Jonny Brodzinski Hopes “Kick In The Butt” Launches His NHL Career With LA Kings

EL SEGUNDO, CA — Now that scoring his first National Hockey League goal is behind him, forward prospect Jonny Brodzinski is hopeful that he will soon be able to shed that “prospect” label in short order and remain with the Los Angeles Kings.

Indeed, on November 18, during a 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Brodzinski scored at 2:23 of the second period, giving the Kings a 2-0 lead on a gorgeous backhand from the slot that beat Panthers goaltender James Reimer top shelf, glove side.

“That’s not how I expected my first one to go in, but I’ll take it,” said the 24-year-old, 6-1, 217-pound native of Ham Lake, Minnesota. “I’ve been imagining it for quite some time. I just thought it was always going to be a forehand shot, but I brought it to the backhand.”

“It was a great feeling,” he added. “I was getting a few shots, not Grade A [chances], but I finally found a little bit of [room] in the slot, and got one away.”

Brodzinski credited the coaching staff for some very helpful pre-scouting information.

“We were going over it [on video during the] pre-scout [session],” he noted. “[The Panthers] go man-to-man in their zone, so I just shook that first guy, and that created a lot of ice for me to skate that puck.”

“That was a good pre-scout by the coaches,” he added. “[Goaltending coach Bill Ranford] told us that off his elbows would be a good shot against him because he shrugs, a little bit. I just tried to get it upstairs. I think it was rolling on me, so I just wanted to put the puck towards the net.”

After making the Kings opening night roster, Brodzinski, who was selected by the Kings in the fifth round (148th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft, played in three games before being assigned to the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League on October 17.

“My hockey senses weren’t all there, at the very beginning [of the season],” he explained. “It wasn’t fair to these guys, either, I felt like I was hesitant on the forecheck.”

“I just think I wasn’t hopping on pucks quickly, and system-wise, I was there, but it was reading plays, and reacting to different situations,” he elaborated. “The execution part was another big reason why I got sent down. Those were things I needed to get a handle on.”

Head coach John Stevens explained the thinking behind sending Brodzinski back to the AHL.

“Anybody watching Jonny play would say that we’re excited about what his potential is,” he noted. “But he was a little bit hesitant. He wasn’t doing the things here that we’d see him do in the minors, and that’s not uncommon. You see defensemen come up—they’re almost thinking about not making a mistake.”

“To his credit, he was trying to be responsible,” he added. “But we wanted him to play his game—being good on the wall, getting in on the forecheck—all of those things. He went down, and [Reign head coach] Mike Stothers really pushed the issue with him about playing fast, and doing the things that’ll make him a good player.”

Young players often have to return to the AHL after getting a taste of playing in the NHL to help them take the next step.

“Jonny, to his credit, and I’ll use Tyler [Toffoli] and Tanner {Pearson] as examples,” said Stevens. “they came in and did some good things, but their games didn’t take a step forward until they went back to the minors. Jonny went back, and really seemed to get his game in order. He really started to play at the pace he can play at.”

“What we’ve seen, now that he’s come back, is that he’s a lot more confident,” added Stevens. “When you do the work and the preparation, confidence seems to come with that. That was a big-time play he made [in win against Florida], but that’s kind of what we thought Jonny was capable of, so it’s good to see.”

“There is a step that has to be taken by a young player to be the same player here that he is [in the minors], and we certainly saw that in his game tonight.”

Scoring his first NHL goal out of the way is also a confidence boost.

“It’s just mindset that you need to have, game in, and game out,” said Brodzinski. “Getting that first one out of the way is great for the confidence.”

Brodzinski made the most of his latest stint with the Reign, scoring four goals and adding five assists for nine points, with a +3 plus/minus rating in nine games, earning him a recall to the Kings on Novembeer 16.

“Going down to Ontario, I was playing 16 or 17 minutes a game—you get your hockey senses back,” he observed. “You react to pucks a little bit differently, and I was getting open a little bit better. All that translate up there a lot better. It’s just getting your reps in, getting out there and playing.”

“When you’re playing a lot, you’re getting your touches, and you’re getting more scoring opportunities, stuff like that” he added. “For a shooter like me, if I don’t get a scoring opportunity, it’s like I really didn’t do much. That’s what I’m here for. I’m here to score goals, to create opportunities for my line mates, and create opportunities for myself. That was my main goal, and I wasn’t doing that, right away. That was another big reason [he was assigned back to Ontario].”

Brodzinski was getting increased ice time and “touches,” as he put it, playing top six minutes with the Reign. But that won’t be the case with the Kings—he faces quite the adjustment, as a skilled player.

“It’s a different role, but it’s something that you’ve got to adjust to, right away,” he emphasized. “When I played in junior in Fargo, [North Dakota], I was a bottom six guy, too. It’s something I’ve had to do before, so it wasn’t a huge change. Just overall, [in terms of] ice time and getting your touches, it’s a little different.”

“You’re getting matched against [the opposition’s] third for fourth line, too,” he added. “I’m fine with whatever line I’m playing on, but it’s an attitude that you’ve got to bring, every single night. I know that we can create some opportunities, as lines. We’ve got some great players.”

No player wants to be sent down to the minors. But as Stevens indicated, it appears that Brodzinski not only got the most out of the move, but went into it with the right attitude.

“It was kind of a kick in the butt, getting sent down to Ontario,” said Brodzinski. “But I’ve come back up here with some confidence. I’m a little more patient with the puck and I’m just trying to play my game.”

LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings forward prospect Jonny Brodzinski. Photo: Gann Matsuda/

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