Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 5/24/12
LOS ANGELES It has been a largely successful season for Los Angeles Kings prospect Tyler Toffoli, never mind how long its been.The former second-round draft pick really hasnt been off his skates since taking part in Canadas World Juniors development camp in the first week of August. After both Ontario Hockey League and National Hockey League training camps, he reported back to the Ottawa 67s to defend his OHL scoring title.En route to a 52-goal, 100-point campaign, he was among the final cuts for Canadas eventual bronze medal-winning junior national team in December. In April, after his 67s had erased a three-games-to-one deficit in the second round of the OHL Playoffs, they took Game 7 in overtime to force a conference finals matchup with the Niagara Ice Dogs. They fell in five games, though Toffoli finished with 11 goals and 18 points in 18 playoff games.And that brings him to his recent camp: L.A. Kings Playoff Camp, where he has been one of the organizational call-ups skating with members of the teams player development and scouting staffs at the clubs facility in El Segundo. Along with the more personal skills instruction hes been receiving, hes also been surrounded by the winning environment of a team going through a long playoff run. He watched second- and third-round games from upstairs at Staples Center as former teammates scored goals and recorded important minutes, and was able to soak in what the organization has sought for so long to develop: a winning culture.When you see playoff hockey played in this environment, with this type of intensity, you really get a sense of how hard it is, and how hard it is to win in this league, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said. A lot of these kids come up, and its the idea Well, I can play in the league, but thats not what their goal should be. To win in the league, you really get to see what it takes in the playoffs. So everything theyre trying to preach them and develop them in camp, about why we start this development program, and all these things we make them go through, now you see why when you see Trevor Lewis the other night protect the puck, get up, and it leads to Dwight Kings goal.While Toffoli recognizes the heightened environment It definitely makes me think about working even harder, he said he has been able to compare the work habits, the fundamentals, the little things between his own abilities and what he has seen in the Stanley Cup playoffs.Like the little battles in the corner, Toffoli answered on what has left an impression on him. I mean, theres always everything about my game I need to get better to obviously play in the NHL Just the little things like the little battles, the quick feet, just that, and hopefully one day, and soon, I can really get better at those things and make the jump.Its encouraging that their prospects are using the playoff canvas in front of them as an instructional tool, and when they see former teammates buying into a system and finding success at a major league level by doing things that have been instilled in them since their draft day, it hopefully becomes a cycle of building and reinforcing that desired winning culture.So when King finds himself heading into the Stanley Cup Final with five goals to his name, it certainly should boost the drive and offseason preparedness about to be undertaken by his former Manchester teammates.What a great example, says Nelson Emerson of L.A.s Player Development. You know, theyre all teammates of Kingers and theyve been through all the things that he has. Theres a progression that each young player has to go through, and I know theyre sitting up there, and theyre happy for Kinger, and theyre realizing that Jeez, you know, this could be me, too, someday.Kings defenseman Thomas Hickey, who called his 2011-12 season a good year, a step in the right direction, was an AHL midseason All-Star and appeared in at least 76 games for the second consecutive year after injuries had derailed his upwards momentum in 2009. The former fourth overall pick, whose three-year entry-level contract expires this summer, was struck by the teams cohesion and the multi-cogged machinery with which the team operates.You learn more watching about what kind of player theyre looking for, as opposed to what kind of system theyre going to run, Hickey said. Obviously theyre a team thats got everything going right now, and just the way everyones playing, its a team game, there are so many simple, smart, team-first plays out there. You just get the idea that thats what theyre looking for.Its one thing to talk about building a winning, championship attitude amongst the players theyre trying to groom into the system, and its another thing for the team to actually go out and win playoff games in which players drafted by L.A. and developed in Manchester play a large role. Its exciting. King and Lewis are guys that you were right there with, you played with, and theyre just taking their games to another level, and you see how theyve grown and matured. Theyre never resting, it seems like, those two guys in particular. Theyre just getting better and better and better.As a player, you understand that you want to make it, and then if you do, theres more to go, and a ways to improve.
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