By MIKE ASHMORE
Special to ECHL.com
NEWARK, N.J. – Not far from where Los Angeles kings forward Dwight King stood yesterday, the Stanley Cup sat in all its glory. As he addressed reporters during the National Hockey League's media day at the Prudential Center, his gaze would occasionally be diverted from those scribes to the hardware he's getting set to play for tonight.
"It's crazy," King said through a laugh.
"It's happened so quickly that it's kind of been surreal to be here now. The top stage is where any player wants to be. (The Cup) is the main goal, and we've got a little work to do to get there."
The former Ontario Reign centerman has certainly done more than a little work to put himself in a position to play for the game's biggest prize. But there was a little fate involved as well. The 22-year-old was at a golf outing his agent had set up with other Saskatchewan-born draft-eligible players out in Saskatoon when word came he'd been selected by the Kings in the fourth round of the 2007 NHL Draft.
After finishing his final season of junior eligibility with the WHL's Lethbridge Hurricanes, King made the jump to the pro ranks for the 2009-10 season, participating in the training camps at all three levels of the Los Angeles organization.
"Ontario started a little later, I guess, so I got to do all three," he recalled.
"I played about two months there, Karl Taylor was our coach. It was great, he helped me a lot and really groomed personally as a player. I'm very thankful for what he did."
King scored four goals and five assists in 20 games for Ontario before being promoted to Manchester for good, and it didn't take him long to advance after that. Just one month into the following season, and King was in the NHL, making his debut on Nov. 17, 2010 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"I got to play with (Michal) Handzus and (Wayne) Simmonds right off the hop, and played against their top line," King said. "It was good, I got my feet wet right away and got to play some decent minutes. We lost the game in overtime, but it was a good first game."
King played in six games that season, but didn't become an NHL regular until later this season. Called up alongside fellow ECHL alum Jordan Nolan, he managed to tally 14 points in 27 games, but has really stepped up is play this postseason, adding five goals to Los Angeles' Cinderella run from the eighth seed. According to veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi, both King and Nolan have been key to the Kings recent success.
"At the time they called them up, I thought maybe we needed a boost," Scuderi told ECHL.com.
"I think they were exactly what we needed. Kinger is extremely effective on the forecheck and always seems to get the puck back. He makes the smart play when he doesn't have anything."
King's brother, D.J., also came through the ECHL to reach the NHL -- he's currently with Washington -- and the advice he gave to Dwight still seems to ring true today.
"He wasn't there so long, so he didn't have much knowledge on that league, but it was more so that when I went down there, he said to keep working," King said.
"You don't want to end there, so just keep working and you'll eventually move up was his message."
And in just three seasons, King has moved all the way up to the Stanley Cup Finals.