Ian Clark's On Hockey: Many Kings' faces have familiar look
The Los Angeles Kings are in the Stanley Cup Final and the Manchester Monarchs are a big reason why.
The Kings have reached the finals for the second time in franchise history and the first time since 1993. They have never won the Stanley Cup.
For the past 11 seasons, the Monarchs have been the Kings’ minor league affiliate.
That relationship has developed the heart and soul of this Kings team that finished as the No. 8 team in the Western Conference but went on to post a 12-2 record in dispatching the No. 1, 2 and 3 seeds in the west.
“(Coaches Mark Morris and Scott Pellerin and I) were out there for the wrap-up against St. Louis and obviously we’ve been watching on TV,” said Monarchs director of hockey operations Hubie McDonough. “It’s been some late nights, but it’s been fun considering the vested interest we have in the team and the players.”
On Tuesday night, the Kings punched their ticket for the final round with a 4-3 overtime win in Phoenix.
Dustin Penner scored at 17:42 of overtime to give the Kings the win and a 4-1 series victory.
Los Angeles has 14 players on the roster who played in Manchester. That includes key components like captain Dustin Brown, all-world goaltender Jonathan Quick and up-and-coming youngster Dwight King.
This was exactly what Kings general manager Dean Lombardi had in mind when he took the reins in 2006.
“When Dean took over, he told us he wanted us to make Kings,” McDonough said. “We made a few Kings for them to use and they’ve used them well.”
In addition to that trio, Los Angeles also boasts former Monarchs Brad Richardson, Trevor Lewis, Alec Martinez, Kyle Clifford, Scott Parse, Davis Drewiskie, Kevin Westgarth, backup goalie Jonathan Bernier, Slava Voynov, Andrei Loktionov, and Jordan Nolan.
Richardson played a three-game conditioning stint in 2009, but the other 13 players all logged playoff time in Manchester.
Three other Monarchs, goalie Martin Jones, captain Marc-Andre Cliche and defenseman Jake Muzzin are in L.A. with the team as emergency spares.
Voynov and Loktionov were in Manchester this past season off and on. Voynov in particular has developed nicely and is now a top-four defenseman.
Kings head coach Darryl Sutter, who took over in December, visited Manchester during the all-star break in February and liked what he saw.
Not long after, Nolan and King were called up and immediately gave the Kings a kick-start thanks to their 22-year-old energy and large physical frames.
King has five goals in the playoffs, with four of them coming in the conference final against Phoenix.
And the catalyst has been Quick, who took a regular season that has him as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy and somehow improved on that with a goals against average of 1.54.
Not too bad for a couple of guys who at one time were demoted from Manchester.
“You look at Quickie and Kinger, they were sent down to the ECHL at points in their careers,” McDonough said. “They battled back and stepped up their games and progressed to the NHL and now they have one more hurdle to overcome (to be champions).”
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His e-mail address is email@example.com.