my face,” he recalled. “I scored in Montreal on Yann Denis, and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face [while skating] back to the bench, down the line, and when I sat on the bench, I still had a smile on my face. Glen Hanlon was our coach, at the time, and he said, ‘boy, does that feel good.’”
For the record, that goal was scored on November 19, 2005, on the power play, at 9:20 of the first period, during a 5-1 Capitals win over the Montreal Canadiens.
“You think of your parents,” Laich said about players scoring their first NHL goals. “You think of the people who got you there—your coaches, your brother and sister. There’s so much more than just your personal enjoyment. You think of everybody who helped you reach that moment. It’s so, so rewarding.”
As noted earlier, Laich was probably more excited when the goal was scored than Amadio was. He explained why he was so visibly excited.
“Because I know that feeling, and because I know that feeling, I’m so excited for him,” he said. “That’s part of the culture we want to preach here, and it says in our hallway here: ‘It’s amazing what you can accomplish when no one cares who gets the praise.’”
“If your teammate has success, you’re just as happy, or [happier], for him than if you had it, personally,” he added. “If you can do that, throughout [your team], you have a real chance of building something special, and I’ve seen it from our top guys. They exemplify that, and it has a trickle-down effect to the rest of us. That’s something I want to help promote as well.”
Now that’s what being a good…no…a great teammate is all about.
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings center prospect Michael Amadio. Photo: Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.net.
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