LEKSAND, Sweden – It was late in a critical game against Sweden at the World Junior Hockey Championship and Team USA Head Coach Ron Rolston was scouring his bench.
Rolston looked down to see who he wanted to end over the boards and he tapped Trevor Lewis
on the shoulder. A couple of seconds later, the gritty and speedy forward was in full flight thanks to an on-the-fly change.
It speaks volumes about the confidence Rolston has in Lewis that he sent him out at a crucial stage of the game. Team USA was playing its second must-win game in as many days and they were nursing a 2-1 lead over the host country of the pressure-packed world junior tournament.
Lewis was the 17th overall pick by the Kings last June in the NHL Draft and he was on leave from the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League to play his wares in a competition that features the world's top junior-aged players.
Lewis was on the bench when the Swedes tied it with 14 seconds left in the third period but he saw ice time on the power play in overtime, when the United States won 3-2 on a goal by fellow Kings' prospect Jack Johnson.
Afterwards, Rolston said he didn't hesitate a second in putting Lewis on the ice when the game was entering the last few minutes of the third period.
"He has done pretty much everything from penalty kill to power play to five-on-five play for us," Rolston said after the game. "He is a versatile player."
When the Minnesota Wild started inquiring about acquiring the services of Pavol Demitra last summer, the Kings were adamant that Lewis come back their way in any draft day deal. The Kings also received prospect Patrick O'Sullivan, but Lewis was key and the deal would not have happened without him.
The Kings wasted no time in getting Lewis under contract and he signed a three-year deal in July.
"He is a great player and he has a lot of talent. You could see that with how high we went in the draft ands they signed him right away which is unbelievable for that late of a first-round pick," says U.S. National Junior teammate Patrick Kane, who plays for the London Knights of the OHL and has lined up opposite Lewis a number of times this season.
"He has a lot o talent and he is a great kid off the ice. It is great playing with him and he is real easy to get along with. I can learn from him."
Lewis, who is from Murray, Utah, says he has always wanted to play professional hockey. His earliest memory of the game he holds closest to his heart came when he was seven or eight and he scored a hat trick in his first youth hockey house league game.
"I was pretty pumped," he said.
Did he pick the top corner?
"I could not raise the puck at that age," he laughs.
He started to take hockey seriously when he entered his early teens and he moved away from home when he was 15 to play midget hockey. A year later, he joined the Des Moines Buccaneers of United States Hockey League and had 10 goals and 22 points in 52 junior league games.
"That was a big decision, whether I wanted to get serious with hockey or not. My first year was the hardest. I got real homesick and it was kind of tough but I stuck it out," he says. "It was tough being away from home and it builds your character up."
It was in his second year with the Buccaneers that Lewis blossomed into a top prospect. He finished second in the USHL scoring with a league-high 35 goals and 75 points in 56 games and was named USHL Player of the Year. He also won the award given to the player who shows the best citizenship on and off the ice.
Lewis was already in USA Hockey's development pipeline and was a member of the U.S. Junior Select 18&Under Team that competed at the Viking Cup tournament in Alberta.
Lewis was one of the top draft-eligible prospects heading into the 2006 NHL Draft and was surprised when told the Kings insisted he was part of the Demitra trade with the Wild.
"Those are big shoes to fill but they have a young team and they are rebuilding and hopefully I can just keep working hard and get better and make it there as soon as possible," he says.
Lewis is making his first appearance with the U.S. National Junior Team and he hopes the experience gained in competing against the top junior-aged players in the world will give him momentum going into the second half of the OHL season when he gets back to North America.
"I would have liked to have scored a little more (before he departed for Sweden) but hopefully in the second half of the year I can bear down a little more and put the pucks in the net," he says. "I have to have a good second half of the year and then get a good solid summer in and then go to camp and make the team."
Lewis, Johnson and goalie Jeff Zatkoff
are teammates here in Sweden and the three Kings prospects have talked about being back together again with Los Angeles in the near future.
"It is great to have those guys in here and hopefully we will be together again and we can look back and say we have played our best and this was a special time," says Lewis.
The last word goes to Rolston.
As coach of the U.S. National Junior Team, he has input on which players he wants to represent his country on the world stage.
He described Lewis as "an excellent young man."
"There is a lot of character to him and he does a lot of things for us. He has been a guy who has been responsible defensively and he has been good down low. There have been some tough forwards in this tournament so far, and he is a guy who can make things happen offensively for you," said Rolston.
"This is the first time I have had a chance to coach Trevor," continued the head coach. "He was at the summer camp but you get a better feel for the kids as you go through games and when you get put in tough situations that we have been in you learn a lot about the young man.
"He is one of the guys who really has a lot of character to him. He is a great kid and a great young man.''
What else is there to say?