Calvin Peterson is the heir to the throne in the Los Angeles Kings’ crease. Since being called up in early February, he has posted a 3-3 record, and an impressive .921 save percentage.
And the league is taking notice.
The Vegas Golden Knights were riding a league-best eight-game winning streak when they hosted the Kings on March 1. In the gambling mecca, LA was the heavy underdog and oddsmakers predicted their win would be even more improbable when the Kings put their young goalie in net. The Kings proved them all wrong — Peterson stopped 42 of 43 shots to snap the Golden Knights’ winning streak.
“Through this streak, we found a way to come back, but tonight we didn’t.” Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer said during the postgame interview. “Their goalie deserves some credit too, they battled hard.”
Kings coach Todd McLellan needed two adjectives to describe Peterson’s play against Vegas, “we got tremendous goaltending, outstanding goaltending.”
Five days prior, Peterson made 35 of 36 saves to beat a desperate Pittsburgh team. The performance gave the Penguins their fourth-straight loss and had the likes of Crosby and Malkin shaking their heads while the opposing goalie admired Peterson’s work.
“He played great, he was very well in position, he made a lot of good saves for them, and I think that is what got them the game,” said Penguins All-Star netminder Tristan Jarry. “You see how many grade-A saves that he had against our top guys.”
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Peterson calmly spoke during a nationally televised live postgame interview about his role on the rebuilding Kings. “For me personally, I want to win as many games as possible. I mean, this is a big chance to show that I belong in the league, and I can be a big part of this team, and it’s a huge opportunity.”
McLellan likes what he sees with his new goalie. “He’s very calm, cool, collected in the crease. There’s not a lot of garbage lying around. The guys feel confident with him in there, and I just think he’s going to get better as he gets stronger, and he goes through the league once or twice and recognizes teams’ tendencies and just gets a good feel for it.”
Captain for the Fighting Irish
At 25, Peterson has taken the long road to get to this point. The Buffalo Sabres selected him back in the fifth round in 2013, 129th overall out of the USHL. Instead, he committed to playing NCAA for the University of Notre Dame.
As a freshman, he set a Division I record by making 87 saves in the longest collegiate game played with five overtime periods. In his junior year, Peterson became the first goalie in the Fighting Irish history to be named captain. As captain, he led Notre Dame to the Frozen Four.
The Kings were restocking the Ontario Reign when they signed Peterson as a free agent to a two-year, entry-level contract in 2017-18. Showing his Fighting Irish spirit, he has more than held his own in the AHL, and the Kings rewarded him with a three-year contract extension in the summer of 2019. Peterson was having a stellar season in Ontario, earning a spot in the AHL All-Star game before being called up.
Peterson’s performance with the Reign gave the Kings confidence to trade away Jack Campbell, a solid goalie in his own right. General manager Rob Blake says the timing was right to get Peterson to LA.
“If we project him to be the starter in a few years, he is now going to learn from a Hall-of-Famer in Jonathan Quick the competitive nature and how he prepares every day. So we like that balance, but we also felt he needed to get games this year to be able to play at a level, too.”
Quick Provides Valuable Mentorship
Having a two-time Stanley Cup champion, two-time William H. Jennings Trophy winner and the 2011-12 Conn Smythe Trophy winner as a mentor is a stroke of luck for the Peterson who has a four-leaf clover on this goalie mask.
“Yeah, he is an unreal guy. Probably the most competitive guy I know, and he works really hard, so, on top of that, we have formed a good friendship,” said Peterson about Quick. “He is a nice guy to have with you, you know I’m pretty fortunate to have a goalie like that with me.”
The Kings’ season has been over for a while, but it’s just starting for many players. Every game there is a new call-up who gets an audition to be part of next year’s team, and every game is building toward success next season. Peterson says they are “kind of establishing who we are going to be as a hockey team going forward the next couple of years… and it starts with every game we play.”
While Peterson has impressed, he will share time with Quick in the net. McLellan said it’s all part of the future plans for the team. “We’ll continue to play Quickie as well. We have to think about moving forward and how we’re going to use these guys next year as well and train them for that. So, we’ll continue to make sure that both of them are part of the team. As we’re looking at individuals, we’re also trying to build that team.”
Peterson also believes this team will contend in years to come. “For us young guys, you know, to be a big part of this team going forward and show we can be core pieces of hopefully a championship group.”
He might be right. The Kings already have the best-ranked farm system, and soon they will add a high first-round draft pick, as well as three more picks in the second round of the 2020 Draft. The outlook for the Kings is bright, and there is little doubt that it will be backstopped by Peterson.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.