LA Kings: Gabe Vilardi wants to be a faceoff wizard for team

LA Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

It doesn’t seem like that long ago when Jarret Stoll donned the silver-and-black. When he did, he was the LA Kings‘ go-to guy when it came to winning faceoffs. Stoll, however, hasn’t played with the LA Kings since 2015. Suffice it to say, it’s time for a new faceoff wizard, if you will, to emerge.

Enter Gabe Vilardi.

In 10 games last season, Vilardi was 53.1 percent in the faceoff circle and is 51.3 thus far this season. Stoll averaged a percentage of 55.2 in the faceoff dot with the Kings, although he did play 506 games for the franchise. Vilardi may have a long way to go in terms of longevity but the native of Kingston, Ontario, certainly has the potential to be most reliable when his team needs to win a crucial draw.

Head coach Todd McLellan hasn’t been afraid to use some of the newer LA Kings in different situations. This is where Vilardi’s work in the faceoff circle comes in, although he is experiencing a few struggles so far.

Following Monday’s practice, Vilardi spoke with the media about his faceoff focus and whether this is an area he takes pride in.

“I do take pride in that,” the 21-year-old responded. “I got to be better for my linemates and my team. If I don’t win the draw, we don’t have the puck. We’re chasing from the start, we get tired that way, and it’s tough.”

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For the youngster, though, he knows what he needs to do to improve.

“Last game especially, I feel like I watched the shifts, but we didn’t have the puck much when I was on the ice,” admitted Vilardi.

As a team, one area the Kings must work on is their discipline.

While their penalty-killing unit has been flawless thus far, the Kings were called for 11 penalties in their first two games. Vilardi and company acknowledge this and are committed to working harder next game to avoid sitting in the sin bin.

“Todd talked about it [at practice],” Vilardi noted. “I don’t think there’s anything we can work on for that. Two of those were Too Many Men, and that can’t happen. There were other penalties, but yeah, we just can’t take too many penalties. It’s that simple. It’s tough to get in the flow of the game if you’re on the PK six times a night.”

While speaking to the media on Monday, it was evident in Gabe Vilardi’s tone that he wanted to get better. The Kings may have come away with regulation points in each of their first two games, but there is — or should be, at least — a burning desire to get better. This goes especially for the younger Kings like Vilardi, who are simply trying to make their mark in this league, much less with their team.

Up next for the Kings is the resurgent Colorado Avalanche, whom they will host at Staples Center on Tuesday night to kick off a two-game stint.

The Kings won the season series with the Avs by a 2-0-1 count last season, but the boys from Denver have entered 2021 on a mission. That was proven on Friday night when the Avs shellacked the St. Louis Blues 8-0.

light. Trending. The time is now for the Kings to let the kids play

Still, the Kings are a good, young team themselves — especially with a healthy Gabe Vilardi in the lineup — so we will see if the silver-and-black can collect their first win of the season.