LA Kings: Austin Strand said he had over 100 texts after NHL debut

LA Kings (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

A very excited Austin Strand spoke to the LA Kings media one day after making his NHL debut.

To suggest that the LA Kings did not have a good game on Friday night would be an understatement.

While they had a decent showing in the third period that saw them scoring twice, the damage was done for the Kings, who were outplayed by the Vegas Golden Knights right from the get-go. While the Golden Knights may have been the better team on paper, one may have hoped that the Golden Knights not having played since Jan. 26 would have helped the Kings. Vegas wasted little time in proving that this was not the case.

After scoring just 50 seconds into the game, the Golden Knights kept on pushing, ultimately chasing Jonathan Quick before jumping out to a 5-0 lead. The Kings did make it 5-2, but overall, it was just a forgettable night for the silver-and-black.

Actually, not all of the Kings had forgettable evenings.

Friday night marked the NHL debut of Austin Strand, who, since being signed by the club in Nov. 2017, has been working hard to develop his game for the NHL level.

A speedy defenseman who stands at 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds, Strand has the tools the Kings want in the future of their defensive corps. While promising on paper, though, Strand has only begun to show what he’s capable of.

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A Day of Congrats and Kudos

Following team practice on Saturday, the 23-year-old spoke with the media and, despite his team’s defeat, could not help but beam about his special evening on Friday.

“It was great,” an emphatic Strand said about making his debut. “The whole day was good. It’s a pretty crazy experience. Just having the guys come up to me and congratulate me and shake my hand was pretty cool, pretty surreal experience. Just the whole day, and the day before, the nerves were really coming in and then yesterday, just kind of took it as a normal game day and then everything felt pretty calm.”

Strand continued, explaining that once the game got underway, the nerves were slowly falling by the wayside.

“Once the first shift was under my belt, I felt a little bit better and just played the game and felt great,” the blueliner added.

While he definitely received his share of congratulations from his new teammates, the amount of kudos and warm wishes multiplied to those outside of the organization.

“My phone was blowing up yesterday,” Strand said, chuckling. “I think I had over 100 texts and a lot of Instagram. I tried to stop my phone until a bit later in the day so I could just cool down and really take in the whole experience and just, you know, eating dinner afterward with the guys and just talking to the guys because– I wasn’t trying to let it all hit me the day of. I was trying to keep it calm. So, after the game, I try to kind of let loose a little bit and just kind of let it all hit me a little bit more.”

The Long and Winding Road

From when he was first signed into 2017 to present day, Austin Strand has certainly come a long way in his development. From struggling to crack the Reign lineup in the AHL to even having a short stint in the ECHL in Manchester, it’s been a long and winding road of sorts for the defenseman. For Strand, though, his road to the NHL has been one worth reflecting on.

“Yeah, I’ve come a long way,” the Calgary native observed. “I always knew this wasn’t going to be the normal route, so being undrafted and just kind of– not underdog but coming in, working my way and proving myself, you know, on and off the ice and working hard and just kind of getting my way into the lineup like that.

“We have such a good development team here and worked with them a lot this summer, and the long offseason gave me a lot of time to work with those guys and they gave me a lot of good tools and I’ve just been trying to implement them into my game as much as I can and I think it’s helped me come a long way.”

Speaking of said development team, Strand was quick to give them full marks for their tireless work with him to become NHL-ready, going as far as questioning where he’d be without them, especially Sean O’Donnell and Mike O’Connell.

“The advice those guys give me– I don’t know where I’d be without the development team we have here,” admitted the former Seattle Thunderbird. “So, the past– I mean, it’s my third year with the organization. Those first two years working with those guys and just getting the feedback from those guys, telling me, you know, I can be here and I can do this and I’m going to be an NHL player one day. All that advice and motivation and then me and O.C. I mean, he’s the head of development, so it’s always good to hear from those guys and both of them are just legends of the game. Both so many games played in the NHL, so I mean, whenever those guys are talking, I’m just trying to absorb as much knowledge as I can. So, yeah, I mean, I couldn’t have done it without that team for sure.”

While he did take a penalty, Austin Strand was a plus-one while racking up 17:27 of total ice time in his NHL debut on Friday. But, don’t expect the youngster to immediately help turn the Kings’ recent woes around. That is not detrimental to Strand but rather an opportunity to let the 23-year-old organically transition himself into a regular member of the Kings defensive corps this season but even beyond.

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The Kings meet Vegas again on Sunday for a matinee in Sin City. Yet, while the team is looking for a better performance overall, expect Austin Strand to build from his own success on Friday night and hopefully help the silver-and-black to victory.