LOS ANGELES--Let's just call him Slava, for now.
Viatcheslav Voynov, a 21-year-old Russian defenseman who’s trying to make the Kings roster out of training camp, possibly at the expense of absentee Drew Doughty, may have made a name for himself Wednesday night at Staples Center.
Voynov, who goes by the nickname Slava, probably won’t ever reach Magic or Tiger status, but he impressed his teammates, coaches and the crowd of 10,641 with his confidence, skill and poise in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes in the exhibition home opener.
Voynov scored his team's only goal, a power-play effort six minutes into the second period, when he crashed the net on a shot by Mike Richards, located the loose puck in the crease and slid it past the goal line to tie the score, 1-1.
Kings coach Terry Murray said Voynov played "beautifully."
“He’s got great awareness on the ice, with and without the puck,” Murray said. “He wants to make plays. I wish sometimes he would shoot the puck more, but he has got great composure.”
Murray liked the way Voynov wasn’t hesitant to join the offensive rush, a knack Doughty has mastered in three seasons in the NHL and helped him get on the list of Norris Trophy finalists in 2009-10.
Of course, there’s no replacing Doughty’s skill level at this point of the season, but Voynov went a long way toward proving he can hold down the fort until Doughty comes back, whenever that is.
“He’s a top-end defenseman, there’s no doubt about that,” team captain Dustin Brown said of Doughty. “But this is a team game and we have a strong team top to bottom.”
The Kings went 4-2 while Doughty was out with a concussion at the beginning of last season, giving players like Brown some comfort.
“I think we have a better team than we had last year,” he said. “Bringing in the type of guys we brought in brings in a lot of experience and calmness to our team. [Doughty] is a big part of our team, but it doesn’t matter who goes down, it’s an opportunity for someone else to pull the rope.”
Thomas Hickey also had a solid game on defense for the Kings. The former No. 4 overall draft pick scored a power-play goal that was quickly disallowed on a goalie interference call against teammate Kyle Clifford.
Murray said Hickey looked faster and more physical than he remembers from previous training camps. He’s also learning to play within the system.
“I remember the first year I was here for an exhibition game, he tried to fake three, four, five guys,” Murray said. “Now he’s moving [the puck] faster and playing more with of a purpose.”
Murray said Voynov still owns a edge over Hickey and the rest of the rookie defensemen because of his resume, which includes a selection to the AHL All-Star game last season.
That said, the competition that has opened up due to Doughty’s absence will be important to the futures of both players.
“They both understand the situation we’re in,” Brown said. “Depending on what happens, one of them might be here, so it’s good to see them have that compete level and be excited to be here because right now there’s a spot to be taken.”