Viatcheslav Voynov

Thanks to Drew Doughty’s absence, Slava Voynov gets a long look in Kings camp

While most fans in L.A. are concerned with how things will get hashed out with Drew Doughty as the restricted free agent continues to go unsigned, it’s giving other defensemen a chance to show what they’ve got in training camp. While that means more playing time for guys who showed a bit in Los Angeles last year like Alec Martinez, for a youngster like Slava Voynov, it’s giving him the chance of a lifetime to show what he can do.

Voynov’s play in training camp and in the Kings’ first preseason game have a lot of eyes opening and watching how the youngster holds up in camp. Should Doughty’s negotiations continue to go poorly and stretch into the regular season, Voynov could be the offensive defenseman that helps the Kings balance out their play.

Mayor’s Manor got the word from Kings coach Terry Murray about how he thought Voynov looked in the Kings’ 2-1 shootout loss to Phoenix on Wednesday night and the coach’s words were glowing for the 21 year-old Russian.

 Coach Terry Murray on the play of Voynov – “I thought Voynov had a very good game. He’s got great awareness on the ice, with or without the puck. I wish he would sometimes shoot the puck a little bit more at times, but he has great composure.”

What’s funny about Murray saying that about wanting Voynov to shoot more is that Voynov had the second most shots on goal in the game. Voynov comes into Kings camp off a solid year in the AHL last season that saw him named as an all-star while finishing the year with 15 goals and 36 assists with a +21 plus/minus rating. Steady performance with an ability to score and set others up from the blue line is the exact sort of thing the Kings could use if Doughty is going to be out.

Asking a kid like Voynov to come in and be Doughty’s replacement is asking too much of him to do and it’s the wrong way to approach things in camp as Voynov is competing for a spot on the team regardless. If you factor Doughty into the Kings’ starting six on defense, he joins Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi, Jack Johnson, and Matt Greene as guys guaranteed to start. With five defensive spots locked up, the competition for the sixth spot in L.A. is intense.

Guys like Voynov, Martinez, Davis Drewiske, and Thomas Hickey are all in competition for that sixth spot. Should Doughty miss time in the regular season, that opens up a second spot and a huge opportunity for any of these guys to make a run at it. Voynov impressing the way he is early in camp could help him avoid going back to Manchester at all costs. For the Kings, if Voynov’s offense is for real, he could prove to be a huge asset for them all season.

Habs claim Byron off waivers from Flames

Paul Byron
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Montreal added some forward depth on Tuesday, acquiring diminutive forward Paul Byron off waivers from Calgary.

Byron, 26, is a veteran of nearly 150 career NHL games, most coming with the Flames. Despite fairly solid production over the last two years — 40 points in 104 games — he was exposed to waivers on Monday, along with fellow forward Mason Raymond.

(Calgary does have a logjam of players at forward, hence parting ways with Byron and Raymond.)

Byron can play both wing and center but, at 5-foot-7, 153 pounds, is one of the most undersized skaters in the league. Thankfully for him, Montreal has an affinity for undersized forwards, with the likes of Brendan Gallagher (5-foot-9, 184 pounds) and David Desharnais (5-foot-7, 174 pounds) already on the active roster.

Byron could also fill Zack Kassian‘s roster spot. Kassian is currently suspended without pay while undergoing Stage 2 of the NHL’s Substance Abuse program.

Isles claim goalie Berube off waivers

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jaroslav Halak
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The New York Islanders have claimed goalie Jean-Francois Berube off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings, the club announced today.

Berube won the Calder Cup last season with AHL Manchester, but the 24-year-old has yet to appear in an NHL game.

That the Isles claimed Berube could be evidence that Jaroslav Halak will not be ready to start the season after all.

If that’s the case, Berube would back up Thomas Greiss, with Stephon Williams expected to go to the AHL.

The Isles open their regular season Friday at home versus the Blackhawks, then play the next day in Chicago.