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Little Things Add Up for D.J. King

By Becky Olsen, 01/23/18, 2:45PM EST


An NHL veteran dad to lean on has helped the NTDP defenseman make an impact

Photo by Rena Laverty

This past summer of training was very special for USA Hockey National Team Development Program defenseman D.J. King. He had a special partner to help him in his dad, Derek, to help prepare for an important Under-18 season.

“I ran a lot, especially hills,” he said. “My dad was my workout partner and he pushed me pretty well. I was in the gym almost every day — running and lifting weights.”

King’s dad has plenty of experience that his son can draw on. He was drafted 13th overall by the New York Islanders in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft and played 830 career games in the National Hockey League. He is currently an assistant coach with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

“It was great to have my dad there,” said D.J., who grew up in Northport, New York. “He played in the NHL for a long time so having his experience and having him tell me about the little things. It has gone a long way and I appreciate it very much.”

King is also appreciative of his dad’s advice. He understands it’s the little things that make all the difference on the ice for him.

“Keep your head down and work hard. Never stop working. Make sure you are having fun,” he said on his dad’s words of wisdom.

These words ring very true for King this year as a member of the U18s. Another year on the ice has really helped his game grow, especially the defensive side.

“I have always carried myself as a defensive defenseman so developing my defensive end is important,” he said. “I also have developed my offensive abilities. Overall, both ends of the ice have gotten better.”

King, who is 6-foot-3 and 217 pounds, credits the little things in practice that are making a huge difference in his game.

“Coach [Nick] Fohr usually has the Ds do drills on one end of the ice,” he said. “We work on retrieving pucks and going back and shooting pucks. It’s all the little things that help you as a defenseman. It has helped me become better as a hockey player.

“I really like the Tim Taylor drill. It’s a small area and a high-compete drill. Guys like to get physical but it’s fun.”

In addition to his game, he credits the off-the-ice training as another reason for his success.

D.J.'s Favorites

Favorite NHL Team
Chicago Blackhawks

Favorite NHL Player
Erik Karlsson

Favorite Movie

Favorite Celebrity
Will Ferrell

Favorite Musical Artist
Thomas Rhett

Favorite Netflix Binge
Prison Break

Favorite Home-Cooked Meal


“I have put on a lot of muscle,” said King. “We were in the gym every day, especially last spring. It was really the time to get bigger, faster and stronger.

“My body has physically changed now. This summer, I still had to lose a little weight. The muscle I gained over the spring training really helped me get a little thinner.”

King and his U18 teammates have already seen the difference on the ice this season from last May’s spring training. After the squad’s struggles in the Under-17 season, it has been much more fun for the U18s this season.

Photo by Rena Laverty

“We have a great group of guys that come every day and work hard. I think coming together and working hard — especially last spring — has really helped us this year with the USHL,” explained King. “We are doing well. Having a tight group of guys really makes you want to come to the rink every day and work hard for each other. We really want to win at the end — the U18s.”

To get to the U18 World Championships, there is still plenty of work to be done. King and his U18 teammates are gearing up for their second international tournament — The Five Nations which will be held at USA Hockey Arena from Feb. 13-17. Team USA will welcome the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden to the round robin event. It will be the little things this team has to do to have success in the tournament.

“We have to keep working hard and keep practicing every day,” he said. “Coach [Seth] Appert preaches that we need to work hard every day. We can’t take an off day because there are guys in Sweden or Finland and other countries who are doing the same work that we are doing. We have to keep working hard.”

King knows that the U18s can take valuable lessons away from their first international tournament — the November Five Nations — and apply it to the February tournament.

“You can’t take a team lightly. Obviously, you are playing the best players from every country. We have to keep working hard,” he said.

King understands that playing the college games this season can really help this team, especially when it comes to international play.

“Playing against older guys makes us better hockey players,” he said. “When we are going against guys are own age, we just have that little more experience. Some of the guys in Europe only play in their own age group while we play against guys who could be 24 years old which is good for us.”

It’s the little things he’s taken from his dad, his coaches and what he’s learned himself along the way that have made all the difference.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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