When Kevin Westgarth
takes the ice with the Manchester Monarchs, there is always one thing he must be sure to take care of.
"Everybody gets hit; I just have to make sure I'm the one doing the banging," Westgarth said.
Since signing with the Los Angeles Kings as an unrestricted free agent in March, 2007, Westgarth has established a reputation as a physical and aggressive player on the ice, embracing the enforcer role with ease. Never known as much of a goal-scorer, Westgarth made contributions with his intensity and his willingness to drop the gloves if it meant protecting a teammate.
Therefore, when Westgarth scored four goals and notched an assist in three games last week, some eyebrows were raised. In recognition of his recent scoring streak, Westgarth is this weeks LAKings.coms Prospect of the Week.
Overall, Westgarth has five goals and five assists with a +/- rating of +8 in 26 games at right wing for the Monarchs.
Even though the Monarchs currently sit atop the Atlantic Division in the AHL with a record of 18-7-1 and 39 points, the team has recently encountered a great number of injuries and call-ups to the Kings.
Key contributors such as captain Drew Bagnall, Geoff Walker, and Thomas Hickey have been sidelined with various injuries, while players such as Oscar Moller have been called up to the Kings.
In the midst of an uneasy time, the Monarchs needed someone to step up and bring a level of stability.
That person was Westgarth.
"There was an opportunity for me to provide some secondary scoring due to injuries or guys getting sent up to the Kings," Westgarth said."I am just glad I can chip in."
Nelson Emerson, the Los Angeles Kings Director of Player Development, was impressed with the way Westgarth stepped up in the offensive areas of the game.
"It's great to see for the club because they've been decimated by injuries," Emerson said. "It's great to see when you have the whole team pulling together."
Westgarth recalled a conversation that Manchester coach Mark Morris had with the team in the past week. The theme of the talk was that at one point in each of the player's careers, they were looked at to contribute a great deal on the offensive end.
"Coach brought up that all of us at one point of time in our careers were goal scorers," Westgarth said. "You get so focused on a routine and you fit into a role, but you can never forget. You have to remind yourself that you have the skills to score goals. It's nice to be able to contribute on the offensive end as well as on the defensive and physical sides of the game which is what I'm known for."
Westgarth's role as the team's enforcer, providing an intimidating physical presence. With the role comes the expectation for an intensely physical game night in and night out. Westgarth said that it is a role that requires a great deal of mental preparation for, but one that he relishes the opportunity to fill.
"If they're scared they're not going to be able to make a play," said Westgarth of opposing players.
"He's a player in a role in hockey that's very difficult," Emerson said. "He's a hard-nosed player. For him it's about being ready to go and compete and battle on a nightly basis, and a lot of the time get into fights."
Westgarth said his focus is on becoming a more well-rounded hockey player. He admitted that being sent down to Manchester after training camp was disappointing, but he feels it has given him a tremendous opportunity.
"I feel like I have a better opportunity this year and I have to take advantage of it," Westgarth said.