Mike Richards’ injury puts Kings’ Tyler Toffoli in the spotlight
The window of opportunity cracked open for the Kings’ Tyler Toffoli, and the rookie forward took advantage of it in fairly seamless fashion.
With Kings center Mike Richards a last-minute scratch for Sunday’s Game 2, Toffoli was put in the lineup and after some early adjustment issues, he showed some good jump and came away with an assist and a goal.
His role will continue to expand with Richards being out for Game 3 tonight and possibly longer in the Western Conference finals because of a suspected concussion. But Toffoli downplayed his role on the second line with center Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner.
“I don’t think I change a whole lot,” Toffoli said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “I’m just trying to create some offense, shoot the puck, get chances. I need to bring energy and work as hard as I can.”
Kings veteran Justin Williams said that he thought Toffoli was going to be “a phenomenal NHL player, for a long time.” His natural goal-scoring skills were evident almost immediately, other teammates said.
“He definitely has a good touch around the net. He can score goals, he’s proven it in juniors. He’s proven it in the AHL,” Kings center Anze Kopitar said. “He’s proving it now. He’s come in and done some really good stuff for us.
“If he’s not already, he’s going to be a regular on a nightly basis.”
One thing is clear. Toffoli does not seem to over-think the process.
“He seems like he puts it on the side and just plays,” Kopitar said. “For the young guys, that’s usually the most important, not to really think anything and just go out and play to your potential. He’s done that.”
Said Kings Coach Darryl Sutter: “He scored 50-some goals in his last year in junior and 19 goals in his rookie year in the American League, he played 60-something games. We brought him up when we had the roster spot to do it, not so much to play him, but because we thought he was close so he could watch and sort of progress. That’s all it is. He has the skillset to do it. The next part is the mental skills.”
The injuries forced Sutter and the Kings to change direction in the playoffs and bring Toffoli on a bit faster.
“This is not an easy environment to put him in,” Sutter said. “You wish you could have done it differently, but this will be good in experience, development part of it and then going into next training camp part and trying to make the team part.”
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