Say what you will about the current state of the LA Kings, but defenseman Austin Strand has nonetheless been a bright spot for the team.
He has been back with the LA Kings for four games now but Austin Strand is still learning the ropes of what it’s like to be an NHL defenseman. So, while there is hope that the LA Kings can still make the playoffs this season, there remains a noticeable opportunity for youngsters like Strand to shake off some of their green, so to speak, and become more accustomed to playing at the NHL level.
Following practice on Friday morning, Strand spoke with the media about how his progress has been since returning to the LA Kings, especially with the guidance of the club’s assistant coach, and defensive specialist, Trent Yawney.
“I think Yawns does a pretty good job of giving us feedback,” Strand noted. “I think whether it’s just seeing us around the room, he’ll come up to us and he has a couple of points he’ll want to give, get across, so he’ll kind of tell us those things. I mean, we’re still getting our video shifts after every game, so I’m watching those. I still [have meetings with] some of the development guys. I go see [Sean O’Donnell] and I’m still meeting with those guys if they see something that they kind of want to want to share with me. So, I mean, yeah, it’s tough with all the games every other day, but I think they’re trying to give us still a good amount of feedback without overflowing too much information.”
Unlike most of his defensive corps in Los Angeles, Strand has split his time in 2021 between two teams: 11 games played for the LA Kings and 11 games played for the Ontario Reign.
Strand was asked if being between both teams has been overwhelming as far as the amount of information received from different coaches and teammates goes.
“No,” the 24-year-old responded. “I mean, it’s my job, it’s what I signed up to do and I love doing it, so no problem for me. Yeah, no complaints from me and I’m just happy to be up with the Kings right now playing well and now I’m just happy to be here.”
While he has certainly become accustomed to life in the NHL, there is still more to Austin Strand that not everyone knows about. For instance, how he first became interested in first becoming a defenseman was a story that had yet to be broached before Friday.
“When I was really young, me and my cousin — he’s a year younger than me — we were always on the same team and we were both just big guys, bigger than everyone, and we kind of like just being the bash bros and that kind of stuck ever since,” Strand explained. “And being a bigger guy, I think it’s a little bit more lenient for big guys to be D-men, so, yeah, just kind of stuck ever since I was young,”
At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Strand certainly has the size of an effective blueliner, but it was the youngster’s work ethic that has really helped him stand out this season. A couple of players, in particular, inspired the Calgary native to learn the value of hard work. It is a lesson that has resonated with Strand ever since.
“Just being in Calgary, I was a huge Flames fan,” the former Seattle Thunderbird said. “I was going to Flames games all the time and just watching of guys like Jarome Iginla … and [Dion] Phaneuf when he was there, so it was cool.”
Regardless of how the LA Kings have fared on the ice in recent games, Austin Strand continues to make his case as a full-time NHL blueliner. From his defensive prowess to the aforementioned areas of his size and work ethic, Strand continues to be a player worth keeping an eye on when tuning into LA Kings games. He’s just one reason to feel good about this team’s future.