With the departures of J.F. Berube and Patrik Bartosak, the once-deep future of the Los Angeles Kings in goal has been spread thin. In terms of the present, the Kings certainly have plenty of solidity with Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles and Peter Budaj in Ontario. Beyond that, though, it is anyone’s game. One goaltending prospect in particular has given plenty of reason for optimism for the future. However, Alec Dillon‘s road to the top will not be an easy one.
In terms of ability, Dillon has what it takes. Unfortunately, he has been sidelined since late October and will be requiring hip surgery this month, which will lead to a long and grueling rehab. So, what comes of the 19-year-old post-surgery remains to be seen.
After posting a combined 43-18-6 record over his last two seasons in the BCHL and USHL, Dillon began his major-junior career this season with the WHL‘s Edmonton Oil Kings but had a rough initiation into the senior league, going 2-2-1 wih a 3.81 goals-against average and an .871 save percentage. Still, Oil Kings’ goaltending development coach Kurtis Mucha sees plenty of promise in Dillon and even pointed out his downfalls early on in Edmonton.
“Alec got off to a great start with us, he had an excellent main camp and looked really sharp in his exhibition games with us,” Mucha told me. “After he came back from his LA Kings camp the regular season began and it was an up and down start for not only Alec, but our team as well. He showed flashes of why he’s an NHL-drafted goalie and that is the Alec Dillon that the Oil Kings believe in.
“At the same time, when you jump to a new league there will always be a transitional period. He was thrown out of his comfort zone with a whole new team, new and better shooters, faster hockey, so of course there is to be an expected period where he needs to get used to the league and style of play in the WHL.”
At 6-foot-5, Alec Dillon possesses arguably his strongest attribute, but it’s harnessing that size that will be a challenge for the native of Victoria, B.C., moving forward. After all, while his size may have worked wonders in the BCHL and USHL, it is a work-in-progress in the WHL.
“Alec obviously has a ton of size to him and that is his most noticeable and strongest attribute,” Mucha continued. “Born with that kind of size is truly a gift for anyone who decides to be a goaltender. His size brings me to an area where he could use it more and utilize that great advantage. Playing big in the net and not making yourself smaller than you actually are is an important area when you have such a big frame.”
As for what Dillon can improve upon, the Oil Kings’ goalie coach went into some important detail.
“I think for Alec, he can always improve on his consistency in tracking the puck and his positional play,” Mucha noted. “Getting into position early and setting his feet was a main priority when we got on the ice in goalie sessions. Once we were able establish solid positional play we could focus on puck tracking and managing the open shot. Along with positional play is the ability to get into position and the big part about getting into position is being a good skater. If you look at Jonathan Quick, he’s the best skating goalie in the world. His speed is what allows him to play such an aggressive game because he can rely on his skating to get him back into any position that’s required.
“For Alec, being an efficient and smart skating goalie is a big priority. Improving his skating will go a long way into allowing Alec to become a better goalie positionally.”
Dusty Imoo, the Kings’ goaltending development coach, had some input on Dillon as well.
“I have worked with Alec a number of times,” Imoo said. “I brought him to Vancouver to work with myself and my son, who is a goaltender as well. I had him in the gym as well. Alec is a good kid and has some raw talent, but has a lot of maturing to do.”
As promising as he is, though, Alec Dillon, as previously mentioned, will be sidelined indefinitely as he prepares for hip surgery. Mucha, Imoo nor even Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford would sugarcoat how critical this type of surgery is and how tough the road to recuperation will be.
“He is in a difficult spot right now, because he has been injured for a long time and is having surgery,” Dusty Imoo noted. “This will keep him out until August, which will be a huge hill for him to climb mentally. Time will tell.”
“He has a tough road ahead of him to be ready to play next season,” said Bill Ranford.
Kurtis Mucha, though, provided a more detailed approach.
“I know Alec is getting his surgery in early February, so I anticipate the road to be a long and gruelling rehab,” Mucha told me. “A lot of the onus will be put on Alec to make sure he is doing all the things he’s able to and using the resources around him to ensure he comes back to camp in August in as best shape as possible. I know he’s been working very hard in the gym, six days a week before his surgery to build muscle around his hips to ensure a quicker recovery. I don’t know if Alec will be ready to go for camp or exhibition games, but it will be close along those time lines. Next year will be a very important year for Alec, as once healthy he will be able to prove what kind of a WHL goaltender he can be.”
We will not see him in action until next season but when we do, it will be a critical time as Alec Dillon will look to help reinsert solidity into the future of the Los Angeles Kings’ goaltending. Only time will tell if he can but if he is able to return to form next fall or even a bit later, you can bet that the Kings will have a legitimate blue-chip prospect in Alec Dillon.