When the Los Angeles Kings reached the eight-game mark of their season, they had decisions to make with two of their rookies. They had to choose whether to keep them or return them to junior. One of those players, Brayden Schenn, Dean Lombardi and company decided he would benefit from another season in junior while the other, Kyle Clifford, looked to be ready to stay in Los Angeles.
Despite being only 20 years old, Clifford made the Kings proud in his rookie season and furthermore, made Lombardi look like a genius. Okay, so maybe "genius" is a stretch but the front office certainly did well keeping Clifford around.
He may not have ever been considered for Rookie of the Year honors this year but the Ayr, Ontario, native certainly left his mark. In 76 games, Clifford registered 14 points with a 141 penalty minutes. Don't let the low point total fool you as that is not quite his role with the Kings even though he is capable of helping out with a goal or two.
After being drafted 35th overall in 2009, Clifford's only professional experience prior to Los Angeles was a mere seven playoff games in Manchester. That statistic is definitely hard to tell consider how great Clifford looked in the Kings' lineup game-in and game-out. In 2010-11, he dished out 138 hits and, although Kevin Westgarth was the team's unofficial fighter, it was Clifford who frequently drop the gloves, never afraid to spar with an opponent.
If his regular season contributions weren't enough, Clifford was equally, if not more, improve in the playoffs as he scored two goals and added three assists in six games. His five points in the post-season tied a team-high in that category. Clifford also contributed with 16 hits and nine shots on goal.
Overall, the Los Angeles Kings could not have asked for much more from their 6'1, 200-pound rookie. However, with his success in 2010-11, the Kings will expect more from Clifford this coming season and he has every intention of making his sophomore campaign even better.