Tyler Toffoli

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Tyler Toffoli on Kings’ coaching change, celebrity encounters (PHT Q&A)

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There’s never any love lost when the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks meet. As we saw on Tuesday night, it doesn’t matter when those teams get together, the emotions will be incredibly high.

In what was probably the game of the young season, the Kings edged the Ducks 4-3 in overtime. It’s an easy game for the players to get up for, and it’s certainly one of the NHL’s most underrated rivalries.

“I read up on a couple things the day after the game and one of the fans was saying that if it was two Canadian teams it would be one of the most talked about rivalries going on,” Kings forward Tyler Toffoli told PHT on Friday. “It’s kind of funny, but I think for us as two teams, it’s definitely a game that we look forward to. It’s a big game, a conference game, division game, and we’re happy we got the win.”

The Kings and Ducks rivalry is also part of LA’s partnership with Delta Air Lines. Toffoli is one of the ambassadors involved with the Kings Class fan program, a season-long promotion that offers fans the opportunity to win experiences such as traveling to see the team take on the Washington Capitals in D.C. later this month.

Toffoli also appears in an ad with Kings mascot Bailey, though it’s brief and he didn’t get any lines.

“Well, Bailey stole the show and he did a good job of getting us through it. I did my part and I thought I did a really good job there,” Toffoli joked.

We spoke with Toffoli about the Kings’ off-season coaching change, appreciating winning, some of his celebrity encounters and more.

Enjoy.

Q. Going from Darryl Sutter to John Stevens, this is your first coaching change at the NHL level, was it a pretty seamless switch considering John’s been there for a number of years?

TOFFOLI: “Yeah, that definitely helped, but also in the summer Johnny did a good job of staying in touch with all the guys from last year and previous years — just seeing how summer was going, how training was going,  just talking about what he had planned for this season coming in. I think guys have done a really good job of not only training in the summer but buying in to what Johnny wanted to bring in early on in the season here.”

What’s different about John’s approached compared to Darryl’s?

“John’s just doing a good job of getting all the players involved. He’s doing a good job of bringing the right emotion in the games and just staying with us. I think everybody’s buying into the system and I think we’ve done a really good job of when we’ve been getting down in games, just staying together as a group — not just the players, but the coaches. We’re just really positive throughout games.”

Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown are having bounce-back seasons. What are you seeing in their games this season that’s contributing to a return to form?

“I think their chemistry together has been really good. I think Brownie’s done a great job of taking the leadership role of doing a really good job on the power play. He’s just been playing good hockey so far this season. Those two have done a good job and the rest of us have just been following along and just sticking together.”

Your first two years in the league you go to the conference final and then win a Stanley Cup. The last three years haven’t been so memorable. How much did the last three seasons show you just how difficult it is to win in the NHL?

“Definitely, I’ve learned a lot. I’ll never take for granted what those first two years brought for myself because some guys never get a chance to win — not only win, but make it that far in the playoffs. It’s one of those things where I miss and I want to do a really good job of helping our team make it that far again because it’s the best time, it’s the funnest time for all the guys, and winning is the best feeling.”

Regarding your line mates, we know about Tanner Pearson, but what about Adrian Kempe? How has he been able to jump in there and mesh so well?

“He’s done a really good job of stepping in for Jeff [Carter]. When he got hurt it was the next guy to step in and step up and do a job. And I think Adrian’s done a really good job of using his speed, just playing some really good hockey for us and it’s obviously one the big reasons why we’ve been successful so far this season.”

I want to go back to that crazy overtime goal versus the Bruins. You’re lining up there. There’s 0.9 seconds to go. You’ve got to be thinking there’s no way to beat the clock there, right? No matter how perfect the draw is?

“It was one of those things… We line up for that at the end of games, people do it all the time. Going in we just wanted to try and get a shot off as quick as possible, either Drew [Doughty] or myself. Kopi snapped it back so quickly and I got it off as fast as I could and it went in. It was one of those things. It was crazy and the emotions were definitely flowing at the time.”

I watch it and I’m surprised at Tuukka Rask’s position. You have a left-hand shot taking the draw on his off-side and then Tanner on the left wing. Can’t believe Rask wasn’t thinking of you as a possibility.

“I think it was just one of those things where he maybe didn’t think of anything because there wasn’t that much time left. But it happened so fast. I’m not going to complain about it. We’re not going to complain about getting that extra point in overtime. We’re just going to take it and run with it.”

Finally, having lived in LA for a few years what’s the coolest celebrity story you’ve got?

“My fiancee works for the Dodgers so when I go to some of those games I get to meet some pretty cool people. I’ve met Magic Johnson before. Tommy Lasorda is cool to talk to. He’s super intense and when I get to talk to him he’s very intimidating. There’s definitely a lot of people you see around. They just walk around like they’re normal people when they’re by the beach with us.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Looking to make the leap: Jordan Weal

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Fighting to eventually win two Stanley Cups is worth the cost of taking risks, but the Los Angeles Kings’ farm system has seen consequences from regular trade deadline moves.

Jewels From the Crown took a look at how much shallower the Kings’ prospect pool has become, something that seems clearer after the very clear graduations of scorers Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson.

That said, there are still a couple prime-age players looking to make a dent on the NHL roster, including forward Jordan Weal.

It’s about that time for Weal. The 23-year-old was a third-rounder (70th overall) back in 2010, and he’s shown a solid knack for putting up points at the AHL level.

