By Larry Wigge
After he scored the game-winning goals in the previous two games, Dwight King's coach Darryl Sutter was asked about the growth of his young power forward.
You had to be there to understand the jocularity by Sutter, but it was there nonetheless.
"Still 232 pounds," said the Los Angeles Kings coach. "After games he’s 228."
What the media wanted to know was about King's growth as a player, from the first time Sutter seeing Dwight score the winning goals against the Phoenix Coyotes on May 15 and 17.
"Better than he was when we got him, right?" Sutter continued, talking about an early February scouting mission he took to the Kings Manchester farm club. "Just 'cause he's scoring, I don’t think it's growth. That's kind of been what he's done in his junior career and his pro career. Same thing.
"He's a big kid that is strong on the puck, has a good sense, good feel for the game."
The Kings have gotten the most out of the 22-year-old, a lot of development there from King during his three years at Manchester. For most of his time, he was just a big body trying to hustle his way -- developing at Manchester of the American Hockey League and at Ontario Reign of the East Coast League. It was not uncommon to here the complaint, "What's it going to take to get this kid going? He's a big kid and he's not ready to play."
This year, the Manchester officials finally saw IT -- the maturing of the big man and accepting the role of a big man that could barge right through an opposing team's defense and score. In 50 games in the AHL, King contributed 11 goals and 18 assists.
The Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, native, put up five goals and nine assists in his 27 games for the Kings and in 14 games in the playoffs Dwight have contributed five goals and no assists.
"It's a dream. You want to be part of the Stanley Cup playoffs," said King, who was called up from Manchester for good in February 11. "To be a contributor is even better. Everything is coming around."
You get so many opportunities at winning the Stanley Cup ... and King has a very good one.
"You realize it when you look around and see guys who have played their whole careers or been in the league 10-plus seasons and not had many chances," King explained. "You grasp how serious it is. It's exciting to be a part of it."
First, King had to gain the trust of Sutter.
"You have to gain the trust of the coach," he said. "He's pretty simple. He's a guy who wants hard work from his players. You put your best foot forward and you get rewarded."
He's done it on the third line, combining with veterans Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis.
Morris believes King deserves this success.
"It's a small town of about 5,000 people," King said of Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. "I'm sure everybody gets around the TV room and makes a night of it."
His dad, Dwayne, is a truck driver. His mom, Donna, is a secretary. His brother, D.J., is a tough guy who has spent time in the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals organizations.
King is a sixth round pick, 109th overall, in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
"I would not have believed them, that's for sure," King said. "Crazy things happen in hockey. It's a dream."
Four of King's goal came in the Phoenix series, in fact he at one point had outscored the Coyotes 4-3. He is one goal from tying the Kings' rookie record, set by Daryl Evans in their 1982 against Edmonton.
King became a key piece of the Kings radar, when in November scout Jack Ferreira liked what he saw. His report was handed directly to GM Dean Lombardi.
"I had Dwight King and Jordan Nolan both on there," Ferreira recalled. "I was making a suggestion. But I firmly believed that at some point down the line both of those kids were going to be in our lineup.
"Every time I went to Manchester, I just liked what I saw from those two guys. I thought they were ready."
Ferreira credits Brent McEwen, the Kings' Western Canadian scout, for finding King.
"The first year we were all here, we were out in Western Canada and I asked Brent, 'Is there anybody out there that's kind of under the radar that you like?' Anyone that wasn't getting much attention," Ferreira said. "He mentioned two players: one was Dwight King and one was Keith Aulie (now with Tampa). So, we went to watch both kids. Dwight only played maybe five minutes in the whole game but we were both impressed in what he did in those five minutes. So we kept him on the radar and same thing with Keith."
Another source was Sutter's younger brother Rich, who was an assistant coach at Lethbridge.
The next season King scored 34 goals with the WHL's Lethbridge Hurricanes. He also scored 24 goals in AHL Manchester last season. So while his current goal-scoring exploits are surprising some, he has shown he can do it at other levels.
King was a power forward in the making similar to ...
"Growing up, I used to watch Todd Bertuzzi when he was playing well in Vancouver," said King. "My favorite player was Peter Forsberg and he also played pretty tough and pretty strong. Those are the two guys I watched growing up."
Having a big strong center on the third line like Stoll and a quick winger like Lewis has made the line even more important.
"He's a big strong body that can control the puck and obviously shoot the puck, like we saw tonight. Come playoff time, that type of player is huge," Stoll said.
"He's strong on the puck, he can get in on the forecheck, be physical, and control the puck down there. Him and Lewie are great down there controlling the puck. You've seen it lots here down the stretch, late in third periods, they're controlling the corners side to side and you see what he can do when he shoots the puck. He's a very special player for us right now."
Dwight King has become more than just a tag-a-long winger. He's been a key contributor for the Kings.