Commentary

This King making a name for himself

Updated: May 20, 2012, 12:14 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

LOS ANGELES -- On a November day with the Kings meandering their way through a disappointing first half of the season, Jack Ferreira walked into Dean Lombardi's office and handed him something.

"I wrote down on a sheet of paper our lines and I gave it to Dean," Ferreira, the special assistant to the GM, told ESPN.com Friday. "I had Dwight King and Jordan Nolan both on there. I was making a suggestion. But I firmly believed that at some point down the line both of those kids were going to be in our lineup."

The GM read it, and handed it back to Ferreira.

"Nothing ever goes by Dean, he stores it somewhere in that brain of his," said Ferreira, laughing.

Three months later, both kids were called up from AHL Manchester. Six months after Ferreira handed that piece of paper to Lombardi, the veteran hockey man could not have been more right about King and Nolan, both fixtures in L.A.'s playoff run, the Kings one win away from reaching the Stanley Cup finals.

"Every time I went to Manchester, I just liked what I saw from those two guys," said Ferreira. "I thought they were ready."

Nolan, the son of former Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders coach Ted Nolan, has been a solid fourth-line role player, while King has played on both the second and third lines in these playoffs and provided big moments.

Imagine King's reaction when someone told him last September at training camp, when he was sent down for another AHL season, that he'd put up four goals in three games in the Western Conference finals?

"I wouldn't have believed him, that's for sure," King said Friday, smiling. "Crazy things happen in hockey, and I just happen to be part of it right now."

The strapping 22-year-old winger from Meadow Lake, Sask., younger brother of Washington Capitals minor league tough guy D.J. King, has been a revelation in these playoffs.

Before that, he put up 14 points (5-9) in 27 regular-season games after his February call-up, most of them playing alongside Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.

"He's a big guy that's hard to move off the puck," Richards said Friday. "You get some skill with that, he protects the puck so well, and has confidence and poise with the puck. He isn't shy to take it to the net or make plays when he has the opportunity to."

Then, after a first-round series win over Vancouver, head coach Darryl Sutter examined his matchups with the St. Louis Blues ahead of the second round and decided to swap King off the second line for Dustin Penner. That left King on a third line with Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis.

It was a masterful move by Sutter, who has had the magical touch since taking over as coach of the Kings. Penner has taken his game to another level playing with Richards and Carter, while King has found chemistry with Stoll and Lewis.

"When we did that the last round, it was more the matchup part of it, how St. Louis could play those six top guys together," Sutter explained Friday. "With Penner's experience, we just thought it was better he was in there. ... It took a little pressure off King too, quite honestly. It manages his minutes and who he's against on the ice a little bit."

While King has surprised most people with his playoff exploits, it certainly has not been a surprise to Ferreira. He's believed in him for a long time. Ferreira credits Brent McEwen, the Kings' Western Canadian scout, for finding King.

"The first year we were all here, we were out in Western Canada and I asked Brent, 'Is there anybody out there that's kind of under the radar that you like?' Anyone that wasn't getting much [attention],'' Ferreira said. "He mentioned two players: one was Dwight King and one was Keith Aulie [now with Tampa]. So, we went to watch both kids. Dwight only played maybe five minutes in the whole game but we were both impressed in what he did in those five minutes. So we kept him on the radar and same thing with Keith.''

The plan was to take King in the fourth round of the 2007 draft, and they did at 109th overall, and hopefully to take Aulie in the fifth round, but Calgary took him before the Kings could get both.

And so Project: Dwight King commenced. The next season King scored 34 goals with the WHL's Lethbridge Hurricanes. He also scored 24 goals in AHL Manchester last season. So while his current goal-scoring exploits are surprising some, he has shown he can do it at other levels.

"I wouldn't say a high-number goal scorer, but when I get my opportunities I feel just as comfortable as anyone else in those situations to find a way to put them in,'' said King.

He's a power forward in the making and, as a kid, he tried to emulate two in particular.

"Growing up, I used to watch Todd Bertuzzi when he was playing well in Vancouver," said King. "My favorite player was Peter Forsberg and he also played pretty tough and pretty strong. Those are the two guys I watched growing up."

King isn't projected to reach those levels of productivity, but a 20-goal scorer with a physical edge, somewhere between Washington's Jason Chimera and David Clarkson? That's the kind of player he might just be for years to come in these parts.

For King, though, it's about the here and now.

"It's a dream," said King. "You want to be part of the Stanley Cup playoffs. And to be a contributor is even better."