After scoring 70 points for the Manchester Monarchs in 2013-14, he nearly matched that output last season with 69 points. He really took off during the 2015 Calder Cup playoffs, scoring 22 points in 19 postseason games.

Weal thinks he has what it takes to take the next step, as NHL.com noted during his strong AHL playoff run.

“They have a great team up there and it’s really a great organization,” Weal said. “I can’t ask for more. They’ve given me lots of opportunity to play pro and get drafted and I think I’m ready to take the next step and play with them. But you never know. It’s tough to crack a team like that.”

Unlike Nick Shore and Andy Andreoff, Weal has yet to get his first taste of NHL action. The 2015-16 season represents his best chance to change that, especially after a strong finish with the Monarchs.

Schneider suggested 3-on-3 OT goalie stats should be kept separate

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With the latest rule changes to the structure of overtime, has it become so different from the rest of the game that those 3-on-3 minutes should be kept separate statistically, just like shootouts? New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider argued in favor of such a distinction.

“It’s going to be interesting for the goalies,” Schneider said of the decision to adopt the new overtime format, per ESPN. “I was a passenger during that discussion. I suggested a side category where a goalie’s 3-on-3 stats could be hidden away and not put into your main stats, because it’s going to be tough. There’s so much talent in the NHL and sometimes 5-on-5 opens up, but 3-on-3 is going to open up and fans are really going to love it. It’s going to be up and down the ice. It’s going to be hard for us goalies, so we’re going to have to be really sharp and ready to go.”

Of course, the hope is that 3-on-3 overtime has the impact Schneider is suggesting as that would lead to fewer games being decided by a shootout. It also has the potential to hurt the statistics of goalies for the very same reason.

As far as whether or not that’s reason enough to separate those statistics is open to different opinions. As it is there are a lot of different situations that play out over the course of an NHL game that get lumped together if you only look at the base numbers. In 2014-15, Joe Thornton’s five empty-net goals were worth the same as Tyler Toffoli’s five shorthanded markers as far as overall statistics were concerned, just as 3-on-3 play during regulation time would be counted together with 5-on-5 actions.

That being said, with the rise of analytics fans have the luxury of filtering out certain scenarios if they choose to do so. For example, if you want to attempt to evaluate players on a more consistently level field by only looking at 5-on-5 play, you can do that. So in a way, each person will get to decide for themselves if the new overtime play should be counted alongside everything else.

Report: Kings suspend Voynov over non-hockey injury

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The Los Angeles Kings have moved to suspend Slava Voynov for his Achilles injury that he suffered during his indefinite NHL suspension, per LA Kings Insider’s Jon Rosen.

While the Kings suspending Voynov as well might seem redundant, it does give them a certain degree of cost certainty. As long as his nearly $4.2 million annual cap hit is off the books, the Kings have about $60 million committed to 16 players, which is a decent amount of space going into free agent market. Los Angeles still has restricted free agents to re-sign including Tyler Toffoli and Martin Jones, but now it will be easier for the squad to make moves beyond that.

He’s reportedly being suspended because the Kings believe that his injury isn’t hockey related, a point which Los Angeles assistant general manager hinted at when the subject came up back in April.

“It wasn’t at the rink,” Blake said regarding the injury, per the Los Angeles Times.

It is worth noting though that Kings GM Dean Lombardi previously stated that “they’re shooting for the middle of training camp” for Voynov’s return, according to the Orange County Register. Although he also compared the situation to that of Tanner Pearson’s in the sense that the Kings forward was ultimately sidelined for longer than anticipated.

Rutherford: Pens need a better ‘supporting cast’ for core

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Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is more than comfortable with the core of his roster.

And no, he has no plans to trade Evgeni Malkin, despite the speculation.

It’s the “supporting cast” — beyond Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury — that Rutherford is taking it upon himself to improve.

For good reason, he sees Chicago as the blueprint for success in the salary-cap era.

“The Blackhawks’ core group have risen to the occasion over the span of these last three Cups,” Rutherford told the Post-Gazette. “Clearly Kane and Toews and Crawford and Keith and some others have been really key players, but all three times they’ve had a different supporting cast.

“The conclusion I draw from that is that 1, we have the core guys to win a championship and 2, it’s my job and the job of everyone in hockey [operations] to try to get the right supporting cast so that we can build enough balance, speed and youth to have a complementary group that allows us to make the same run.”

One of the areas where the Penguins have fallen short is player development. Case in point, Rutherford admitted at the end of the season that Beau Bennett hasn’t been brought along properly.

Bennett was the Penguins’ first-round draft pick (20th overall) in 2010.

That was also the year Los Angeles took Tyler Toffoli, one of the leading scorers for the Kings in their second Cup run, with the 47th overall pick.

The next year, the Blackhawks drafted Brandon Saad in the second round and Andrew Shaw in the fifth.

To stay competitive in the salary-cap era, teams need that constant “support from the bottom.”

The Penguins haven’t received that. We mentioned Bennett’s failure to develop into an impact player. Well, at least he’s still with the organization. Pittsburgh traded the first-round picks that came before and after him. Simon Despres (2009) went to the Ducks to get Ben Lovejoy; Joe Morrow (2011) went to Dallas to get Brenden Morrow.

The Pens do have some good prospects in Derrick Pouliot, Kasperi Kapanen and a few others. The key for Rutherford will be to develop those prospects properly, while also acquiring the right veterans, for the right price, to fill out the rest of the roster.

Related: Rutherford insists Pittsburgh is ‘very appealing’ for free agents, even with ownership situation