MANCHESTER -- YOU’D be hard-pressed to find a better situation for a rookie defenseman than the 2013-14 Manchester Monarchs.
That’s where Derek Forbort finds himself; on a team that leads the AHL standings, is deep with veteran defensemen to learn from, has great goaltending and excellent coaching with a track record of developing NHL players.
“It’s been good. I think I’ve been playing well and taken the next step in my game from college,” Forbort said. “I’m just trying to work on being a complete player every night. There’s a lot more games than college, so that’s a challenge. But I think I’ve adapted pretty well.”
The 22-year-old Forbort is a Minnesota native who played college hockey at the University of North Dakota. He was a first round pick of the L.A. Kings (15th overall) in 2010. Forbort played in 10 games at the end of last season (four in the playoffs), registering an assist.
Now in his first full pro season, the 6-foot-4, 218-pounder is progressing nicely at the AHL level. “I think steadily he’s improved. He’s big and he’s applying himself and using his size. I think his play selection has improved,” Monarchs head coach Mark Morris said. “(Assistant coach) Freddy Meyer has been working with him on his reads and his passing ability and making plays that are steady and reliable. He’s coming along nicely.”
Forbort said he sees how far his game has come in one season.
“I feel like I skate pretty well and defend pretty well. I’ve just got to get my puck skills better and try getting pucks to the net,” he said. “The coaching staff here does a great job. It’s just going to take some time and I’ve got to put in the hard work and hopefully I get there.”
Never a high points production guy in college — he topped out at 17 on four goals and 13 assists as a senior — Forbort’s forte has always been playing well in his own end. That has continued in the AHL where Forbort has a solid plus-13 rating through 62 games to go along with a goal and 15 assists.
The Monarchs, who host Bridgeport Friday night at 7 p.m. at Verizon Wireless Arena, are deep with veteran defensemen such as captain Andrew Campbell, Andrew Bodnarchuk and NHL veteran Jeff Schultz.
Those players have acted as mentors for Forbort and fellow blue line rookie Colin Miller.
“Guys like Campbell and Schultz have shown me a lot. I work with them on little things to find my game,” Forbort said. “They’ve helped me a ton. It’s been great having them here.”
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is email@example.com.