When the Los Angeles Kings begin training camp tomorrow, they will be without three notable players. The team announced today that starting defenseman Derek Forbort, top prospect Gabriel Vilardi, and first-year pro Austin Strand will not be full participants when camp opens. Forbort, who is entering his fourth season as a Kings regular, is the least concern. A back injury will keep Forbort from taking part in team drills, but he is well enough to skate and is considered day-to-day. Regardless, Forbort has his top-six role locked in to begin this year and will likely resume playing with Dion Phaneuf after the two found chemistry late last year. The same can’t be said for Vilardi and Strand, who are fighting for roster spots in camp but at this point are considered week-to-week. Vilardi, the eleventh overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, is also suffering from a back injury and is completely sidelined for now. The young center could play a major role for L.A. this year, but has to first get on the ice this month and prove he is ready for the NHL. Strand, an undrafted free agent inked by the Kings last season, is hoping to get a shot on the blue line at some point this season. However, the standout from the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds must first get over the concussion symptoms that are currently keeping him from practice and game action. In the meantime, the Kings revealed their camp roster with some extra bodies invited to perhaps make up for these injuries. Junior players Nathan Dunkley, Mark Rassel, and Michal Ivan – one from each of the three CHL leagues – are set to join the team on tryouts.
- The New York Islanders weren’t willing to give Stephen Gionta a contract extension last summer, but the team ended up re-signing the veteran forward in December. This time around they are still unwilling to give Gionta a guaranteed contract, but they are willing to give him a shot at earning a spot in camp. The Athletic’s Arthur Staple reports that Gionta will join the team on a PTO in camp as he works to play a 13th pro season. Gionta, the younger brother of Brian Gionta, played for the New Jersey Devils organization for parts of eleven seasons, but has suited up for the Islanders and their AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, for the past two years.
- Gionta and the Kings’ junior tryouts are far from the only camp invitees across the league. As teams have announced their camp rosters, many previously unannounced PTO’s have been revealed. The defending champion Washington Capitals have invited Canadian collegiate forward Mark Simpson and WHL goalie Logan Thompson to camp. Their Stanley Cup competitors, the Vegas Golden Knights, will have junior forwards Raphael Harvey-Pinard and Ryan Chyzowski among their participants. The Anaheim Ducks will take a look at QMJHLers Justin Ducharme and Simon Benoit. The Edmonton Oilers add yet another PTO in former Detroit Red Wings prospect forward Luke Esposito. The Nashville Predators have just one additional skater in camp in WHL center Alex Overhardt. The Montreal Canadiens bring in some nearby QMJHL talent with keeper Samuel Harvey and forward Joel Teasdale. The New Jersey Devils will give ECHL goaltender Colton Phinney a shot, as well as junior blue liner Jeremy Groleau. The Detroit Red Wings host six junior players, as well as two of their ECHL affiliate’s players: defensemen Mackenze Stewart and Brenden Kotyk. The Minnesota Wild will also have a large group of tryouts, including twin forwards Drake and Darian Pilon. Finally, the Calgary Flames have invited surprise undrafted OHL defenseman Merrick Rippon to camp, while the Chicago Blackhawks will evaluate his Ottawa 67’s team mate, forward Shaw Boomhower.