Not long ago, Jordan Nolan was at an impasse in his hockey career. Today, he finds himself competing for the greatest trophy in all of sport.
Nolan, a 1989 birth year, was not selected until the 2009 draft in which he was taken at No. 186 by the Kings.
"I realized how serious hockey when I wasn't drafted at 17, it took a while for me to get my career going but it's a fun sport and I'm starting to pick things up now," Nolan said.
Nolan, who said he might have been knocked for a lack of motivation or work ethic early on, emerged from his OHL career with plenty of praise. He was considered a worthwhile project by many GMs in the OHL.
"My first few years of junior probably weren't the best for me. The past few years I've really started to work hard and realize I wanted to this thing for a living."
Nolan considers the tail end of his junior career was a wake-up call for him. He found himself staring at two possibilities, delivering hits on the ice or hitting the books.
"The fact that I was getting a little older in my OHL career and it was either play hockey or go to school," Nolan said. "Obviously, I wanted to play hockey. So I came into training camp without a contract and I had to work hard to get one."
Nolan earned an entry level deal at the start of the 2010-11 season. He impressed in both rookie camp and the preseason in the summer of 2011 after spending time at every rung of the Kings organization.
He competed for the ECHL's Ontario Reign and the AHL's Manchester Monarchs.
"The people in the organization have definitely been good. I had to work for everything, nothing's been given to me," Nolan said.
I worked hard down there in Manchester. (Monarchs Head Coach) Mark Morris didn't give me ice time too easily, I had to work for it. Certainly being up here I've had to work hard every game to keep coach (Darryl Sutter) happy. It's been good."
Hard work and a high hockey pedigree are nothing new for Nolan. His brother Brandon played briefly for the Carolina Hurricanes.
His father Ted was a pro left winger and a Jack Adams Award winner during his tenure with the Buffalo Sabres.
"He's my dad first rather than the coach. We don't talk too much about hockey, just about hard work," Nolan said. "That's what he teaches his players, if you work hard, things are going to work out for you."
Today, he has become the 11th former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound to play in the Stanley Cup Final. That list also includes Ron Francis and Phil Esposito.
Nolan was recalled from Manchester in February, along with fellow rookie Dwight King. The two packed small bags for what might have been a short stay.
They each scored their first career goals in their second game this season against Dallas and they have not been back to Manchester since.
Overshadowed a bit by the acquisition of Jeff Carter, the duo has solidified the Kings bottom six in a major way. Nolan has added speed, strength, size, grit, and heat-up potential to Los Angeles' fourth line.
"He's an energy guy," said Kings captain Dustin Brown, who praised the work ethic, relentlessness and toughness of Nolan.
Nolan scored his first career playoff goal in the series-clinching Game 4 win against St Louis. He dished out six hits in Game 2 against Phoenix in the Western Conference Final.
Most recently, he helped open the scoring for the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final. In Game 1, Nolan delivered a hit on Andy Greene that forced a turnover. He then got the puck to Colin Fraser who one-timed it past Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.
"He's a big strong guy that gets in on the forecheck and he created that first goal (of the series) for us, which was huge," Brown said.
He also dished out four hits in the game, continuing to provide muscle and a spark off the bench.
"He does the physical side of things very well and he finishes checks," Brown said. "You can see him out there chirping a couple times, which is a good sign for us. He needs to continue doing it."