L.A. Kings: For L.A. Rookies It's Been a Steep, but Impressive Learning Curve
Let's all be young again for a second. What were you doing at the age of 22? I know I was going to college three to four days a week, working part time and playing way too many video games instead of studying or practicing.
The Kings have a trio of young rookies, all at the age 22, who are currently playing to have their name etched on the most coveted piece of hardware in the hockey universe.
Dwight King, Slava Voynov and Jordan Nolan are close to doing what every young hockey player in the world dreams of doing.
It's been a rapid ascent for both Dwight King and Jordan Nolan who were both recalled by the Los Angeles Kings from their minor league affiliate on February 11.
Bleacher Report was there first hand to talk with Jordan Nolan on what his attitude has been like during this journey.
"Yea I think when I first came up here I was just excited to be in the NHL, and after few days that wears off. It's a job, you want to play your best hockey and stay up for the rest of the year...you want to stay in the line-up because there's lots of guys waiting to get in there."
Nolan also talked a little bit about what specifically he has done to remain in the NHL:
"My main focus has just been being good every night ya know? I think when I was a little younger, my first year in the American League, I'd take a few nights off, play good, take a night off. I think I've really developed that...trying to be good every game."
Nolan's roommate, Dwight King, has also made great strides in his short NHL history. King racked up 14 points in 27 games during the regular season playing with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter and was a big contributor for the team down the stretch.
He's continued his hot form in the postseason with five goals, surpassed only by Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar, each with seven. I spoke with King's linemate and centerman Jarret Stoll who had this to say about the big left winger:
"Well he hasn't been up here that long, but for a guy who just came up, I couldn't imagine myself being in that situation, Stanley Cup playoffs right away, and then the Finals, and then contributing the way he is...It's a testament to how ready he is and how smart of a hockey player he is..."
The last of the young guns for the Kings, Slava Voynov, has had a slightly different journey. Back in November the young Russian was called up to step in for injured teammate Alec Martinez. Voynov played so well that he earned his way into a starting spot and never looked back.
Voynov, paired with veteran Willie Mitchell, had a solid rookie season with 20 points and a plus-12 in 54 games.
I asked Mitchell, 35, if he had taken on a bit of a mentors role with the young rookie.
"Try to, yeah, a little bit. Always said you can learn from anyone. You can learn from a 21- or 22-year-old, even though you're 35, as far as what they do with the game, what they do well.
"I think being a guy who has been around, learned from things on the defensive side of things, that's what I try to do, talk about bringing pressure, things like that. Really I believe when your D partner makes you a good player. I truly believe he's the eyes and ears for you. Slav can do that for me, makes me look good. If I can do that for him, makes him look good. The situation he's been in as a rookie defensive, how many guys have done it that well?"
Who do you think has been the most impressive Kings rookie?
The Kings have been known for their youth development, and fans are starting to see the fruits of that labor. Patience has been key to developing a lot of the talent currently with the team. The Kings now have several young players with a wealth of experience that they can only build off of for many years to come.
Darryl Sutter may have put it best in the pregame press conference:
"You know what, when you win rounds, players that haven't played, they get their experience in a hurry. We were talking about six weeks ago with zero experience. We have kids now that played more playoff games than a lot of guys that played 10 years. That's right when you think about it."
It's that experience that the young rookies in L.A. will carry with them the rest of their careers. It's not the most common of NHL rookie seasons for the trio, but it will certainly be their most memorable.
Jason Lewis is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, reporting live from Staples Center. The interviews in this article were obtained first-hand.
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