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Gabriel Vilardi’s debut with Kings on hold amid injury

Gabriel Vilardi’s debut with Kings on hold amid injury
Gabriel Vilardi, 11th overall pick of the Los Angeles Kings, poses for a portrait during Round One of the 2017 NHL Draft at United Center on June 23, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Jeff Vinnick / Getty Images)

The road to Gabriel Vilardi’s debut with the Kings has hit another speed bump.

Vilardi is “probably doubtful” to participate in rookie camp next week because of a flare-up of a chronic back injury this summer, general manager Rob Blake said at the team’s state-of-the-franchise event Thursday.

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“We’re hoping to progress enough for him to step into main camp [on Sept. 14], but it’s going to be on a day-to-day thing,” Blake said.

It’s the latest setback for Vilardi, 19, a talented forward saddled with a back injury since he was drafted 11th in 2017. He was cleared to play for his junior team at the beginning of 2018 and skated in his first Kings development camp this summer. Vilardi was held out of the World Junior Summer Showcase because of back pains that were believed to be minor, but Blake said Vilardi’s back is “definitely a concern.”

Vilardi is expected to try and make the Kings’ roster out of training camp and potentially fill a role as a top-nine playmaker. He would otherwise return to his junior team.

There was no update on former defenseman Slava Voynov, who is trying to get reinstated into the NHL following his no contest plea to a misdemeanor charge of corporal injury to a spouse in 2015. Last month, his criminal record was expunged, after the district attorney’s office objected to the motion.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Times last week that there have been discussions between the sides, but Voynov remains ineligible. Blake hasn’t commented on whether the Kings want Voynov back. He called it “premature” to discuss the situation until it is resolved.

“It’s kind of out of our hands,” Blake said.

Blake said that Derek Forbort is coming back from “a little bit of a back injury” and they won’t know more until camp. Jeff Carter (ankle), Trevor Lewis (hand) and Jake Muzzin (shoulder) are all expected to be ready for camp.

While the buzz for next season is about Ilya Kovalchuk, former Ducks forward and Long Beach product Emerson Etem will come to Kings camp on a tryout contract.

“He skates well,” Blake said. “He’s got some abilities. He’s had some tough injuries here the past couple of years. Sometimes those guys need a fresh start.”

The Kings landed Kovalchuk after an apparent attempt at Montreal Canadiens’ Max Pacioretty. Agent Allan Walsh wrote on Twitter that a trade of Pacioretty to the Kings was in place at June’s draft, subject to Pacioretty’s signing an extension with L.A.

“We were interested in Pacioretty,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “But we always said we want to get another scoring left winger. We got it.”

Among those signing autographs Thursday were former Kings enforcer Matt Johnson, a fan favorite who was in the news last year when he was reportedly missing and later arrested for felony vandalism in Santa Monica. A team official said Johnson is living in L.A. and has made some community appearances for the Kings.

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