Kurtis MacDermid isn’t hard to find. He stands 6-foot-5 — without skates — and looks every bit of his 239 pounds.
Physically, that’s not even where it ends for the Kings defenseman.
“Fitness-wise, I’m not sure he can improve any more,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “He’s gone off the charts in terms of what he can control to get better.”
MacDermid, 23, is hoping his progress is enough to graduate from the Kings’ American League Hockey affiliate in Ontario, where he has spent the past two seasons, to the parent club.
Skills such as skating, positioning and passing are among the obvious areas where he would like to improve, but he is still fine-tuning his bread and butter.
Along with his aggressive style comes the risk for high penalty minute totals. Last season MacDermid’s 135 penalty minutes were 67 more than his closest teammate in Ontario. The previous season, his 121 also led the team.
“My first season in Ontario, there was a bit too much running around,” MacDermid said. “Now as I get older and more experienced, I learn to wait for those times and if I see an opportunity, I’ll for sure take that chance. It’s part of my game and you’ve got to pick your spots and be smart about it.”
MacDermid is squarely in the mix to make the Kings roster. He has the least NHL experience of his competitors, which include Paul LaDue and Kevin Gravel, who both played more games for the Kings than Ontario last season. MacDermid has yet to make his NHL debut.
If the Kings chose to send MacDermid to Ontario, they would risk losing him were another team to claim him off waivers.
“I think he’s known to be a real hard-nosed, physical presence on the ice,” Stevens said. “But we want him to combine that with being a really, really good defender, and that’s on the rush, down low in his own zone. So those are some of the things that we’ve looked for.”
Gaborik has overcome setbacks
Limited to skating by himself to rehabilitate his surgically repaired left knee when training camp began nearly two weeks ago, Marian Gaborik continues to increase the intensity of his practices with the Kings.
The winger looked unrestricted in Monday’s practice, but it hasn’t all been smooth sailing.
“He’s had some really good progress here, but he had some minor setbacks along the way, too,” Stevens said. “He’s obviously been integrated into some full practice situations, so we’re just going to monitor him, see how he responds each day.”
Gaborik, 35, underwent an unspecified operation on his left knee in April that he said repaired two problem areas. The Slovak who led the NHL with 14 goals in the 2014 postseason has played in more than 56 games just once in the last five seasons.
On the same day they signed Jaret Anderson-Dolan to a three-year entry level contract, the Kings released two players and assigned another to a junior team.
The Kings selected Anderson-Dolan, 18, in the second round of the 2017 draft, 41st overall. The 5-foot-11, 191-pound forward has shown Kings brass enough in rookie camp and training camp to warrant the deal.
“There’s some skill, there’s some talent and there’s some hockey sense in that young man,” said Mike Stothers, coach of the Kings’ American League Hockey affiliate. “He won’t be rushed through the process, but when you look at your future, or maybe a better comparison would be the rookie games, I thought he played extremely well when he was playing against his peers.”
The Kings released forwards Brandon Prust and Shane Harper from their professional tryout contracts and assigned goaltender Matthew Villalta to Sault Ste. Marie in the Ontario Hockey League.
The organization began training camp with 73 players and has reduced the roster to 60. Only 23 will make the Kings roster.