As veteran as Anze Kopitar is, he still admits to having butterflies in his head on the first day of training camp.
“I always get nervous on the first day, or at least the test days yesterday and today,” admitted Kopitar. “It’s definitely nice to know Todd’s first day and all that stuff, but it’s still a little nerve-wracking 17 days from now. He is always exciting ”.
Between the pipes, goalkeeper Jonathan Quick shared similar thoughts.
“Looking back, there is still excitement coming into the year, first day of camp for everyone,” shared Quick. “You can ask the older kids, on test day you feel a little nervous and all. I don’t think much has changed. “
The same can be said for young Quinton Byfield, who has just entered his third NHL training camp and his first outing in 40 games of experience with the Kings last season.
“Yeah, definitely, a little nervous,” he said. “Look at the program, there is a lot on the plate. Your body has definitely been moving for a bit of fatigue, so you’re thinking about it a bit and you always want to make a good first impression. You never know where you are sitting in there, so you want to give it your all every day, so there are butterflies for me too.
Veteran or novice, butterflies or not, the LA Kings are on the ice for Day 1 today, with a fresh look and a new set of expectations. Thanks to last season’s playoff appearance, as well as the addition of a new offensive threat and growth opportunities for younger players, the excitement and expectations are certainly greater than in past seasons of the Kings. We will talk about it in a bit.
The Kings skated with three groups today: Groups A and B provided a good mix of players who are expected to compete for professional jobs at both NHL and AHL levels, with Group C finishing the day consisting of more probationary players, whether it is a PTO or an invitation to the field, mixed with a couple of veterans. Group A started the day with a structured practice, followed by a scrimmage which consisted of two halves, running time, before group B held their own practice. Group C concluded the day with a free practice session, led by members of the Ontario Reign coaching staff.
The scrimmage saw groups A and B line up, with teams skating 2-2 here on the pitch’s opening day. The first half saw veterans Adrian Kempe and Phillip Danault swap goals, coming in vintage style for both players. In the first two minutes, Kempe forced a turnover in the neutral zone, ran out and took home the first goal of the match. Danault then replied later, while cashing in from a familiar spot just out of the fold. Eliminate the rush, Danault in the dirty areas, starting to feel that we are already back.
The second half was that of the Anders on display, as we saw Lias Andersson and Jaret Anderson-Dolan exchanging goals. Andersson fired home a wrist shot from inside the right circle, on an assist from TJ Tynan, before Anderson-Dolan scored on a scramble in front of the net to equalize the two-man game. Kempe then froze the match with a shooter winner.
Despite being a scrimmage, on the first day of training camp, the line of Alex Iafallo, Quinton Byfield and Arthur Kaliyev was a solid unit, often extending holdings in the offensive zone with a strong effort on the forecheck, leading to several offensive opportunities. A good sign for three players who are looking to define what their roles are this season, with the first day providing a glimpse into what roles they could be paired together.
SEE HERE for a complete look at day one lineups, posted earlier this morning here on LAKI. Striker Viktor Arvidsson, returning from off-season back surgery, skated alone before Group A hit the ice, while defender Sean Durzi, back from off-season shoulder surgery, took part in the skate with Group C in red contactless Jersey.
Todd McLellan shared that neither player’s Day 1 status was a surprise. Arvidsson is still on his original timeline, and while he wasn’t with the whole group on Day 1, he’s not left out for opening night three weeks from now either.
“From the day he got hurt, to surgery until now, he hasn’t fallen off his recovery path or anything, so we expected him to be delayed at training camp,” McLellan said.
As for Durzi, the newly returned defender skated in the third round, in a contactless jersey. The expectation for Durzi is a shorter timeline than Arvidsson’s, with McLellan noting that Durzi could enter one or two performance contests before the season. Of course he could see Durzi integrated into the whole group sooner or later, at least compared to Arvidsson, which is certainly a good sign for the Kings.
“It evolved with the group on a non-contact level for a short period of time and then it should come back,” added McLellan. “I expect Sean to play an exhibition match or two, he’s so close. He just needs to work a little more. “
Several Kings players have pondered their thoughts since Day 1! Anze Kopitar’s approach on day one, Jonathan Quick on the transition from summer skates to formal training camp, and Adrian Kempe’s expectations for Day 1, all filtered out below as we work through the massive amount of interview material collected here on Day 1.
Anze Kopitar on what he is looking for personally from Day 1 of the field
When you return to the fold, you are shaking off the rust and getting used to the rhythm, tempo and timing of it. It’s really nice to get your body back in motion and get back to the rhythm of things.
Jonathan Quick, on the transition from summer skates to formal training
It’s a little more organized, so it helps you with your readings, a little more structured practices, scrimmage and stuff like that. Definitely takes a quantum leap, guys [are playing] harder and the pace is a little higher. So this kind of adjustments make the readings a little faster.
Drew Doughty if this year’s camp is exciting for him, coming out of an injury
Yes, of course. I’ve been missing playing with the boys, especially freshman year at the playoffs – and honestly enjoyed watching them play – but I’ve only been devoured all summer that I haven’t been able to really play, so yeah, super excited for this this year. I really like the direction the team has taken and I really like the way I think we are going to be a really good team this year and I’m super excited.
Trevor Moore, on bringing summer training to the first day of the retreat
Just take back the legs, that physicality, play games with the kids all over the place. You can try cranking up the volume all summer, but it’s different when the guys lean on you. You can hit the treadmill as much as you want, but it’s just a different level of resistance and then once you get your legs under you, you play games and all that kind of thing comes next.
Phillip Danault on his second, first day with the LA Kings organization
awesome. We see the good pace out there, the guys are already burning and pushing, so it was good. It was a pretty light day, but it was nice to do a scrimmage, half a second faster than summer to get you going the right way.
Adrian Kempe on the expectations of Day 1, at the end of a career year
Yeah, definitely different because last year I didn’t really know where I was going to end up on that line and stuff like that. I ended up playing with Kopi for the most part, so my expectations are the same as they were pretty much all year [last year]. I’ll probably end up playing with him and you know, the expectations are rising now, since since the year we have had as a team and for the year also as myself.
Kempe hinted at expectations at the end of that quote, and expectations were the theme of the day. Coming up tonight, we will have a more in-depth report on the expectations and meaning of this word for the LA Kings, both internally and externally. Expectations have certainly changed, both within the room between the players and the coaches, and for those of us involved from other angles, and everyone has had their own opinion on what exactly the expectations are here for the Kings.
Todd McLellan explained the process quite eloquently, while veteran players spoke about their approach and thoughts on expectations ahead of the season. Regardless of who was speaking, the excitement was palpable and this emerged in several interviews. Others will follow in a few hours, Insider!