For as much of a veteran as Anze Kopitar is, he still admits he gets butterflies on the first day of training camp.
“I always get jitters on the first day, or at least the testing days yesterday and today,” Kopitar admitted. “It’s certainly nice being familiar with Todd’s first day and all that stuff, but still a little bit nerve wracking going into 17 days. It’s always exciting.”
From in between the pipes, goaltender Jonathan Quick shared similar thoughts.
“Looking back, there’s still excitement coming into the year, first day of camp for everyone,” Quick shared. “You can ask the older guys, on the testing day you feel a little nervous and everything. I don’t think much has changed.”
The same can be said for young Quinton Byfield, entering just his third NHL training camp and his first coming off of 40 games of experience with the Kings last season.
“Yeah, definitely, a little bit nervous,” he said. “You look at the schedule, there’s a lot on the plate. Your body has definitely moved through a bit of a grind, so you’re thinking about that a little bit and you always want to make a good first impression. You never know where you’re sitting in there, so you want to give it your all each day so there are some butterflies for me as well.”
Veteran or rookie, butterflies or not, the LA Kings hit the ice for Day 1 earlier today, with a fresh look and a fresh set of expectations. Armed with last season’s playoff appearance, plus the addition of a new offensive threat and the growth opportunities for younger players, excitement and expectations are certainly higher when compared to the seasons of Kings past. More on that in a bit.
The Kings skated today with three groups – Groups A and B provided a good mix of players expected to compete for professional jobs at both the NHL and AHL levels, with Group C ending the day composed more of players on tryouts, whether it be a PTO or a camp invite, mixed in with a couple of veterans. Group A began the day with a structured practice, followed by a scrimmage that consisted of two halves, running time, before Group B held their own practice. Group C concluded the day with a practice session of their own, led by members of the Ontario Reign coaching staff.
The scrimmage saw Groups A and B square off, with the teams skating to a 2-2 tie here on the opening day of camp. The first half saw veterans Adrian Kempe and Phillip Danault trade goals, coming in a vintage style for both players. In the opening couple of minutes, Kempe forced a turnover in the neutral zone, walked in off the rush and snapped home the game’s first goal. Danault then answered later on, as he cashed in from a familiar spot just outside the crease. Kempe off the rush, Danault in the dirty areas, starting to feel like we’re back already.
The second helped was the Anders(s)on show, as we saw Lias Andersson and Jaret Anderson-Dolan trade goals. Andersson fired home a wrist shot from the inside of the right-hand circle, off a TJ Tynan assist, before Anderson-Dolan scored off a scramble in front of the net to tie the game at two. Kempe then iced the game with a shootout game winner.
While it was one scrimmage, on the first day of training camp, the line of Alex Iafallo, Quinton Byfield and Arthur Kaliyev were a solid unit, frequently extending possessions 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 day one providing a look inside what those roles might be paired together.
SEE HERE for a full look at the lineups on day one, posted earlier this morning here on LAKI. Forward Viktor Arvidsson, coming off of offseason back surgery, skated on his own before Group A hit the ice, while defenseman Sean Durzi, working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, took part in the skate with Group C in a non-contact red 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 full group on Day 1, he’s not ruled out for Opening Night three weeks out either.
“From the day he hurt himself, to surgery until now, he hasn’t fallen off his recovery path or anything like that, so we expected him to be delayed at training camp,” McLellan said.
Regarding Durzi, the newly re-signed defenseman skated in the third group, in a non-contact jersey. The expectation for Durzi is a shorter timeline than Arvidsson’s, with McLellan noting that Durzi could get into an exhibition contest or two in advance of the season. Certainly could see Durzi integrated into the full group sooner rather than later, at least when compared to Arvidsson, which is certainly a good sign for the Kings.
“He’s evolved with the group at a non-contact level for a short period of time and then he should be back,” McLellan added. “I expect Sean to play an exhibition game or two possibly, he’s that close. He just needs to do a little bit more work.”
Several Kings players weighed in with their thoughts from Day 1! Anze Kopitar’s approach to the first day, Jonathan Quick on transitioning from summer skates to formal training camp and Adrian Kempe’s expectations on Day 1, all filtered out below as we work through the mass amount of interview material gathered here on Day 1.
Anze Kopitar on what he personally looks for from Day 1 of camp
As you get back into the fold, you’re shaking the rust off and getting used to the pace and the tempo and the timing of it. It’s really good to get the body going and get back in the swing of things.
Jonathan Quick, on moving from summer skates to a formal practice
It’s a little more organized, so it kind of helps you with your reads, a little bit more structured practices, scrimmages and stuff like that. It’s definitely stepping up a notch, guys [are playing] harder and the pace is a little higher. So those kind of adjustments, it makes reads a bit quicker.
Drew Doughty on if this year’s camp is exciting for him, coming off of an injury
Yes, for sure. I missed playing with the guys, especially first year back in playoffs – and I honestly enjoyed watching them play – but it was just eating at me the whole summer that I wasn’t able to actually play so yeah, super excited for this this year . I really like the direction the team has gone and really like how I think we’re gonna be a really good team this year and I’m super excited.
Trevor Moore, on taking summer workouts into the first day of training camp
Just getting your legs back, that physicality, making the plays with guys all over you. You can try to turn it up all summer, but it’s just different when guys are leaning on you. You can hit the treadmill as much as you want, but it’s just a different level of endurance and then once you get your legs under you, making plays and all that kind of stuff comes next.
Phillip Danault on his second, first day with the LA Kings organization
Awesome. We see the good pace out there, the boys are burning already, and pushing, so it was nice. It was kind of a light day, but good to get a scrimmage in, the half second faster than in the summer to get you going the right way.
Adrian Kempe on Day 1 expectations, coming off of a career year
Yeah, definitely different because I didn’t really know last year 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’m going to probably end up playing with him and you know, expectations are going up now, since from the year we had as a team and for the year as myself as well.
Kempe touhed on expectations at the end of that quote and expectations were the theme of the day. Coming up later on this evening, we’ll have a more in-depth feature on expectations and what that word means for the LA Kings, both internally and externally. Expectations have certainly shifted, both inside the room among the players and coaches, as well as for those of us involved from other angles, and everyone had their own take on exactly what expecations are here for the Kings.
Todd McLellan spelled the process out quite eloquently, while veteran players spoke about their own approach and thoughts on expectations heading into the season. Regardless of who was talking, excitement was palpable and that came through in several interviews. More to follow in a few hours, Insiders!