They are all great signs for the Kings at the end of the regular season, but their timing is rotten. They have found ways to win when they’ve already been eliminated, and it’s actually hurting their chances of landing the top draft pick in June.
Here’s what we learned:
Wagner has learned how to finish. The 21-year-old has always been blessed with speed, but the main obstacle was finishing the break-ins on net that he creates.
His goal showed how much he’s improved in that regard. Wagner gathered speed with the puck and snapped a shot high for his 12th goal.
“I took it to the net and made a nice bury,” Wagner said. “I’ve been working on that pretty hard this year, so I’m glad it came through in a game.”
Wagner’s emergence will make for an interesting training camp come September, when he has a leg up, so to speak, on other young players trying to earn a spot on the team. He would be a 20-goal scorer if he played a full season, and it’s remarkable that his 12 goals have been mostly in a fourth-line role: Wagner played seven minutes, six seconds on Saturday.
Teammate Jack Campbell sees more of Wagner than that in practice.
“It’s fun to be on his side, and I think he works really hard at his game and I think we have a lot of really good coaches here that have helped him,” Campbell said. “You’ve got to tip your hat to Wags because he’s out there ready to learn every day. I think you’re seeing that he’s becoming an all-around really solid player and it’s pretty scary if he keeps developing what he can do in this league.”
Campbell is making the most out of a limited role. Campbell recorded his second career shutout Monday but did not receive his next start until Saturday, when he stopped 33 of 35 shots and helped the Kings kill three penalties.
Such is the life of a backup goalie, and it’s been an unusually stunted schedule for Campbell, who made only his eighth start since the All-Star break, as opposed to 20 by Jonathan Quick.
Campbell is the Kings’ nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for dedication, sportsmanship and perseverance. He turned around his career with the Kings and overcame a knee injury this season to rank in the top four in the NHL in goals-against average (2.30) and save percentage (.926), as a backup goalie.
Dusty Imoo, a Kings goalie coach who has worked with Campbell since he joined the organization, first with the Ontario Reign, couldn’t be happier for his pupil.
“Every season I’ve known Jack it’s been a pleasure and exciting,” Imoo said. “I’m psyched. From that first year in Ontario to this day, every day it seems like he’s taking that next step. It’s amazing what can happen.”
Imoo has said Campbell doesn’t need to be fast tracked to a No.1 role and wants him to stay with the process.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - he has it inside of him to be a No. 1 goalie. But he doesn’t [need to be a No. 1 now]. He’s just happy what he’s doing. It’s a great building block to try to push for that next level. But I hope he maintains the same mentality.”
“I think when he’s in the lineup and on our team, I think other teams are less likely to take liberties on our top players, and I think he moves the puck really well,” Doughty said.
Desjardins has literally altered his lineup to accommodate the 6-foot-5, 233-pound MacDermid by going with seven defensemen on some nights. MacDermid plays fewer than 10 minutes a game, and he knows he has to make the most of it. He went 14 months between NHL games, and he’s trying to build off his rookie season with better positioning and stick plays.