With a playoff spot in their grasps and 79 points in the standings, the Los Angeles Kings have struggled as of late, losing five of their last seven games. The team’s struggles have resulted in the firing of Head Coach Andy Murray and assistant coach John Van Boxmeer. Despite the team’s recent struggles, the Kings have consistently been one of the hardest working teams in the league.
“I think coaching is a lot of that,” said Los Angeles Kings General Manager and Hall of Famer Dave Taylor before the firings. “But I also think that [toughness] is the tradition of our team. We ask our players to play hard and we don’t expect any different. Effort is not optional. Our guys have always competed hard and I wouldn’t expect any different moving forward.”
Prospect George Parros has fit right in with the squad this year. The 6’5, 232-pound right wing has arguably one of the toughest positions in hockey as the designated tough guy. Parros has been adding grit to teams his entire career. For the past two seasons with the Manchester Monarchs, the Kings American Hockey League affiliate, Parros has consistently been a physical spark. In his first full season with the Monarchs, he logged 126 penalty minutes in 57 games. Last season, he increased that total to a whopping 247 penalty minutes in just 67 games played.
This season, as the NHL shifts to a faster, more skill-oriented game, the number of fights in the league has decreased as many teams no longer see the need to employ a one dimensional player who can’t play. This change has resulted in a loss of jobs for some of the league’s most well-known enforcers, like former Mighty Ducks goon Garrett Burnett and the Minnesota Wild’s Andrei Nazarov. Thus, it came as a surprise to many that Parros made the Kings NHL roster, but the Pennsylvania native has managed to earn and keep a roster spot with LA by working on his overall game.
“I just had to work on different things and work on getting my feet quicker. I’m playing the same style. I just got to keep up the speed of the game,” said Parros.
Last season during the lockout, Parros also worked to develop his puckhandling. As a result, he saw a 13-point and 11-goal increase over the previous season going from three goals and nine points in his first full AHL season to scoring 14 goals and 22 points last season.
“You have to adapt. You have to be a little bit better and have to be able to play the game now,” said Parros.
The eighth round draft pick has become a regular in the Kings line-up. He’s played in 46 games, notched two goals and five points while averaging just 5:01 minutes of ice time a game.
Without his stick and gloves, he has racked up 119 penalty minutes including 15 fighting majors, tying him for second place in the league for fighting majors.
Now in his first NHL season, Parros has also become familiar with the Kings rivalries and in particular the Kings rivalry with their cross-town rival Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. While many in the media and across the league say that it’s not a true rivalry unless two teams meet in the playoffs, locals already count the play between the two teams to be heated.
“I think we’ve always had a good rivalry with the Ducks. We’ve had high tempo game and some pretty physical games,” said Taylor.
The new NHL schedule includes more play within the division and as a result recently featured four games in January alone against the cross-town rivals providing the Pennsylvania native with a quick introduction on the rivalry between the two teams.
“It’s heating up. Obviously games like this are pretty intense and after we got beat with a 6-2 loss it’s getting more intense every time and we definitely have some bad blood with [the Ducks]. And we look forward to playing them next,” said Parros.
Parros himself developed some bad blood for the Ducks and in particular Ducks rookie Ryan Getzlaf. In the game on Jan. 30, Getzlaf delivered a hit that appeared to go for Parros’ knees late in the third period during a tie game. Parros took exception to the hit and attempted to go after Getzlaf, but was separated by the linesmen.
“You expect something like that from a small guy like [Andy] McDonald but a big guy 6’5 guy like him taking a cheap shot. That’s a dangerous play and it got me riled up. It’s a physical game I can expect that but that was a dirty play,” Parros said after the game.
Fans will have to wait until April to see the two teams collide again and to see if the two prospects face off.
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