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Kings taking it easy on Gabriel Vilardi in development camp

First-round pick had 29 goals, 32 assists in 49 games during hectic season in Ontario Hockey League

by Dan Greenspan / Correspondent

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Kings center Gabriel Vilardi is going to work on his skating this summer. It just won't happen this week during their development camp this week.

Vilardi, the Kings' first-round pick (No. 11) at the 2017 NHL Draft, wasn't on the ice Tuesday and doesn't expect to do much before the camp concludes with a scrimmage Friday following a busy season with Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League.

"Obviously, I had a long year with the Memorial Cup, so it's more of a rest thing for now," Vilardi said.

Video: Kings draft F Gabriel Vilardi No. 11

Despite being ranked as a consensus top-five prospect, (NHL Central Scouting had him fourth), Vilardi dropped to the Kings because of concerns about his skating. But it was his performance at the Memorial Cup that made Kings director of amateur scouting Mark Yannetti feel comfortable ending the unexpected draft-day slide.

"The two fastest junior hockey games I saw last year were the Memorial Cup games where Windsor played Erie," Yannetti said during a conference call after the draft. "They were the two fastest games I saw in junior hockey, and he was the best player in each one of those games, so I view his skating as not an issue."

Vilardi had 29 goals and 32 assists in 49 games for Windsor, including six assists in the two Memorial Cup games against Erie.

The Kings believe Vilardi could be their next Tyler Toffoli, who fell into the second round because of doubts about his skating but has scored 70 goals over the past three seasons. Toffoli agreed to terms on a a three-year contract with Los Angeles on June 7.

Video: Gabe Vilardi talks with NHL Tonight

Yannetti conceded that Vilardi's skating is not aesthetically pleasing, but expects him to be an average skater at worst in the NHL.

"Maybe I'm seeing something that people aren't seeing," Yannetti said. "Does his skating need to improve? Yes. Is his skating a limitation? I don't view it as a limitation."

Vilardi appreciates the support, and plans to validate it by working with a private skating coach and trainer in Minnesota next month.

"They believed in me," said Vilardi, who turns 18 on Aug. 16. "I want to return the favor in the future, obviously. I know that's a major thing for me to work on and I'm going to continue to work on."

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