The LA Kings’ number-one goaltender heading into the 2021-22 season, Cal Petersen is still hungry to prove himself.
This time last year, Cal Petersen was staring at his first full season in the National Hockey League, albeit limited to a 56-game schedule amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Notre Dame alum was penciled in as the LA Kings‘ No. 2 goaltender, but he was expected to see his fair share of games between the pipes.
The unknown was the split with Jonathan Quick, who was named the starter for Opening Night. Quick was in net for the first two games for matching 4-3 overtime losses to the Minnesota Wild, stopping a combined 63 of 71 shots. Petersen was tasked with stopping the high-powered Colorado Avalanche in Game 3 of the regular season, and he allowed three goals on 24 shots faced.
In all, the 26-year-old netminder went 9-18-5 with a .911 SV% and 2.89 GAA and took the bulk of the starts as the season wore on.
As the clear-cut No. 1 goaltender entering this season, Petersen noted that nothing is different in terms of his mindset from where he was last year.
“I think it’s more so just maturing and growing in this role,” he said on Tuesday. “And I think that I’ve kind of slowly established myself a little bit, but I still have a lot to prove. For me, I’m comfortable and confident in that regard – I know I can play at this level and be successful, but [I’m] extremely hungry to kind of prove myself even more.”
Petersen had an eventful summer, beginning with playing for Team USA at the World Championships in Riga, Latvia. The Waterloo, Iowa, native was named Goaltender of the Tournament, recording two shutouts in the process. He was also rewarded with a new three-year contract extension in late September.
Aside from the individual accomplishments over the summer, Petersen also saw the LA Kings’ roster improve via trades and free agency. After finishing with the fifth-fewest goals scored in the NHL last year, general manager Rob Blake pulled the trigger on acquiring scoring winger Viktor Arvidsson in early July.
He also inked defensive forward Phillip Danault to a six-year contract and veteran defenseman Alex Edler to a one-year deal on the first day of the free-agency period. With an improved roster in front of him, Petersen noted the positive impact the new guys are having on the team in training camp and leading up to Thursday night’s season opener.
“The additions that we made have kind of really kind of bolstered each side,” Petersen said. “You know, with ‘Eds’ [Alex Edler] on the back, I feel extremely confident with our group and not a lot of holes in that area. And that confidence, I think, is huge. Then it feels, on the offensive side, like a much more balanced lineup. I think guys are starting to feel that, too.”
The Kings roster will be a blend of young and veteran players — one that is hoping to make the playoffs for the first time in three years. Of course, Petersen still has his mentor in Quick to lean on. The future Hall-of-Famer is in the twilight of his career and entering an unfamiliar role as the Kings’ backup goaltender.
Although, if you ask him yourself, Quick might say he still has a lot left in the tank with two years left on his contract in Los Angeles. But, there’s no denying that his best days are behind him. The 36-year-old has had three consecutive down seasons – a far cry from the numbers he was putting up between 2010 and 2018. That said, the Kings are in an ideal situation having Quick continue to mentor Petersen.
“He’s accomplished a lot of things that I hope to accomplish in my career, and I think there’s no better guy to have as your partner,” Petersen said. “And to see the way that he manages games, closes out games when they’re on the line, and makes a big save when you need it – he has kind of a quiet leadership about him that I’ve really taken to.”
The Kings will officially begin the 2021-22 regular season on Thursday night, hosting the Vegas Golden Knights. On Tuesday, the team announced their finalized 23-man roster, one that looks more formidable on paper than this time last year.
And, unlike the abbreviated 2021 season, Petersen is looking forward to everything that goes into a regular NHL season and building team chemistry, including playing on the east coast, going out to dinners, and watching sports with his teammates during their downtime.
“We had a vast majority of the guys here in the summer, where we kind of already started that team building, and I think it’s been great so far. You know, I’m really excited for that aspect of it,” he concluded.