As a Monarchs season ticket holder for several seasons, I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in the stands of the jungle watching future Kings pave their paths to the big show. Slava Voynov, Jordan Nolan, Dwight King, and Jonathan Bernier all skated on that hallowed ice as they grew from bright-eyed prospects to the Stanley Cup Champions they are today. It’s cool being able to say I met them and knew who they were before they were famous.
But there’s a lot of guys who have been there all that time and have only gotten a taste of NHL action; if at all. They either got called up once or twice to fill a roster spot — but never played — or maybe got to play and simply failed to impress. Whatever the reason, the Monarchs lost a few veterans when the NHL lockout ended and the waiver feeding frenzy kicked into full gear.
On one hand, it sucks losing some of these guys. They stuck around this long, obviously making enough of an impact to earn their keep (and not get sent down to the ECHL). They were victims of circumstance. “It’s just business” or so the old adage states. Ironically though, there’s a silver lining to the cloud from their perspectives. A bunch of them are now getting minutes of NHL ice time with their new clubs. In fact, all three of the players I have in mind have even made immediate impacts on their new teams.
A gritty goal in the dirty areas? Bingo.
A tying goal mid-way through the third period? Check.
A game winning overtime goal? Yahtzee!
Rich Clune, Andrei Loktionov and Thomas Hickey have all ratcheted up their play since landing shots in the big-time with the Preds, Devils and Islanders respectively, and I say good for them. A lot of fans were sad to see Cluner and Lokti pack up and leave, and I’m sure some mourned the loss of Mr. Hickey. It was clearly just their time to move on. Now’s their time to shine.
Cluner has never been afraid to drop the gloves to stick up for a teammate, and oddly enough, he’s also a pretty good hockey player too. It wasn’t uncommon to see him find some open ice and blow past a hapless defender who thinks he’s nothing more than a garden variety goon.
And Lokti… That kid can skate and has some serious moves when he’s feeling confident. If I recall correctly, he scored a hat trick in one of his first games playing for the Monarchs. He also made up a third of the team’s highest scoring line a season or two back (paired with Marc-Andre Cliche and Oscar Moller).
Hickey… Well, let me just say that I had a laugh a few weeks ago when he did something stupid to which I exclaimed “Seriously, Hickey? God you suck!” and the person sitting in front of me turned and said, “Okay, so I’m not the only one who feels that way?”
Makes his new home on the Isles even more ironic.
Of course wouldn’t it figure that he started doing some things right — even scored a goal — in the weeks leading up to his departure? I guess his moves to increase the value of his stock paid off.
So there is clearly life after Manchester for this trio of former Kings prospects. I hope that they do well, so long as it’s not at the expense of our Kings.