Los Angeles Hockey: Viatcheslav Voynov

Kings: Rookie making a name for himself

September, 22, 2011

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.”

Kings: Six answers from the home exhibition opener

September, 21, 2011
Mike RichardsAndrew D. Bernstein/Getty ImagesMike Richards was impressive in his Kings exhibition debut, especially with his puck movement and passing.

LOS ANGELES -- The who, what, when, where, which, and hows of the Kings split-squad exhibition game Wednesday night against the visiting Coyotes at Staples Center.

Phoenix Coyotes 2, Kings 1 (SO)

How did the Kings score their goals? Viatcheslav Voynov tied the score, 1-1, with a power-play goal six minutes into the second period. Mike Richards flung a shot at the net with Dustin Brown providing a screen. The puck laid at Brown’s skates for a second before the rookie defenseman tapped it in near the left post. Brown scored the only goal of the shootout in four attempts by the Kings.

Who looked the sharpest? Kings fans must have had goose bumps watching Richards work the puck on his first shift as a member of the Kings. Acquired in a blockbuster trade with Philadelphia this summer, he had two shots on goal on his opening shift and the Kings pinned the Coyotes in their zone for a solid two-minute stretch. Richards glided from high to low on power plays, providing crisp movement of the rubber and pinpoint passing in tight areas. Fans should relish his contributions this season.

What line had the best chemistry? Have to stick with the Richards line again. He came out with Brown and Brad Richardson and they were a handful for Phoenix, buzzing the net, retrieving pucks in the corners and not afraid to throw their bodies around. As the game wore on they kept up the intensity, drawing several penalties along the way. Not a bad second line at all.

When were the Kings at their best? Through the first 26 minutes, the Kings out-shot the Coyotes, 24-5. Unfortunately, they only hit the back of the net once (that counted) during that stretch, keeping the score tied, 1-1. The other goal that crossed the goal line came off the stick of rookie defenseman Thomas Hickey during a five-minute power play in the opening period. However, the goal was disallowed on a goalie interference penalty on Kyle Clifford, one of four trips to penalty box for the second-year forward.

Where do the Kings need to improve based on this game? Despite the early flurry of shots, the Kings were unable to finish off several decent scoring chances. Through the first two periods, they were up against a goalie, Justin Pogge, who has seven NHL appearances on his resume, and those date back in 2008-09. Yet, the Kings could get just one shot past him (that counted) and that came on the power play.

Which rookie was most impressive? Voynov already took over Drew Doughty's locker stall this week and he might inherit his roster spot if Doughty continues to sit out training camp due to a contract dispute. Voynov handled one of Doughty’s spots on the ice as well, playing the point on the power play and showing good instincts when he dropped down low to tap in his goal. He was nearly as solid defensively, save for a couple rookie mistakes.

Kings: Management eyeing replacements for Drew Doughty

September, 17, 2011
EL SEGUNDO — Kings coach Terry Murray wasn’t the only one keeping a close eye on Viatcheslav Voynov.

General manager Dean Lombardi stuck around for the afternoon session on the opening day of training camp Saturday at Toyota Sports Center, evaluating the player most likely to replace defenseman Drew Doughty if his contract negotiations linger into the regular season.

Voynov, a 21-year-old Russian who made the AHL All-Star team last season while playing for the Kings’ affiliate in Manchester, shares many of the same skills as Doughty, who's still home in Ontario, Canada, as his agent wrangles with the Kings over a new contract.

"[Voynov] has a little bit of an edge because he’s a right shot and also because he’s a very skilled guy and plays the power play,” Murray said. “That’s one of his strengths, to be able to carry the puck, see the ice and make plays.”

Doughty was a Norris Trophy finalist following the 2009-10 season, in part because of his dynamic offensive skills. He finished third in the league in scoring among defensemen that season, just his second in the NHL.

Voynov, a second-round pick in 2008,, has improved his offensive numbers each season in the AHL, climbing from 23 points in 61 games in 2008-09, to 29 points in 79 games the following season and then breaking through with 51 points in 76 games last year.

“When you pay your dues in the minors the last couple years, like he has, and keep getting better, he’s a player that I’m going to keep a very close eye on,” Murray said.

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