While his overall transition to the NHL has been promising, there are still growing pains that LA Kings’ Tobias Bjornfot needs to address.
This past weekend’s series in Denver wasn’t much to write home about for the LA Kings. The offense was anemic, the defense had a rough go of things, and while Cal Petersen was certainly sharp in goal, it was a collective lowlight for the LA Kings. In fairness, the silver-and-black were up against one of the league’s hottest teams in the Colorado Avalanche. Plus, when a younger, inexperienced group goes up against one of the best teams in hockey, growing pains are inevitable — and defenseman Tobias Bjornfot is no exception to this.
En route to Sunday’s 4-1 defeat in Denver, Bjornfot was caught flat-footed when Nazem Kadri made a highlight-reel move around him to score the game’s first goal. This may have been a mistake on Bjornfot’s part, but being that Sunday’s game was just the 16th of the Swedish blueliner’s NHL career, he can be at least be given a bit of leeway. Nevertheless, Bjornfot’s error remained a point of contention before the LA Kings’ Wednesday night game against the Blues.
The defenseman addressed the media on Wednesday about this, beginning with what he would have done differently in his one-on-one against Kadri.
“Be more patient,” a succinct Bjornfot said. “Just be more patient and stay with the puck with what you are doing. Just be more patient and learn from it.”
The good news for Bjornfot, though, is that he was given the confidence to go back out there and learn from his mistakes. As is the case for any young player with Todd McLellan as their coach, the margin for error is wide enough where newer players can afford to slip up. Those players would ideally like to keep their mistakes to a minimum, but it is nonetheless reassuring to know that the pressure of being perfect is justifiably absent.
“I just bounce back and play the game simply after that,” a confident Bjornfot added.
One particular aspect of Bjornfot’s game that continues to require patience is his transition from the AHL to the NHL. While he has grown accustomed to life in the NHL, it is easy to forget that the latter’s schedule is much different than the former’s. After all, while NHL teams can play up to four games a week throughout the week, AHL clubs generally play on weekends, having just two or three contests to deal with each week. This was the case for Tobias Bjornfot with the Ontario Reign but playing more with the LA Kings is just something that will get better in due time.
“Just taking care of my body,” the 19-year-old said in response to how he’s adjusted to playing in the NHL. “The practice that we have and give it a hundred percent in them and just makes sure my body feels good.”
He is a man of a few words, but, like his growing pains, that is okay. When they drafted Tobias Bjornfot 22nd overall in 2019, the LA Kings knew there were investing in a smooth, reliable two-way defenseman, and for the most part, the youngster has delivered both with the Reign and now with the big club. Yet, while he may only have two assists to his totals through 14 NHL games thus far this season, Bjornfot has nonetheless been a valuable asset to a promising young LA Kings team.
Despite a modest stature of 6-feet, 187 pounds, Bjornfot has not been afraid to use his physical side, averaging 3.45 hits. He has also gotten his hands dirty defensively, averaging 4.44 blocked shots per contest.
There are going to be mistakes along the way, but fans can at least rest assured that from an overall standpoint, Tobias Bjornfot has not only developed at a great pace but is fitting in with an LA Kings defensive corps that has become somewhat crowded as of late. Not bad for a 19-year-old. Heck, beyond impressive for a 19-year-old.
Like Nazem Kadri’s goal against the LA Kings on Sunday, we will have moments where he will question what Tobias Bjornfot was thinking. These windows of doubt, however, will be worthwhile in the long run as you can beat that these growing pains are just what Tobias Bjornfot needs with the top-four upside he already brings to the table.