Kevin Westgarth has three assists in 14 American League games this season. (Photo by Steve Babineau)
God, do I love hockey. Even on one of the worst days a hockey player can have, when you’re getting sent down and flying away from the NHL, it’s not a bad job to have.
We get to play a kid’s game for a living. Granted, I know I did not feel this way on the flight home and this perspective comes weeks after being sent down and getting back to playing here in the American League. When you’re told you have a meeting on the day before the season some pretty loud warning bells start ringing and you know where you’re going.
That being said, my third training camp was another great experience, it’s just that I wasn’t good enough. Being able to share the ice with so many guys I have looked up to – and continue to do so – is an incredible opportunity. I can’t wait to earn my place back there.
On and off the ice, it was great to learn from veterans like Smytty (Ryan Smyth) and OD (Sean O’Donnell). These guys are consummate professionals and it’s great to see what it takes to be a factor in the NHL. The younger leaders like Browny (Dustin Brown) and Greener (Matt Greene) are also guys who are setting the tone for the new Kings.
The heavy leadership combined with youth makes this team so exciting to be connected to and I feel privileged to be anywhere in the organization.
For our team in Manchester, we feel like we’re definitely building something huge as well. Like I said, youth and leadership are pervasive throughout the Kings organization and I think we have it here, too.
Bags (Drew Bagnall) and Schools (Joe Piskula), at 26 and 25, are our old dogs leading a tough and skilled backend. Having the defensemen we do in front of two incredible goalies is a nice feeling to have if you make a mistake up front.
Jonathan Bernier has been playing incredibly, culminating in his goalie of the month selection by the AHL. Having Jeff Zatkoff as well, with a GAA of less than 1.00 doesn’t hurt. Although I do admit, they tick me off because it’s so darn hard to score in practice.
Up front is a plethora of talent. Starting with our fresh little Russian, Andrei Loktionov, along with Oscar Moller and Bud Holloway, these guys are creating a lot of excitement and goals. All three are creative, skilled players who will be making noise in hockey circles for a long time. It’s pretty cool to be an old guy and watch them develop and just get better every game.
From top to bottom, it seems we have the all the pieces of the hockey puzzle: scoring, defense, toughness and incredible goaltending. It’s an exciting time for the Kings and the Monarchs, with some fast starts that look like they will only build momentum for the future. There’s something in the air; you can just feel everything starting to jell.
I know that I, as most of the guys are down here, am driven by the next step, the jump that brings you to the NHL. That being said, that drive is placed in the back of our minds, and this team right now is the focus of our efforts. We won’t forget the goals we want, to live our dream in the NHL, but for now, Manchester and the Monarchs are everything.
I also want to throw out a huge congratulations to Scotty “Scooter” Parse, who is kicking ass up with the Kings. We’re all so pumped to watch the guys we’ve played with join the big club and have success. Keep ‘er going, brother. And for all those Rich Clune fans out there, the kid is back and bad as ever. The other teams in both leagues should take note of this fact. Watch out.
The last three books I’ve read (so mom knows I can still read):
1. Lone Survivor, by Marcus Luttrell
‘Greener’ gave me this great book about a navy seal who was part of the most disastrous mission in seal history. After reading about the intense training they endured, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to test my limits by doing it, or if I definitely never wanted to try it. Also, I have to admit the bravery shown by the soldiers may have drawn a tear I had to hide while on the bus.
2. Survivor, by Chuck Palahniuk
Palahniuk is the author of Fight Club and for anyone who has seen the movie, you know he’s a little off the wall. One of my favorite authors, who loves writing about the human condition with insane situations and humor, does not disappoint those looking for a different kind of book.
3. The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
Great read by the author of Outliers that seeks to discover how some ideas become trends and find their way through our society. Excellent if you liked Freakonomics.
Keep your hands up, and your chin down,
To find out more about L.A. Kings hockey, check out lakings.com.
Signed as a free agent out of Princeton, Kevin Westgarth is a 6-foot-5, 247 pound right wing prospect for the Los Angeles Kings. He played in his first nine NHL games during the 2008-09 season after spending parts of two seasons with Manchester of the American League. A native of Amherstburg, Ont., the 25-year-old Westgarth will blog throughout the season for THN.com. Click HERE to read his other entries.