LA Kings drop Game 1 of the Rookie Faceoff to the Avalance 3-2
Despite the result, it is damn good to have hockey back. In the first-ever game at the brand, new Tech CU Arena in San Jose, the new home of the Sharks’ AHL affiliate, the Barracuda, the LA Kings dropped the Rookie Faceoff opener 3-2 to the Colorado Avalanche.
Brandt Clarke’s impressive LA debut
We finally got the chance to see Brandt Clarke, the Kings’ talented defensive prospect, shine in an LA sweater. And shine he did.
There’s one word that comes to mind when you watch Clarke play: silky. That silky skillset was showcased on the first of his two primary assists in the game when he fed Francesco Pinelli with a ridiculous saucer pass from the boards right onto Pinelli’s stick in the slot for a goal.
— Eric (@kingsgifs2) September 16, 2022
It was an impressive performance by the LA Kings’ eighth overall pick in the 2021 entry draft, who seemed to get better as the game went on. The charismatic blueliner was all over the ice. His willingness to pinch in the offensive zone and bring the puck up the neutral zone are clear definitions of his aggressive playstyle.
Head coach Marco Sturm on Clarke: “He has something and that’s for sure, and he showed it on that assist…he’s a special kid.”
I’d like to see Clarke paired with another defenseman other than Kim Nousiainen in future contests. They both play similar styles of hockey, and each could use a shutdown type of blueliner alongside them to give them more confidence when risking positioning for offensive opportunities.
Quinton Byfield looks to play a heavier game
It’s fair to say all eyes were on Quinton Byfield in the LA Kings’ Faceoff debut. That comes with the territory of being a second overall draft pick. And even though Byfield was absent from the scoresheet, he was a force all over the ice Friday. Besides Clarke, I thought he was the best player on the ice.
After talking with Marco Sturm after yesterday’s practice, Sturm noted management was looking for Byfield to bring more physicality to his game. He has a big frame, and it will benefit his game tremendously if can use it to his advantage. We saw that come to fruition in yesterday’s contest.
Byfield was much more aggressive along the boards than we have seen from him in the past. He showed a little more sandpaper in his game throwing an extra slash here and there and didn’t back down from any chirps coming his way.
Quinton Byfield said he prioritized putting more weight on in the summer.
He noted he came into camp last year at 217 lbs, and now he’s hovering around 225.#GoKingsGo
— Russell Morgan (@NHLRussell) September 16, 2022
Quick player notes
Taylor Ward – Every time I watch Taylor Ward play he ends up with a goal or at least multiple scoring chances. Even though he’s an undrafted player amongst a group of high draft picks, that scoring production will be hard to overlook.
Jacob Ingham – I thought Ingham was really solid in net. He made some electrifying saves that brought some oos and ahhs to the press box. If not for the two deflection goals he would’ve finished with a better stat line.
Francesco Pinelli – He has a motor to him. Constant movement. That impressive Clarke assist doesn’t happen without Pinelli driving to the net.
Tyler Madden – I think Madden, much like Byfield, showed much more strength in the dirty areas of the ice. A trait that could help elevate his potential to go along with his nifty hands.
Helge Grans – Starting to see Grans bring a little more polish to his game. He came out of the draft as a project, a player with a lot of raw talent. But now, he’s showing more maturity.
Andre Lee & Samuel Helenius – These two wreak havoc along the boards playing on the same line. It’ll take some time for them to keep up with the pace of NHL hockey, but when they do, watch out.
The LA Kings continue their Rookie Faceoff schedule today at 2 pm against the Vegas Golden Knight back in the Tech CU Arena. Look for Martin Chromiak, Jordan Spence, and Akil Thomas to make their weekend debuts.