MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — When Dean Lombardi was hired as their general manager in 2006, the Los Angeles Kings were in need of a major rebuilding period. It was a slow and arduous rebuild but under Lombardi, the Kings were transformed into a Stanley Cup winner. Yet, while Lombardi and his scouts helped shape the entire roster into a winner, it was one position in particular that helped the silver-and-black rise about the fray: defense.
The old adage of defense winning championships could not have been more appropriate than in 2012 and again in 2014. But while the Kings met their ultimate goal (twice), the club continues to build for the future with special emphasis on the back end.
This past June, the Kings continued to build for the future, drafting, among others, a 6-foot-2 17-year-old blueliner out of Sweden by the name of Jacob Moverare.
After just four games with HV71 Jonkoping, though, Moverare, who turned 18 on Aug. 31, committed to the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads for this season and on Friday night, he made his debut as his club hosted the Windsor Spitfires.
While the Steelheads lost by a 4-1 count, Moverare’s OHL debut was an overall promising one. Despite being on the ice for both of Windsor’s power play goals, for instance, Moverare’s work on the penalty kill was nonetheless exceptional as he made a few key blocks and was always quick to sweep the puck out of harm’s way. That even meant rolling up his sleeves, if you will, by crashing his own net to keep the Spitfires from scoring.
Moverare, however, was a bit hard on himself – and understandably so – because of those two goals.
“I was a little bit disappointed of my penalty-killing. I was in on two goals. That’s never a fun thing,” Moverare told me after the game.
Despite the pair of goals against, though, the 18-year-old blueliner felt good about his first game with the Steelheads but strives to be better.
“I’m pretty happy about my whole—the way I played,” Moverare continued. “I wanted the win but need to play a bit better next game.”
Overall, Moverare had a promising debut. He got his passes off quickly, demonstrated good speed and even better stickhandling and even sent one of his teammates on a breakaway. He was tentative at times and a little overeager defensively as well but overall, it was a solid start for Jacob Moverare who already looks like he’s going to be a solid cog on the Steelheads’ blueline.
Friday’s loss was the Steelheads’ third game of the season as they split their first two outings the previous weekend. Moverare, however, was not in the lineup for either game as he was in Los Angeles at Kings camp. I asked Moverare about his experiences there.
“It was a real good experience,” the 18-year-old said. “Being [at camp] when all the pro guys are there. You see how hard they work and all the little things they do. That’s just really fun to see and you get more motivated. And for how I played, I think I did pretty good. [The coaches] were pretty happy with me when we had the last meeting before I got sent home. They said they were happy with how I played and gave me some things they wanted me to work on here in Mississauga.”
In closing, Moverare touched on the transition from Kings camp to suiting up for the Steelheads.
“Some things are different in how [the Kings] play but it’s pretty easy because I was [in Mississauga] two or three weeks before I went to L.A., so I know pretty much how we play. It wasn’t so hard.”
It’s one game down but it’s so far, so good thus far for Moverare. From his aforementioned speed and stickhandling to his aggressive defending on the penalty kill, the native of Ostersund, Sweden, is not afraid to jump right into the play and get his hands dirty. Watching him on Friday night, it looked as though this was Moverare’s second go-around at the major-junior level.
As good as Moverare’s start was, though, there is always room for improvement and Make Way for the Kings will be there every step of the way.
Next up for Moverare and the Steelheads will be Sunday afternoon tilt when they play host to the North Bay Battalion, as they hope to get back into the win column.