Trevor Lewis and Daniel Brickley grew up 15 minutes from each other in Utah, fully aware that few make it to the NHL from the suburbs of Salt Lake City.
They are eight years apart, and there was no way for them to envision being on the same NHL team, let alone at this time of year. But there they were Sunday, their lockers just a few feet away in the Kings’ dressing room.
It’s a small hockey world, after all.
“I never played with him growing up, but his dad and my dad were pretty close friends, and coming here is something else,” Brickley said. “The first NHL team to have two Utah kids? It’s pretty cool.”
They represent the urgent present and promising future for the Kings, Lewis as an important role player in this home-stretch grab for a postseason berth, and Brickley as a bright prospect. The defenseman practiced with the Kings, along with fellow free-agent signee Sheldon Rempal, for the first time Sunday.
The convergence of Lewis’ and Brickley’s paths coincides with the announcement that the Kings will play a preseason game in Salt Lake City in September. Lewis, the first Utah native to win the Stanley Cup, said the area has developed.
“Ever since the [2002 Winter] Olympics [in Salt Lake City] came I think hockey’s kind of grown,” Lewis said. “When I was I young, there were 10-12 guys on a team, not many to choose from. Now when you go back, it seems like there’s a lot more programs, a lot better coaching. Obviously, Brickley is here. You see more guys coming out of there, for sure.”
“It’s like anyone says, you dream watching these guys and finally to be out here skating with them, there are some big names out there,” Rempal said.
Brickley, 23, was regarded as the biggest college free agent of his class, and he was sold on the Kings after a recruiting trip to their practice facility.
“[It was] the atmosphere when I came here,” Brickley said. “Everyone’s so tight. That’s something I wanted to be a part of. Everyone gets along. Everyone meshes well. And I felt that when I came here.”
Neither Brickley nor Rempal are expected to play in a meaningful game. They are not eligible to play in the playoffs because they signed their contracts this late in the season. Both are humbled. Rempal, 22, just finished his sophomore season at Clarkson and his family in Calgary, Canada, celebrated his signing earlier in the week.
“It was a big day for me and my family,” Rempal said. “That’s the first step in making your dream. It was a great day, one I’m going to remember, definitely, for the rest of my life. I know everyone says that, but it’s really a good feeling. I’m going to enjoy it.”
“I’m sure they’ll be reminded of it,” Kings coach John Stevens said of the Avalanche. “If anything, it will be a little bit of a motivator for them.”
The Kings had two days to regroup from an intense overtime loss to the Ducks. Stevens said their play along the wall “left a lot to be desired.” They were missing left wing Alex Iafallo, and fourth-line winger Kyle Clifford was used liberally on the top line.
“I thought Kyle Clifford was our best winger,” Stevens said. “No disrespect to Cliffy, but we need some help there on that left side.”
KINGS VS. COLORADO AVALANCHE
When: Monday, 7:30 p.m. PDT.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 790.
Update: Jake Muzzin (upper-body injury) skated after practice in a positive sign although Stevens said “he’s still going to need some time.” Iafallo (upper body) did not practice and Stevens did not have an immediate update. … Colorado leads the NHL power-play opportunities while the Kings’ penalty-killing unit has allowed one goal in 13 games.