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Kings' Prospect Camp Getting Offensive

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings

The Kings’ development camp is becoming more offensive by the year.

In the early part of general manager Dean Lombardi’s team-building exercise, the summer camp -- which brings together recently drafted prospects for several days of on- and off-ice training -- was filled with defensive and goalie prospects.

Now, a look at the roster indicates a roster evolution.

Back-end prospects such as defensemen Jake Muzzin, Nicolas Deslauriers and Derek Forbort and goalie Martin Jones still draw notice, but the big numbers are up front.

Consider that the Kings’ camp includes forward Tyler Toffoli, who led the junior-level Ontario Hockey League in goals (57) and was tied for the league lead in points. It includes Linden Vey, who led the Western Hockey League with 116 points and Jordan Weal, who tied for fifth in the WHL in points (96).

Then there are forwards already in the Kings’ minor-league system, such as Brandon Kozun, Ray Kaunisto and Jordan Nolan, who will be pushing for roster spots.

So while team coaches and management stress, on an annual basis, that the development camp is a time for instruction, not evaluation, there’s always a competitive element among the players, who are able to measure their skills against each other.

"You just want to come in here and show the progress you're making," Toffoli said after Monday’s sessions. "There hasn't really been much summer so far. You have to work as hard as you can to come in here in the best shape possible. You're really working hard so you can come into the main camp and make even more of an impression."

Toffoli, in particular, has drawn significant interest because of his goal burst last season. Toffoli has one season of junior hockey eligibility remaining, as does Weal.

"The NHL isn't just skill," Toffoli said. "The best guys in the league are the hardest workers in the league. You look at a guy like [Sidney] Crosby. He's probably the hardest worker in the league, and he's the best player. You just want to work as hard as you can and make as much of an impression as you can."

Vey, who made a 41-point jump in points last season, turns 20 on Sunday and will be eligible to play in the American Hockey League in 2011-12.

"This has been my second or third time here, and every year you get a little more comfortable," Vey said. "It's good, after two months off the ice, to get back on the ice and see some of the guys that you've played against over the past couple years."

Monday morning’s camp session included a full-team scrimmage, which ended in a 3-3 tie. Toffoli scored a goal, as did 2011 draft pick Nick Shore. Jones did not allow a goal in his 20 minutes of play in the 40-minute, running-clock scrimmage.

The prospects will scrimmage again at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, and all of the day’s practice sessions are open and free to the public.

Forbort, the Kings’ first-round draft pick in 2010, was able to participate in Monday’s scrimmage and drills after reporting back pain at the start of camp. The only injured prospect Monday was goalie Jean-Francois Berube.

The development camp marks the first time in Kings uniforms for the 2011 draft class, which includes goalie Chris Gibson and forwards Andy Andreoff, Joel Lowry, Michael Mersch, Nicholas Shore and Michael Schumacher.

"Just seeing the (locker) room and the practice facility, it's pretty nice so far," said Andreoff, a third-round pick who totaled 33 goals and 42 assists for Oshawa of the OHL last season. "I've been able to get on the ice a little bit with the new guys, the draft picks, so I'm looking forward to seeing what's next.

"I'm trying to show everything I can do, and how I play. I'm just trying to do it out here now. It's a little different."


The area behind the net at the Kings’ training rink has a new look. The rink is helping the NHL test a new setup, one that has the glass stationed very close to the front of the boards, cutting down on the ``ledge’’ that exists at the top of the boards.

The change creates a nearly flat surface where the glass and boards meet, and the thought is that the change might reduce bad puck bounces as well as cut down on injuries, from players hitting their heads on the unpadded ledge.

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