Michael Cammalleri was selected in the second round by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2001 Entry Draft. He skipped his senior season of college to start his pro career early and is currently playing on the Kings AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs. Currently he is the second leading scorer on the Monarchs behind Yanick Lehoux, with 16 points in nine games.
Hockey’s Future spoke to Cammalleri over the phone after a Monarchs practice this week.
HF: How old were you when you first started playing hockey?
MC: I started just like every other Canadian kid. I think I was about 3 years old when I first skated. My dad brought me to a pond in Richmond Hill, Ontario and we started skating. Then I started playing minor hockey in the Toronto area growing up.
HF: Was there a particular player you watched a lot as a kid and paterned your game after?
MC: When I was a kid, Wayne Gretzky was my hockey hero, like a lot of people in my generation. He was always my hockey idol. As I grew older I started growing more fond of some other players as well. I always really liked Pavel Bure and Peter Forsberg.
HF: Why did you choose to play at Michigan over the Canadian Junior leagues? Were you heavily recruited by Michigan? Did someone recommend you take the college route for development reasons?
MC: I was actually recruited by both and really weighed out more options. It the end I just wanted to go to Michigan, I went and saw Michigan and it was the place I wanted to be and I wanted to spend the next few years of my life. I made the decision pretty quick and I fast tracked my high school to be able to be there at 17.
HF: What was the deciding factor to skip your senior year and sign with the Kings?
MC: It was time for me move on and I decided to do so.
HF: In the last three years you’ve played in the NCAA, AHL and NHL. Are there glaring differences in the three levels?
MC: There are definitely differences between the levels. The college game is more of a kamikaze style game compared to pro, playing only twice a week, guys with full cages on. It’s a fast game, there’s a lot of running around and a lot of big hits and sticks are out. Pro is more of a positional game.
HF: How has the lockout changed the AHL this year?
MC: The biggest change is guys know they are going to be here and this is it. It’s a great league, there are a lot of guys on every team that have NHL experience and guys that were pegged to play in the NHL this year. Because of that there are a lot of really good teams and we’re going to see a lot of parity because of that.
HF: Do you think the rules changes in the AHL have improved the game from an offensive standpoint?
MC: It’s hard to say. I don’t know if I have noticed a huge difference. The wider lines definitely give you a little more leeway as far as keeping the pucks and gives you a little more room on the power play. It’s a little more comfortable with the bigger lines. I’d say it’s a smoother transition game. Guys have that extra step to make a play. But I haven’t noticed huge differences, to be honest with you, especially with the goaltender rule. The area where they are allowed to play the puck is where the puck usually ends up anyway on dumps when they do decide to play it.
HF: You’ve gone back and forth between Manchester and LA quite a few times over the last two seasons. Do you almost feel like you are living a double life?
MC: A little bit. My first year was in Manchester for a short time and then I was in LA. Then I got injured so I was there most of the year. Last year was a ‘I didn’t know where I was going to be’ type year. It’s been different living a double life like you said, living out of hotels for the last couple of years. I guess that’s part of the pro game.
HF: How do you structure your workout regiment to get as strong as possible, but maintain your speed and agility which is a big part of your game?
MC: I enjoy training, especially in the summer. I’ve found something that really works for me. I use a combination of power lifting with a good friend of mine Ralph Chelio. He’s a Canadian and world power lifting competitor. I combine that with sprinting. My sprint coach is a record holder in the 100 meters. The combination of the sprinting and power lifting is very effective for hockey with the power, speed and quickness of the game. It’s seemed to really help me on the ice. During the season I try to maintain the best I can.
HF: What do you think separates you from other forwards in the AHL?
MC: I just try to be a guy that can help the team with every night and do whatever I can to help the team win. I think being competitive and wanting to win will always make you a better player and be a guy that your teammates want on the team.
HF: What do you attribute most to your development?
MC: I have a great support system. I have a lot of determination and my parents and my sister have been a great part of that support system. My dad is a really big sports fan himself and has a really good understanding of athletics. He is an athlete himself and he always advised me. He always said “When everyone is talking about their game, you go work on your game and one day you’ll be where you want to be.” That was advice that I have always tried to live by.
HF: You play both center and on the wing. Is it tough to transition between the two. Do you like one of the positions better than the other?
MC: I really didn’t play too much wing until I went pro. I did play wing at the World Juniors though. There are things that I like about both positions. I do prefer center, I feel more involved in the game. You’re the first guy in and first guy back and the puck is on your stick a little more and I like taking faceoffs. There’s pros and cons to both and I like playing both.
HF: Even though your career is very young, what is your favorite memory so far as a pro?
MC: My first three games in the NHL were really exciting. The games were in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto and I had friends and family at all three games. It was a really exciting time and it was one big blur and we had our rookie dinner in Toronto then too.
HF: The Monarchs are missing three of their top four scorers from last season, yet you’re off to an incredible start. To what do you attribute to the team’s success?
MC: We have a ton of scoring on this team, but were worried about playing as a team and playing great defense. We lost some great players and great teammates but at the same time there are a ton of capable guys here. I think everyone is pushing each other right now. There’s a lot of good healthy competition going on within the team and it’s helping drive everyone forward.
HF: The Kings traded for Mathieu Garon on draft day, but Kings fans haven’t gotten to see him play yet. What can you tell them about him?
MC: This guy’s really, really, really, really good. He’s awesome. He’s just a great goaltender. He makes a lot of the hard saves look really easy. He’s extremely, extremely athletic and seems like a seasoned goaltender, a guy who is ready to play and be dominant at any level. His ability to stop pucks is awesome and it’s a great confidence builder for our team. He makes difficult saves look so easy and he’s always in position. I think Kings fans should be really excited. That was a great deal over the summer.
Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.