When the Los Angeles Kings won their sixth game in a row, it was the Alex Iafallo’s goal that sealed it. The Kings were holding a 2-1 lead over the Colorado Avalanche in the third period. The puck was cleared around the boards to centre ice. Iafallo sprinted down the wing beating the defence, a brief stick battle ensued, he gained possession, deked and went backhand to roof a top-shelf beauty. It’s no wonder fans awarded him a second consecutive Kings’ Player of the Month award and third one overall this season.
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The Kings’ news release announcing the winner suggests the award may need to be renamed the “Alex Iafallo Monthly Recognition Award,” and they might be on to something.
Through 13 games in February, he put up one goal and seven assists, averaging just over 20 minutes of ice time per game. Iafallo, who is also known as “A.I.” won the Player of the Month for his January performance of seven goals and two assists in 10 games. He also claimed the award in November after a monthly production of three goals and seven assists in 13 games.
While the numbers are nothing to scoff at, they are not out of this world either. However, the Player of the Month is awarded by a fan vote, and clearly, the fans love A.I. Who can blame them?
The Draft Didn’t Get it Right
At this pace, the Best Undrafted Player’s List may need to rewritten soon. It’s hard to believe that such an essential player for the Kings was passed on by every team.
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“A lot of undrafted players, you get a lot of motivation seeing your friends get drafted and stuff that drives you every practice and every workout.” Iafallo recently told NHL Now. “I was pretty young, I was pretty small. I was still developing,”
After he was passed over by every team during the draft, he moved to Fargo, North Dakota, to play for the Fargo Force of the USHL. “I played there for two years — just kept developing my game, I’d go to development camps with the NHL, so I had a little spark in the game developing.”
From there, it was on to the University of Minnesota Duluth and he caught fire, amassing 121 points in 152 games played over four seasons. That’s when teams took notice, including the Kings.
A.I. Chose the Kings for a Reason
There is no doubt several teams were interested, but Iafallo picked the Kings because he believed he had the best chance to develop and to get an opportunity to play right away. It also helped to have players like Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty around. Iafallo told NHL Now they’ve been instrumental in assisting his development: “just being consistent, those guys have taught me a lot. It’s pretty fun playing around those guys every game and practice.”
After an impressive first-year training camp, Iafallo got on the ice right away with the Kings, cracking the lineup in the 2017-18 season. He put up 25 points in 75 games and earned time on the top line. The following season the fans chose him as the Kings’ Player of the Year Award after his work ethic earned a full-time role on the top line, amassing 33 points in 82 games.
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The Kings have struggled this season as the organization is in full rebuild mode, yet Iafallo is having a career year. In his third year, he has already set career highs in goals and assists. He recorded his first-ever hat trick on Jan. 30, 2020, when he scored the Kings’ only goals in a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes. He also had a nine-game point streak going in December.
Iafallo told NHL Now that he’s looking forward to the future with the Kings, “I feel we are building the right way, you can see it. Most of our games we are focusing on the whole process…we are working on all the principles the coaches have instilled in us. You know, we got to get going, and we will be fine as we learn along the way.”
Iafallo is not only the back-to-back winner of the Player of the Month, but he is also the clear front runner to go back-to-back for Player of the Year. Maybe the award should be renamed after all.