LA Kings Are Gambling On Reunification and Chemistry Against Divisional Rivals

LA Kings center Anze Kopitar, shown here during a recent practice at the
Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California.
{click above to view larger image)
Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography

EL SEGUNDO, CA — On their recent seven-game road trip, the Los Angeles Kings earned a 3-2-2 record even though they had to shuffle their forward lines after both Dustin Brown and Tyler Toffoli suffered injuries, forcing them out of the lineup.

Brown returned for the final two games of the trip, but Toffoli remains out of the lineup and did not join the team on their Tuesday afternoon flight to Vancouver, where they will play on Wednesday night, followed by a game at Edmonton on Thursday.

Head coach Darryl Sutter said that Toffoli would not even be examined by doctors again “…for at least a week.” As a result, he has reunited center Anze Kopitar with Brown and Marian Gaborik on a forward line.

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Derek Forbort Has Been A Pleasant Surprise For LA Kings

LA Kings defenseman prospect Derek Forbort
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography

EL SEGUNDO, CA — Although he isn’t lighting up the league, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Derek Forbort has exceeded expectations to this point in the 2016-17 National Hockey League season.

The 24-year-old, 6-4, 216-pound native of Duluth, Minnesota has surprised many with one goal and eight assists for nine points, a +4 plus/minus rating and 34 penalty minutes in 28 games this season—numbers not expected from the stay-at-home defenseman who came into the season with low expectations.

Forbort, who was selected by the Kings in the first round (15th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, has been seeing more ice time since defenseman Brayden McNabb suffered an upper body injury on October 29 at St. Louis, and so far, he has shown some improvement, even though, as it often happens with young players, he has his share of good and bad moments.

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An Heir of Resiliency

The following is a story I originally wrote for the English section of the Rafu Shimpo, the Los Angeles Japanese Daily News (founded in 1903), on a freelance assignment. It was published in their print edition on November 30, 2016, and they have graciously allowed me to reprint the story here.

Los Angeles Kings right wing Devin Setoguchi
(click above to view larger image_
Photo: Juan Ocampo/Courtesy Los Angeles Kings via Getty Images

EL SEGUNDO, CA — When he was playing youth hockey in Canada, Devin Setoguchi’s favorite player was a fellow Japanese Canadian, superstar Paul Kariya, who played for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks (now the Anaheim Ducks) from 1994-95 to 2002-03, before finishing his National Hockey League career with the Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues.

Today, Setoguchi, 29, is playing for the Los Angeles Kings, hoping to complete a comeback story that would add another chapter to a family legacy in Canada that began in Vancouver, British Columbia, and includes his paternal grandparents having to survive incarceration in a horse stable nearly 75 years ago.

Setoguchi grew up in Taber, Alberta, on a farm that was established by his paternal grandparents, who lived in Vancouver until World War II when they were forcibly removed from their home and community.

Indeed, Canadians of Japanese ancestry, along with their immigrant parents, were unjustly incarcerated during World War II—more than 22,000 people in all—in Canadian concentration camps, in similar fashion to the unjust incarceration of more than 110,000 Japanese Americans and their immigrant parents in American concentration camps and other confinement sites.

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LA Kings’ Top Prospect Adrian Kempe Is Struggling To Improve

Los Angeles Kings forward prospect Adrian Kempe is struggling in the first two months of the 2016-17 season with
the American Hockey League’s Ontario Reign.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography

ONTARIO, CA — Looking back at the Los Angeles Kings 2016 Training Camp, highly touted forward prospect Adrian Kempe showed off the speed and raw skill that has the Kings so high on him, not to mention fans clamoring for him to be called up to the big club.

Kempe, 20, was selected by the Kings in the first round (29th overall) of the 2014 National Hockey League Draft. He was a big factor in the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs with the Manchester Monarchs, then a part of the American Hockey League, scoring eight goals and adding one assist for nine points in 17 playoff games, helping lead the Monarchs to the Calder Cup Championship.

The 6-2, 202-pound native of Kramfors, Sweden, played his first full season in North America with the AHL’s Ontario Reign last year, scoring 11 goals and adding 17 assists for 28 points, with a -1 plus/minus rating in 55 regular season games.

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Dustin Brown’s Improved Play Is About Much More Than Not Wearing The “C”

Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography

EL SEGUNDO, CA — No, he’s not setting the National Hockey League on fire, nor is he hot enough to melt the ice he’s been skating on. Nevertheless, much maligned forward Dustin Brown has not only been a far better player compared to the one he has been the last few seasons, but he has also been one of the Los Angeles Kings’ best players so far this season.

Through 20 games this season, Brown has scored three goals and has added six assists for nine points. That puts him on pace to score twelve goals and to contribute 25 assists for 37 points.

Last season, Brown ended the regular season with 11 goals and 17 assists, good for 28 points in 82 games.

Although that extrapolation seems to indicate that Brown isn’t showing a tremendous amount of improvement over last season, numbers don’t tell the whole story.

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