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Coming On Strong

by Seth Burton / Los Angeles Kings

When the Los Angeles Kings skated off the ice for the final time in 2010-11, the disappointment was palpable, the dejection fresh. And while Kings center Trevor Lewis was just as upset as anyone over the premature playoff exit, the 24-year old was quickly able to look back on a strong finish to a career year, a year when the 17th overall pick of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft made his first true impact on the league.  

A highly-rated player who has learned to deal with the accompanying high expectations for much of his career, Lewis was eager to make an impression on the NHL, as his speed and intensity firmly planted him on the hockey radar when he exploded for 35 goals in the USHL and 29 goals and 44 assists for the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL before getting drafted by Los Angeles.

But even as Lewis made his mark for the Kings minor league affiliate in Manchester, he appeared in only 11 games for L.A. from 2008-10, scoring one goal and registering two assists.

“I think it goes along with every league,” Lewis said. “You play a year and kind of get your feet wet a little bit and you get comfortable – but not too comfortable. Then when you come back the next year you kind of know what to expect and you know that you can play at that level and you have more confidence going into the year.”

Lewis was ready for the 2010-11 season, but started slowly, not seeing the ice time that he had hoped for while playing in just two of the Kings first 11 games.  

“It is definitely tough when you are not playing,” Lewis said about the first few weeks of last season. “But, no one wants to see you moping around and being a burden on the team. You have to stay positive and be there to support guys and learn in practice.”

The 6-foot-1 inch, 194 pound Lewis strived to maintain his edge and focus, aware that all he needed was an opportunity to prove himself.

“I was just watching practice, talking to the coaches a lot and watching a lot of video,” Lewis said. “Then I knew, when I got my shot, I would be ready for it because I was in shape and ready to go.”

And once he got going, Lewis didn’t look back, providing energy on the fourth line and eventually becoming a fixture on the third line. The only Utah native playing in the NHL skated in a career-high 72 games, scoring three goals and registering 10 assists, proving to be a disruptive force with his aggressive forechecking and penalty killing ability.

Lewis came on strong as the Kings made their push for the playoffs, recording five of his 13 points in the final two months of the season. But it was in the first round playoff series vs. the San Jose Sharks where he truly showed his value, easily stepping into a prime role when points leader Anze Kopitar was forced to the sidelines with an injury and center Jarret Stoll was suspended for Game 2 (checking from behind penalty in Game 1). Lewis responded with a goal and three assists in the postseason, finishing second on the team in playoff assists, but it was that promising finish that has him looking forward to the 2011-12 season.

“It was great,” Lewis said about participating in the NHL playoffs. “It was a great experience for all of us young guys who hadn’t been there before. It is a whole different game in the playoffs. Everyone is jacked up and everyone is giving 100 percent every night. It was a lot of fun.”

Now that he has had a taste of playoff action, Lewis is willing to do whatever it takes to have more.

“Obviously, losing in the first round is not what we wanted,” Lewis said. “This year, if we come out and play the way we should, we should be able to have a good run.”

As a former first round pick, Lewis is aware of expectations, and he is also well aware that his end of the season performance, as well as the exciting play of the promising young Kings lineup, has fans expecting even bigger things.

“I do feel like that is expected,” Lewis said. “I hope so. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do better each year, and for me, I am putting more pressure on myself to have a better year and contribute a little more and at the same time be consistent and do the same things well that I did last year.”

Putting in the work required to improve is nothing new for Lewis, who grew up in Salt Lake City and was raised by a hockey-loving Canadian father who started working on his hockey skills at a young age at the rink across the street from his house.

“My dad would take me to go skating every day and I just fell in love with it,” Lewis said. “I started playing in just a house league, and then it grew from there. I just loved it and never wanted to be away from it.”

Lewis, who participated in the Kings annual AAA Fan Cruise and still makes his off-season home in Utah, dedicated himself to re-joining the Kings as a bigger threat in the face-off circle for the 2011-12 season.

“This past summer, I took the same approach that I always take,” Lewis said. “I was trying to get bigger and stronger and faster. At the same time, I worked on the skills I needed to work on. I think face-offs are a big thing for me. I’ve been trying to work on that a lot, as well as shooting.”

Last season, Lewis excelled in situations where he was able to use his speed and quickness to his advantage.

“I think a big part of my game is getting in on the forecheck and creating some havoc with their defense,” Lewis said. “I’m going in and trying to break up pucks and stuff. That is a big part of it for me – to go in and use my speed. But, I have learned that I don’t need to go 100 miles per hour all the time. I have learned to be in control and read the situation.”

It is easy to decipher the situation now for Lewis and the Kings as the season gets under way with high expectations. And Lewis wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I can’t wait to get going,” Lewis said. “It should be a fun year, I think we look pretty dangerous, so I am excited to see how everything works out.”
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