LA Kings Gabe Vilardi

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Now part of the LA Kings player development team, Jarrett Stoll is reporting that Gabe Vilardi has been working on getting faster this offseason.

One of the more intriguing players to watch when the LA Kings‘ 2021-22 season begins will be forward Gabe Vilardi. The 11th-overall pick from 2017 turned 22 on Monday and turned in an average season in the abbreviated 2021 schedule. If you recall, Vilardi shot out of a cannon in the final 10 games of the 2019-20 season, tallying three goals and seven points. In fact, he scored in his first game on his first shift.

As noted, last season was a trying year for the youngster — one that saw Vilardi lose a lot of confidence. It was visibly apparent in the Zoom calls and his body language that something just wasn’t right. He struggled in the faceoff dot, winning less than 46% of all draws, which came under scrutiny when he noted that he didn’t feel like he needed to work on his faceoffs in practice.

The Kingston, Ontario, native appeared to fall out of favor with the coaching staff during the season, benched after a defensive miscue against William Karlsson and the Vegas Golden Knights on a play that led to an easy goal.

Vilardi returned to the lineup along the wing on the fourth line. After spending a few games along the bottom-six forwards, he returned to the top-six forwards, finishing the year on a high note.

“Inconsistent type of year, but he did finish strong,” former LA Kings forward and current development coach Jarret Stoll said of Vilardi. “I think defensively, he needs to get better, and he’s working on his skating a lot this summer. He was up in Ottawa with his skating coach for the last six weeks skating a lot, and a lot of times he was telling me, that’s the only thing he was working on, his speed and getting quicker. It’s going to be important for Gabe to do that, bring that into training camp, and have a good start to the season.”

Stoll, who won 55.2% of all faceoffs during his tenure with the Kings, has been tasked with assisting Vilardi and other Kings centers to improve in the faceoff dot.

In total, Vilardi tallied 10 goals and 13 assists, finishing with five points in the final six games in 2021. It’s worth noting that the Kings tried a variety of line combinations in a year of evaluation. However, Vilardi seemed to find “it” on the team’s second line with Alex Iafallo and Lias Andersson. So, perhaps there is something to work with come Opening Night. I’m also curious to see if the Kings are still willing to entertain a Vilardi-Martin Frk line combination as the duo experienced a tremendous amount of success both in the AHL and when Vilardi was initially called up.

At any rate, and whether or not he sticks at center or moves to the wing, the 2021-22 campaign will be critical for Gabe Vilardi, especially since he becomes a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

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