Speed and Smarts Are Keeping Alex Iafallo On LA Kings Top Line

EL SEGUNDO, CA — As his rookie season progresses through its third month, left wing Alex Iafallo continues to make a very solid impression with the Los Angeles Kings, and has, for the most part, remained a fixture on their top line with Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar.

“It’s been awesome, so far,” said Iafallo. “Three months into the the NHL season—it’s pretty cool. I’m loving it, loving every experience I get. I’ve just got to keep working hard.”

“Three months have flown by,” added Iafallo. “Right now, we’re in a tough part of our schedule, playing every other day. I’ve just got to prepare for it, mentally and physically.”

Through 34 games, the 23-year-old, 6-0, 185-pound native of Eden, New York has scored two goals with eight assists for ten points, with a +6 plus/minus rating and four penalty minutes.

With those numbers, one could question why Iafallo is still on the top line. But the Kings certainly aren’t the ones asking that question.

“He’s fast, and he can make plays,” Kopitar said back in mid-October. “With his speed, he backs off the defensemen. That creates a little more room for us.”

“We’re reading off each other and making plays,” Kopitar added. “Everybody seems to be in the right position, and that’s why we’re creating chances. That’s what we want to do, and obviously, it’s a lot more fun to play with the puck.”

“You can do all the talking that you want, but once you step on the ice, it’s reading and reacting. You can talk to him and give him pointers, but once he steps on the ice, he’s playing his game. He’s playing to his strengths, and he’s skating really well. His ability to make plays is really high, so we’re just trying to encourage him to make those plays as often as he can.”

As solid as Iafallo has been on the top line, with the return of veteran winger Marian Gaborik to the lineup, not to mention his strong play upon his return, Iafallo has bounced around a bit, playing with several different line mates over the past few games, although on most shifts, he has remained with Brown and Kopitar.

“We like to have balance on our team,” said head coach John Stevens. “I think it’s good for your team to be able to make adjustments [during a] game…I think good playere should have the ability to play with different people and be effective.”

“I think there are pairs that’ll stay together,” added Stevens. “I think Tanner [Pearson] and Tyler [Toffoli] will stay together most of the time. Brownie and Kopi stay together most of the time…I think our team game is sound enough that we can move people around and that can be effective for us.”

As a young player, staying on the top line is the least of Iafallo’s concerns. In fact, just moving up from the from college hockey to the professional ranks is a challenge.

“It’s definitely different,” he said. “I played four years of only playing Friday and Saturday games. So everybody’s teaching me stuff. I’ve got to get [enough] sleep, eat right, and take care of my body. But it’s going well. I feel great now. I just have to keep my routine going and have fun out there.”

“I’m learning different ways to [get enough rest and proper nutrition],” he added. “It took me a while, and I’m learning from the other guys. You have to find the right routine that fits you. I also do the same stretching routines before and after practice. Off-ice [training] is huge, too. I also have to relax, physically and mentally, after a game.”

A more apparent part of that challenge is the players he’s playing against now.

“The size [of the players] is way different than college,” he observed. “They’re older guys—size is a huge factor. There are some really big defensemen out there. I have to use my speed to my advantage and know who’s out there on the ice.”

As alluded to earlier, Iafallo isn’t s big guy, so he relies heavily on his speed, and that includes while he’s on the forecheck—not something one might not necessarily think of for a.player engaged in battle along the boards for a loose puck.

“{I have to use] my speed on the forecheck, creating offense, and keeping the puck alive [in the attacking zone], so we can have those scoring chances,” he emphasized. “That’s what they expect out of me, and that’s what I expect out of myself.”

“With my speed, what I can do best is keep my stick live, get in on the forecheck, and make simple plays,” he added. “That’s such a huge part of the game. Keeping plays alive is huge.”

As well as he has played, so far, the NHL rookie is also learning a lot on the job.

“I’m learning, every game, whether it’s making simple plays on the breakout and getting them the puck off that—that’s way easier and creates more offense going forward,” he observed. “Then there’s finding the high slot area, where they always seem to find the soft areas where you get those shots off. Coming off the forecheck, too, there are soft areas where you’ve got to get them the puck where they’ll take quick shots.”

Iafallo has also paid a lot of attention to what he can learn from playing with Brown and Kopitar.

“They’re always in the right areas, reading and reacting, playing hard in every zone and on every shift,” he noted. “Playing with them, you’ve always got to be on. But once you’re rolling, you just go with the flow. From there on, you’re just playing hockey, making plays. You’re just reading off each other and reacting, especially in the offensive zone.”

Just three months into his rookie season in the NHL, and despite being on such a fast track—making it to the NHL straight out of college, Iafallo appears to have settled into his role, and he seems to have his head on straight, so to speak.

“It’s definitely pretty cool,” he said. “Coming here after four years of college hockey and to contribute, and have fun with the guys. It’s an amazing feeling, but you’ve always got to do the job. I’ve got to do my job right, and make sure that I’m on, every game, every practice.”

LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings rookie left wing Alex Iafallo. Photo: Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.net.

Creative Commons License 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.

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