SECOND TIME AROUND FOR LEWIS
It was just two months after the Kings had obtained the rights to Lewis along with forward Patrick O’Sullivan in a draft-day trade with the Minnesota Wild for veteran forward Pavol Demitra at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
“I try not to think about it,” Lewis said when asked if being traded as a prospect for a proven veteran player adds any pressure. “It is always in the back of your head, but I just go out and try and play my game.”
The Lewis trade was also the first move that Dean Lombardi made as the general manager of the Kings.
“This move was made to get younger players in a critical age group that I feel needs to be upgraded before this franchise gets on solid footing,” Lombardi said of the move at the time. “We have evaluated the last couple of days and this was a decision that was difficult to make, but the reality is that structurally our reserve list needs to be upgraded in certain areas and we need to make deals like this.
“We can continue puttering around, trying to be just good enough, or we can make moves like this which might hurt short term, but hopefully pay off down the road.”
It is now one year down that road and it has been quite a wild ride for the 20-year-old Lewis.
In addition to realizing his life-long dream of becoming a first round draft pick (Kings second pick, 17th overall at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft), Lewis was an All-Star in the Ontario Hockey League and saw his amateur career come to an end after scoring 1-2=3 in four post season games with the Own Sound Attack.
He gained some valuable international experience playing with fellow Kings prospects Jack Johnson and Jeff Zatkoff, earning a bronze medal after scoring 1-1=2 with Team USA at the World Junior Championships in Sweden this past January.
And of course, he made his professional debut.
Lewis would skate with the Manchester Monarchs on April 4, would score his first professional goal – a game-winning goal in the Monarchs’ 3-1 win over the Lowell Devils on April 6 – in just his second game, and finished his eight-game stint in the American Hockey League scoring 4-2=6, while also seeing action in two post season games with the Monarchs.
“In Manchester, I was pretty nervous for my first game,” Lewis said. “These were grown men that I was playing with and much stronger than what I was used to. I felt more comfortable after a couple of games and I got less nervous.”
The confidence gained from those experiences are really starting to show now that he is in Rookie Camp in El Segundo with 27 other Kings prospects, each trying to grab the attention of management and pick up the skills and habits necessary to advance to the next level.
“I definitely feel a lot more comfortable,” the 6-1, 192-pound center said. “Last year I came in not knowing anyone and now I know all of the coaching staff and a lot of the guys. I have a lot more confidence.
“The past year was a bit of a whirlwind, but now it is time to be here and train more and get an idea of where I stand in this organization.”
He received some valuable instruction at last year’s camp and now he wants to show Kings management that he has improved as a hockey player.
“They told me a lot of things to work on and I have been working on a lot of it and been improving at each aspect. I am hoping to just keep working and show that improvement.”
With the experience he has gained over the last year, things are a lot easier for Lewis the second time around.