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Vilardi could miss start of Kings training camp with back injury

Los Angeles' top prospect has chronic condition, is not expected to participate in rookie camp

by Dan Greenspan / Correspondent

LOS ANGELES -- Gabriel Vilardi, the Los Angeles Kings' top prospect, is not expected to participate in rookie camp next month because of a chronic back injury and could miss the start of training camp the following week.

The 19-year-old center, the No. 11 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, had a setback in July while training for the World Junior Summer Showcase in Kamloops, British Columbia, Kings general manager Rob Blake said Thursday. 

Rookie camp begins Sept. 7. It's not known if Vilardi, who is expected to challenge for a roster spot with Los Angeles this season, will be healthy enough for the start of training camp Sept. 14, Blake said.


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"We hope he progresses well enough to step in at main camp, but … it's going to be on a day-to-day thing now," Blake said following an event for Kings season ticket holders. 

Vilardi's injury forced him to miss development camp, rookie camp and training camp in 2017 and kept him from playing for Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League until January.

"He's got a back injury he needs to take care of all the time," Blake said. "I touched a little bit on the maintenance aspect, and for us getting that understanding through to him that, 'You're going to have to work on this every single day just so there's no setbacks.'

"When he's healthy and playing, he's great, but we need him training in the summer rather than rehabbing. And we were doing good here, and then he had that setback before the [World Junior Summer Showcase], and that's what we've been battling back from."  

Video: Gabe Vilardi talks with NHL Tonight

Vilardi is coming off a strong performance at development camp in July, and the Kings are hopeful he can help address their lack of secondary scoring. He had 58 points (22 goals, 36 assists) in 32 regular-season games for Kingston, and had 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) in 16 OHL playoff games.  

Defenseman Derek Forbort is dealing with a back injury, the severity of which will not be known until he reports to Los Angeles' training facility next week, Blake said. Forbort, 26, had 18 points (one goal, 17 assists) in 78 games last season. He did not play in the Western Conference First Round, when the Kings were swept by the Vegas Golden Knights, because of a knee injury.

Forwards Dustin Brown and Trevor Lewis are expected to be ready for training camp, Blake said. Brown, 33, had a surgical procedure on his left shoulder April 26 after he had 61 points (28 goals, 33 assists) in 81 games last season. Lewis, 31, had surgery on his right hand April 24 after he had 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists) in 68 games.

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