EL SEGUNDO, CA — Only twelve days have passed since the Los Angeles Kings acquired left wing prospect Carl Grundstrom as part of the trade that sent veteran defenseman Jake Muzzin to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Grundstrom has not only hit the ground running, but he has already made quite the impression.
The 21-year-old, 6-1, 200-pound native of Umea, Sweden was assigned to the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League (Kings primary minor league affiliate) and in five games with the Reign, he has averaged more than a point per game, with two goals and four assists for six points, with a +3 plus/minus rating.
Before the trade, in 42 games with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL this season, Grundstrom, who was selected by the Maple Leafs in the second round (57th overall) of the 2016 National Hockey League Entry Draft, scored 13 goals with 16 assists for 29 points, with +8 plus/minus rating and 26 penalty minutes.
Although he is living in a hotel for the time being, Grundstrom appears to be settling in quite well with the Reign.
“It feels good to be here and I’m looking forward to playing here,” he said. “It’s been good. The fans have been good, both in Ontario and in San Diego [where he scored two goals and added an assist in a 6-3 win over the San Diego Gulls on February 6]. I’m really enjoying playing here. It’s been fun. Hockey is bigger in Toronto, but there’s pretty good interest here, too.”
“I think this is a good opportunity for me,” he added. “I’m just looking forward to it and trying to play my game, hard and physical. I’m trying to score goals, too, of course.”
Despite the small sample size, in terms of games played with the Reign, Grundstrom has already made quite the impression.
“He’s made a really good impression,” said head coach Mike Stothers. “First of all, he comes in and he looks like a hockey player when you see him on the ice—the way he carries himself and the way he gets around.”
“His instincts are good, he plays with an edge and he’s got a combination of finesse and a heaviness to him,” added Stothers. “He likes contact, the wall work, the dirty areas and when he gets the opportunity, he gets [his shot] away in a hurry. He’s one of those guys who doesn’t need much of an opportunity to make something into a really good scoring chance.”
“I really like the way he gets his shot off. It’s a quick release without much wind up. There’s a lot on it. It’s harder and heavier than goalies expect and the quickness in which he gets his shot off doesn’t allow goalies to get set. I think that’s important and I think that’s why I think this guy is going to have some success at the NHL level.”
Stothers also noted that Grundstrom, a skilled power forward, has, in a very short time, already earned his trust in critical situations, but added that he doesn’t know if Grundstrom can play on the penalty-kill just yet.
“He’s already made such an impression on me that I’m not afraid to put him out there in any situation, whether it’s late in a game, for defensive purposes, whatever,” he noted. “I did ask him if he can kill penalties, and he said that he’d never done it, so I guess we can see how he does on the penalty-kill.”
“Everybody wants to play on the power play,” he added. “Not everyone wants the penalty-kill. Every once in awhile, you’re going to get hit by the puck. That tends to eliminate guys in a hurry.”
Looking ahead, Kings general manager Rob Blake has said that he would like to see Grundstrom called up to play for the Kings at some point this season and according to Stothers, he is the kind of young player the Kings need.
“I think he’s a good fit,” he said. “He’s certainly what we’re looking for—a younger player who’s got some upside and some raw ability and talent the organization needs. He’s going to be a good one.”
Indeed, Grundstrom has had quite the impact with the Reign in a very short time. Should he continue at his current pace, the usual numbers game notwithstanding, Grundstrom could force Blake’s hand sooner rather than later.
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings left wing prospect Carl Grundstrom, shown here during practice with the Ontario Reign on February 7, 2019, at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California. Photo: Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.net.
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