LA Kings: Ontario Reign coach John Wroblewski stresses importance of practice

(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Akil Thomas is expected to play for the LA Kings AHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign, this season. And his new coach preaches the importance of practice.

After scoring 15 goals with 29 assists in 27 games for the Niagra IceDogs of the OHL last year, Akil Thomas is expected to play for the Ontario Reign this coming season. The 20-year-old wore letters for Niagra in back-to-back seasons and scored the Golden Goal for Team Canada in the World Juniors back in January.

And now he’ll have the chance to develop into an offensive powerhouse under new Reign coach John Wroblewski. The 39-year-old is replacing Mike Stothers, who had been with the club since the 2014-2015 campaign when the AHL affiliate was still in Manchester. Wroblewski played collegiate hockey at Notre Dame and became an assistant coach for the US National Development Team Program at just age 29.

After a couple of pitstops in the ECHL, AHL, and Youngstown of the USHL, the Neenah, Wisconsin native returned to the USNTDP-this time, as the team’s head coach. He’s done a tremendous job of developing the best American skaters with eight of his guys being taken in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft, including number one overall pick Jack Hughes and LA Kings first-round pick Alex Turcotte.

He joined the guys on the most recent episode of Kings of the Podcast, and one of my biggest takeaways after listening was how much of an emphasis Wroblewski places on practice.

“How we operated in the program (USNTDP),” Wroblewski said. “It really revolves around small numbers at all times. Lots of competition, and hopefully, it’s about developing the individual to make them faster and more creative and more powerful. That’s kind of the mantra that I’ve ran with my practices since becoming head coach, really, at every level.”

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Insert the obvious Allen Iverson joke here, but dedicating 75 minutes of each and every day to work on things that didn’t go as planned in games or running through stickhandling, one-on-one full ice, or poke drills are all applicable to real game scenarios that when practiced over and over, can be the difference in the outcome of a live contest.

“With practices, for me in coaching, that’s where you can make your players a lot better, and I take that hour and 15 minutes with the players on the ice very seriously. I have a light side to me, I like to joke around. But for that hour and 15, it’s all business and it’s structured. The time and the detail, they all have to be right.”

The Kings 100-percent got this hire right. Wroblewski’s track record speaks for itself, and now he’ll have the opportunity to develop one of the NHL’s best prospect pools. Aside from Thomas, Wroblewski is expected to work with Arthur Kaliyev, Samuel Fagemo, Kale Clague, and several other notable Kings prospects.

The AHL is tentatively scheduled to start on December 4, just three days after the 2020-2021 NHL season begins.