It’s been a long wait for Andre Lee but the 21-year-old is back at LA Kings’ Development Camp and in a groove.
This week’s development camp for the LA Kings has been a raving success with so many of the club’s prospects bringing their A-game, showing coaches and management why they (ultimately) deserve a roster spot with the big club. However, one prospect who has particularly stood out this week has been winger Andre Lee. Granted, that could have a lot to do with his 6-foot-4 — and growing — frame, although Lee’s game is nothing to be ignored, either.
Following Day 4 of LA Kings Development Camp on Thursday, Andre Lee spoke with the media, beginning with how much better he feels at camp this year as opposed to his first in 2019.
“I’ve definitely grown physically and mentally, as well,” Lee noted. “So, [back in] 2019, you come in and you’re a little bit nervous, and this time, I feel more comfortable with the guys and the coaches and, I mean, it feels great out there.”
And, of course, being familiar with some of those players from 2019 doesn’t hurt either. In fact, the Karlstad, Sweden, native has developed a rapport with a number of prospects, including his current college teammate and a pair of his countrymen.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of guys from my first development camp and then [Ben] Meehan and then the two Swedes, Samuel [Fagemo] and Johan [Sodergran],” Lee explained. “We went off for a little dinner yesterday and in Manhattan [Beach], so that was nice. So, I mean, I hang out with basically everyone. It’s nice. Even the guys who you don’t know, you’re trying to talk [to them and] make friends. I mean, it’s good context, as well.”
Like a number of European-born players, however, one of the bigger challenges when playing in North America is adapting to the smaller ice surface. While this was a transition upon his arrival in 2018, the 21-year-old has adapted very well to the smaller ice surface — first in the USHL with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and now after two years at UMass-Lowell.
“Yeah, I mean, I think that’s really good,” Lee said of his adjustment to the smaller ice surface. “I mean, I’ve been [in North America for] three years now. I work on it in practice, I work on– over here, it feels like you’ve got less time and less space. So, I work on it in practice and then work on it in games, too, and I feel like I’ve developed really good over these three years to, like, adapt to this [North] American hockey style.”
As for his performance this week, Lee feels very confident.
“I think my game is good,” he added. “I mean, it’s some good guys here, so it’s really competitive. I mean, that’s what I love as a hockey player. I like to compete and I like to win, so– but I feel like my game has been good and I’m excited to go into [this upcoming season] with Lowell.
“From Monday to where we are now, we worked on different things. We worked on protecting the puck, we worked on wall plays, we worked on shooting and stuff like that. So, I mean, it’s definitely great. I get a little head start coming back to Lowell [from] being here.”
When I spoke to Andy Jones, Lee’s associate coach in Lowell, last week, he was glowing at the youngster’s improvement.
“I think he’s improving significantly in a couple of areas: He’s obviously a very very big guy and he’s learning,” Jones told me. “He’s filling out and he’s learning how to use his body to protect the pucks and be a little bit more of a threat down low below the dots in the offensive zone.
“Andre has always been and continues to be really coachable. He’s a good person. His teammates like him, coaches like him, and the reasons for that are that he treats people with respect. So, he treats his teammates with respect, treats his coaches with respect, and, as I said, he is a student of the game and he’s constantly trying to get better.”
After eight goals and 12 assists in 33 games as a freshman, Lee continued his success at the college level, netting seven goals and nine assists in 20 games as a sophomore this past season. Lee is determined to build on this and while he is excited for his junior campaign in Lowell to begin, the 21-year-old remains eager for what he’s striving for.
“My dream since my whole life has been to play in the NHL and I’m very fortunate to be here with the LA Kings,” Lee emphasized. “It’s a great organization. And yeah, there’s a lot of Swedes here, so we’ll see what happens.”
A winger with size and speed, it could be argued that Andre Lee would have fit like a glove with the Kings in the early- to mid-2010s. Nevertheless, his assets, coupled with his ideal attitude and high determination level, make the young winger a diamond in the rough, if you will, for the LA Kings. Lee was, after all, drafted in the seventh round in 2019. But, don’t let the latter deter you. After all, Nic Dowd and Matt Roy were also seventh-round draft selections by the Kings, and they both had success with the big club — with the latter establishing himself as an integral piece to the club’s deep defensive corps.
After last year’s development camp was cancelled due to COVID, the wait may have been a frustrating one for these players, but it was a worthwhile one, as well. Andre Lee is no exception to this. So, while it may not be this coming season, it will be exciting nonetheless when Andre Lee does return to Los Angeles with a strong argument for deserving to stay.