Karl Taylor and Michael Pelech both exchanged text messages with Dwight King on Tuesday, when King became the first Reign player ever to get an NHL call-up.
(I should point out that Jon Rheault played in five preseason games with the Calgary Flames this season after being invited to their NHL training camp. In terms of regular-season call-ups at least, King’s is the first.)
“We’re very excited for him,” Taylor said. “Hopefully he gets a chance to play, does well. He’s nervous, obviously real excited – a young man getting to chance his dream.”
“They started him out on a lower line, kept moving him around, and whatever line they put him on became their best line,” Taylor continued. “It was kind of like, ‘OK, we’re seeing at trend here.’ Dwight did very well once he got back up and played very well through playoffs. Then this year, he was doing a great job for hi. I know they’re happy with him. He’s earned it based on his play in the American Hockey League.
“He’s a very nice young man who does things the right way. He’s got lots of friends here who I know are pulling for him.”
Pelech said that in Manchester, King had “been all over the place, playing in all situations – penalty kill, the guy at the end of the game on the ice when we have a one-goal lead. … It’s awesome. He’s a good player who was doing really well in Manch. Big body, really strong and he’s been putting the puck in the net. He deserves to be up there.”
Taylor has already coached five future NHL players at the ECHL level (Jonathan Quick, Yutaka Fukufuji, Rich Peverley, Shay Stephenson, Deryk Engelland), but King is the first he’s coached in Ontario.
“It’s really special that we had someone who played here and makes it, which is great,” Taylor continued. “The credit’s on the player. The guys that have made it were going to make it whether they met me or not. I may have helped them with some off-ice stuff or skill stuff, or being professional. but the player gets all the credit. Johnny Quick was going to make it with or
without me. Even though I helped that individual, helped Rich (Peverley), helped some other guys, the player gets the credit.”
A couple more notes from today’s practice:
• Former NHL player Craig Johnson, who played in 557 games for the Kings, Ducks, St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs, was on the ice today and Tuesday assisting with the practice. Johnson hasn’t played locally since the 2003-04 season, but still lives locally. “He’s going to help us out when he can,” Taylor said. “We met and talked last weekend. We’ll see where it goes.”
• Pelech also had the misfortune of being the final player on the ice for a strip-shootout drill. He and Jeff Corey were down to their shirt, pants, stick and skates – and nothing else – when Corey scored. Pelech took off his shirt and a skate, and still missed, when the drill mercifully ended.
• Kellen Briggs may be the reigning ECHL goaltender of the week, but that’s not enough to expedite delivery of his new mask. He was still wearing his Dresden Ice Lions mask.