While Earl was living it up at a scrimmage, yours truly was toiling away at Kings' practice to get a feel for who might make the team. Here are a few random thoughts from Kings' camp on Monday:
(Note: the only thing worse than evaluating players after one game is evaluating them after one practice, so take this with a grain of salt)
-Group C was up first today, which is the Frolov-Handzus-Simmonds group. Fro and Handzus skated together pretty much the entire time while Simmonds skated with them for full line drills and with Trevor Lewis when they only needed 2 forwards. Simmonds is a beast; there was one play early in drills where he took a pass, brought it between his feet to change the angle, then roofed top corner passed Erik Ersberg. Kings assistant coach Mark Johnston shuffled over to Mark Hardy and (I think) said, "What a fucking shot." I love Wayne Simmonds.
-I thought Trevor Lewis looked really good. Is he a right wing now, because that's where the Kings had him. If true then that's a little disappointing but he nevertheless moved very well out on the ice. I wouldn't have any qualms about seeing him in a Kings uniform.
-Andrei Loktionov also skated with Group C, and he looked really shifty out on the ice. He's pretty small and I don't know if he's strong enough defensively to play center in the NHL, but he didn't look out of place when he skated with Frolov.
-I barely noticed Marc-Andre Cliche out there. I'm beginning to think my man crush is unwarranted.
-Erik Ersberg looked tired and I wasn't too impressed with his play. Martin Jones looked like a junior goalie.
-It was probably a mistake to put Drew Doughty and Alex Frolov in the same practice group, because they looked bored and the overall play kind of suffered. Murray had to talk to this group a lot more than the others.
-Group B was second up, led by Matt Greene and Dustin Brown. It was interesting that Frolov, Handzus and O'Donnell were the last out onto the ice for Group C while Oscar Moller, Ted Purcell, Dustin Brown and Matt Greene were first out. Purcell, Moller and Brown seemed like best friends, constantly talking between drills, and Matt Greene's best friend was whoever was standing next to him at any given moment.
-Matt Greene is kind of an asshole, as he cheered wildly whenever he scored. He also never shut the hell up. I like that guy.
-Ted Purcell looked really, really good. He was tied at the hip to Dustin Brown and he kept up with no problem. Surprisingly enough, his best attribute seemed to be his shot. You wouldn't think that when you look at his stats. He's gained a lot of weight since the Kings signed him (he looked as big as Brown) and he's been doing a lot of publicity stuff for the Kings; I think it's pretty safe to assume that he's going to beat out Oscar Moller this year.
-Moller looked good, too, but he's really small and not really that fast. I'm not quite sure what everyone sees in him.
-I thought Peter Harrold looked great out there, until I realized that I misread the numbers and it was actually Brad Richardson. Richardson was
saddled paired up with John Zeiler and Raitis Ivanans and was the only one really making anything happen on the ice. I hope he wins the 4th line center job.
-John Zeiler is just the worst. I tried to convince him to kill himself with my mind but I don't think it worked.
-The most impressive defenseman in Group B was Vyacheslav Voynov. I could honestly watch him skate forever. He's not quite ready but he's close.
-Drewiskie... whatever, he's fine.
-I wasn't very impressed with Jon Bernier. He definitely got outplayed today by Jeff Zatkoff and looked noticeably frustrated near the 2nd half of practice.
-There was some kid named Dennis McCauley that was pretty impressive. He was a big bastard that hit hard and protected the puck really well with his body. I guess he's a rookie free agent from Northeastern University.
-Group A was the last group of the day and was the Smyth-Kopitar-Williams group. Holy hell does that line look good.
-Jonathan Quick looked really good as well. I was impressed by how well he moves and how he never gives up on the play. Jean-Francois Berube didn't look that bad either.
-My new favorite player? Richard Clune. He had a good shot, could skate reasonably well, and could relegate John Zeiler to Manchester. Plus, he tripped Ryan Smyth during a drill. Good guy, that Richard Clune.
-Peter Harrold is hopeless.
-Justin Williams has really good hands. He is very good in close and should be able to score a few cheap goals next season.
-Jack Johnson and Thomas Hickey are both very fluid skaters. Putting them with Drew Doughty and Vyacheslav Voynov in a few years would give the Kings the best skating defense in the league. And then Matt Greene would be there too.
-Kyle Clifford and Brayden Schenn both looked pretty good, but you can tell they're at least a few years away. There's an intensity NHL players do things, an immediateness born from playing in tight situations, and Junior players don't have that yet. As they get bigger and learn how to release their shot a little faster, though, I expect them to do some good in the NHL.
Overall, I feel better about the Kings than I did before today. More importantly, I feel better about Frolov being on the third line because I was very impressed with Ted Purcell. If Purcell can stick, the Kings would have 3 good left wingers when last season we had one.
Revised projected line-up: