Sixteen years ago in Wakaw, Saskatchewan, a 4-year-old named Linden Vey
took to the ice for the first time.
A natural from the start, he never looked back.
"If you had told me then that I'd be playing pro hockey, I'd be pretty excited," said Vey, who roughly three feet and 140 pounds later is in the midst of his rookie year with the AHL's Manchester Monarchs, the primary development affiliate for the Los Angeles Kings
The right wing was drafted by the Kings in the fourth round (No. 96) in 2009. After four junior seasons in the Western Hockey League with Medicine Hat and winning the WHL scoring title with 116 points in 2010-11, Vey joined the Monarchs at the beginning of this season and hasn't wasted any time making his mark.
recorded 6 goals, 14 points and a plus-9 rating to earn Reebok/AHL Rookie of the Month honors. (Photo: Steve Babineau)
The youngest player on the youngest team in the American Hockey League, Vey has notched 17 goals and 37 points in 63 games this season, tying for the team scoring lead.
"Any time you have personal success, you can't just take personal credit," he said of his offensive achievements. "I've been playing with [Brandon] Kozun pretty much the whole year. He's a second-year guy and he's got a lot of skill.
"It makes your job a lot easier. I've also got Robbie Czarnik on my line, and we've been doing a lot better. We found some chemistry, and when you play with a guy the whole year, you know where they are on the ice and it makes it definitely a lot easier on yourself."
Combined, Vey and his linemates have logged close to 100 points and show no signs of slowing down. The Monarchs are currently seventh in the AHL's Eastern Conference with a 33-29-0-3 record and 69 points as they eye the franchise's 10th Calder Cup Playoff berth in 11 seasons. In February, Vey had a hand in half of the Monarchs' 28 goals as a team, recording 6 goals, 14 points and a plus-9 rating to earn Reebok/AHL Rookie of the Month honors.
Manchester enters this weekend having won five of its last seven games on the heels of a seven-game winless slide.
"Lately we've been playing a lot better hockey and I think it's the best time of year to play your best," Vey said of the Monarchs' improvement. "We feel that we haven't gotten there yet. I think we're coming, and if we can keep the ball rolling before playoffs, that'd be great."
Now as a member of a strong AHL team poised for a Calder Cup run, Vey says his days back in the WHL seem very far away.
"I think when I first came in, like anybody, I was a little bit nervous," recalled Vey, who made his pro debut on Oct. 7 vs. Springfield and notched his first two points with a pair of assists in Providence a week later. "At the start I think I didn't have the confidence like I do now. The biggest thing in hockey, like in anything, is being consistent.
"That's what I've been working on all year, and it's been a lot better as of late."
As he grows more at home in Manchester and in the Kings organization, Vey says he looks forward to continued success and a long pro career.
"You come to pro hockey and you're not too sure what to expect, but I think the biggest thing is we had a group of guys that really enjoy being together and want to learn," he said. "I think that's something that you always want to be a part of -- a franchise that's up-and-coming and wanting to win."
However, no matter what the future holds for the 20-year-old from Wakaw, he makes sure he keeps it all in perspective.
"It's pretty lucky and pretty special, what we get to do," Vey said. "We come every day to the rink and play the game we love.
"I just enjoy being part of the game."