Left Wing Lowdown: From Luc to Tanner

The old adage is that good things come to those who wait. And when it comes to drafting and developing a left winger, fans of the LA Kings have done their fair share of waiting.

The Kings have selected 37 players in the first round in their 47 years in the league, which makes it fitting that their only Calder Trophy winner was a left winger who passed over time and time again before getting his shot. Now, the team can only hope that history will repeat itself 28 years later.

It can’t be easy sitting around hoping to hear your name called at the NHL draft. The names come flying off the board – over 200 each year – yet there’s no guarantee that yours will be among them.

In 1984, a skilled-but-not-so-smooth-skating teenager patiently sat at the old Montreal Forum waiting for a team to take a chance on his goal-scoring prowess. It took just about all night, but his moment finally came.

“I was really nervous because I had to wait a long time to hear mine because I was in the ninth round – that takes a long time to go to the ninth round,” Luc Robitaille told LAKings.com in 2013. “But when I heard my name, I remember I just jumped out of my seat. I was in the arena – still I jumped out of my seat and ran down. It was a pretty good feeling.”

In the end, the concerns over Robitaille’s skating ability and whether he’d be able to keep up with the speed and pace of the NHL resulted in 170 players being picked ahead him. Well, 668 goals – 557 with the Kings – later, it’s pretty clearly that he was more than up for the task.

Overall, the list of homegrown left wingers in the LA Kings’ history book is, to put it nicely, rather hard on the eyes.

In fact, the next six highest scoring left wingers developed by the club only combined for 538 goals in their respective Kings’ careers.

Left WingerGamesGoals
Alexander Frolov536168
Mike Corrigan401106
Mike Cammalleri28393
Brian MacLellan18761
Vladimir Tsyplakov26156
John Kelly28654
TOTAL1,954538
vs.
Luc Robitaille1,077554

YIKES.

After spending two more years honing his craft in junior hockey, Robitaille got a chance with the big club and took the league by storm. In 1986, he amassed 45 goals and 39 points for 84 point en route to Kings first, and only, Calder Trophy as top rookie in the NHL.

The wind beneath my left wing.

Now, nearly three decades later, it’s another passed-over, criticized-as-slow-skating left winger who has quickly made his mark on the NHL.

His name is already etched into Stanley Cup, but Tanner Pearson is still a rookie in the eyes of the NHL, and the 22-year-old is out to prove everyone how wrong they were about him.

While the Kings selected Pearson in the first round in 2012, he was even less sought after than Robitaille in his original go around in the NHL draft. Being passed over in 2010 and 2011 meant that, in total, 449 players were selected ahead of Pearson in his draft eligible years.

Eventually, Kings’ General Manager Dean Lombardi took a chance on the over-aged, suddenly speedy winger …because apparently that’s what a team does after it wins its first ever Stanley Cup. Using the 30th pick of the first round was seen as a reach and a a gamble by Lombardi.

But now in his first full NHL season, the rookie looks poised to show all he ever needed was a chance. With the help of running mates on That 70s Line™ – Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli – Pearson is poised to end the first month of the 2014 season as the point leader and top goal scorer among all rookies, and has emerged as an early frontrunner for the Calder Trophy.

Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli Screams of Joy

And while there is still plenty of time left in the season, one can’t help but wonder if the Kings finally found their first real scoring threat on the left wing since that other poor skating Canadian was given his chance 30 years ago.

After all, a franchise that’s seen countless left wingers fall by the wayside can only hope this is their lucky break.

PumperNicholl is a lifelong LA Kings fan and actually learned how to speak English from Bob Miller by watching LA Kings games… and the Police Academy movies. You should probably follow PumperNicholl on Twitter @pumpernicholl