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College Free Agent to Top Line Threat: Alex Iafallo Proving He Belongs

Rookie forward has come out of nowhere to help boost LA Kings offense and revitalize the play of Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown

by Josh Cooper @JoshuaCooper / LAKings.com

Alex Iafallo didn't just materialize from nowhere to play on the top line for the LA Kings this season, though it feels that way.

In fact, the 23-year-old who signed with the Kings as a college free agent last summer hails from Eden, New York - a town outside of Buffalo.

His mom is a nurse and his dad owns a bar/restaurant in Hamburg, New York near where the Buffalo Bills play. He has a sister named Julianna, who is a forward on Ohio State's women's hockey team.

Iafallo said he likes country music, dance music, fishing and riding an ATV.

Video: Get to know LA Kings rookie forward Alex Iafallo

Also, he's enjoying every second with the Kings this year while using his skills to help supplement the resurgent play of both Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown on the first line.

"We all add something to the game and all I really have to do is get on the forecheck, get the puck and use my speed and get them the puck," said Iafallo, who has one goal and five assists in 15 games this season. "I think it's all going well together and we're getting points and getting wins here so we have to keep doing that."

Though Iafallo's swift ascendance may have caught some casual observers off guard, team brass had been following him for some time.

Iafallo attended development camp this summer where head coach John Stevens came away impressed.

Stevens' views didn't change when he later saw Iafallo at rookie camp prior to the start of Kings' training camp.

"He came in here in development camp and looked like a good player, but you've got to be careful because he's a little bit older, so you expect him to look a little better than the 18-year-old kids he's playing with. But then you've got development camp, (and then) rookie camp, and he still looked impressive," Stevens said.

Stevens noted that Los Angeles' preseason game against the Vegas Golden Knights was where he really saw that Iafallo could be an NHL player. In that game, Iafallo notched an assist in 15:12 of ice-time.

"We went in there after the China trip and we had a lot of young guys in our lineup, and Vegas really came after us, and I thought he was really a bright light in that game where he kind of gave a little glimpse of what he's capable of," Stevens said.

Early on, the decision to play Kopitar and Brown together was set, but Iafallo seemed to jump into the mix because of the chemistry he had with the two Kings stalwarts. Kopitar has 19 points through the season's first 15 games, while Brown has 15.

"The biggest thing is he gets sticks on pucks on the forecheck and kind of keeps plays alive," Brown said. "When you play with a guy like Kopitar, keeping a play alive results in the puck being in lots of times."

Though Iafallo had played well all season, his hard work hadn't yield the reward of a goal through the first 13 games of the season. That changed on Nov. 4 when the Kings hosted the Nashville Predators.

With the Kings trailing 3-0 in the third period, Iafallo took a pass from Kopitar on the side of the net and buried the puck past Predators goaltender Juuse Saros. It sparked a three-goal outburst for the Kings as they picked up a point in the standings.

Video: NSH@LAK: Iafallo one-times the puck into the open net

After the game, he checked his phone and saw messages from people from almost every walk of his life.

"All my friends and old teachers and old coaches and all that kind of stuff [sent me texts]," he said. "It was pretty cool to get that support and I couldn't thank them enough."

Iafallo has had a nice start, but an 82-game NHL season often brings extreme ups and downs - a lot of which he has never experienced. Still, he seems up for the challenge and understands that the key is to be good over the long haul.

Said Iafallo, "We're making plays like we're supposed to and having fun too and just staying positive every shift.

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