Cammalleri hasn’t lost his scoring touch

by Nathan Harker || AHL On The Beat Archive

Mike Cammalleri leads the NHL with 10 goals in just 10 games this season.

“Cammalleri scores for the Monarchs!”

It’s a phrase that Manchester Monarchs broadcaster Ken Cail announced many times — 71 times to be exact — during Mike Cammalleri’s 133 games in Manchester from 2002-05.

Cammalleri left his mark on the ice and in the Monarchs record books. During the 2004-05 season, Cammalleri dominated the in the American Hockey League by leading all goal scorers with 46 tallies and earning himself the Willie Marshall Award (given to the AHL’s top scorer). He also finished the season second in the league in points with 109.

Cammalleri led the Monarchs in points (109), goals (46), assists (63), power-play goals for a game (3) and power-play goals in a season (17) during his final season with the Monarchs. For his efforts on the ice, he was awarded the Ace Bailey Most Valuable Player Award from the Monarchs players and coaching staff at the end of the 2004-05 season.

Looking at the Monarchs all-time statistics, Cammalleri is ranked second in goals (71), points (168) and power-play goals (22), all behind friend and former teammate Noah Clarke. He is third in the all-time assists (94) category for Manchester behind Clarke (114) and Steve Kelly (114).

Cammalleri has been able to continue his scoring success at the next level with the Los Angeles Kings.

During the 2005-06 season, Cammalleri’s first full season with the Kings, he led in a number of categories including goals (26), power-play goals (15), shots (206) and face-off winning percentage (53.5 percent). He continued to light the lamp in the 2006-07 season, where he set a slew of career highs as well as led the Kings in power-play goals (16), assists (46), points (80), power-play points (37) and shots (299). He was the first Kings player to reach 80 points in a season since Ziggy Palffy (2002-03) and was voted the winner of the Bill Libby Memorial Award as the team’s Most Valuable Player by members of the media.

Cammalleri has picked up were he left off last season by opening the 2007-08 season atop the National Hockey League in goal scoring with 10 tallies through 10 games. But there is much more to Michael Cammalleri than what is told by his statistics. Not every player can make the transition from AHL to the NHL as well as he has, and there are some valuable things that he learned while playing with the Monarchs that he’ll never forget.

Even though he is leading the NHL in goal scoring, Cammalleri remains very humble about his success.

“It feels good to be leading, but it would feel a bit better if we had won a few more games,” Cammalleri said. He is humbled by playing in Los Angeles and on a national stage especially when he is heading the goals race and his name is mentioned many times in conjunction with some of the best players in the NHL. However, the fans in Manchester have given him the most recognition of any city.

“I was treated more like a rock star in Manchester then I am in L.A.,” explained Cammalleri. “Even if I get more national or global attention in L.A., I got recognized more on the streets of Manchester then I do now in California.”

Though Cammalleri misses the support the fans in Manchester gave him, he joked about not missing the snow at all. When he travels to different cities wit the Kings that have snow on the ground, he is fully content with getting on the plane following the game and returning to the sunny beaches of California.

When making the move from the minors to the majors, there is a transitional phase that ever play must go through no matter the sport or the person.

“There is obviously a transition and at times, it is more drastic than others,” Cammalleri said. “The game and lifestyles are very different going from the AHL to NHL.”

Unlike other teams where the parent club is local, Cammalleri, according to Mapquest, traveled 3,027 miles cross country to make his transition.

“Your peers in the NHL are usually older with kids or married, while in the AHL you’re with young guys. Also, now to travel to a game, we jump on a plane while in Manchester we could get on a bus to get to our games.”

The mentality of the game changed when he made the leap to the NHL. Cammalleri mentioned that the game is better, it is more structured and what he had to do to compete in the NHL was much different. Playing in Manchester, under then-coach Bruce Boudreau, Cammalleri learned many skills that helped in his transition to the Kings. When asked what was that one skill he learned that helped him the most, consistency came to mind.

“Bruce was an awesome coach for me,” Cammalleri said. “He taught me that if I had a chance to play in the NHL, I had to be consistent. Coming out of college playing 40 games a year, I had to be ready to battle 80-plus times a year and had to be at my best for the duration of the season, not in spurts.”

Being only 20 years old when he first played for the Monarchs, consistency for that many games was new to Cammalleri and a challenge that pushed him continually to improve himself. This became very evident during the 2004-05 NHL lockout season when he achieved many career highs.

“One thing I don’t think guys realize before they come up to the NHL is how hard the guys work to get to this level and then to subsequently stay at this level. When the younger guys come up, they realize just how hard guys work on and off the ice to become professionals at their job.”

Cammalleri was the AHL’s top goal-scorer during the 2004-05 NHL lockout season.

It is that lesson of hard work he learned from the Monarchs that Cammalleri brought to the Kings. It has helped him remain with in Los Angeles and continually improve over the past two seasons.

Some of the games that Cammalleri looks forward to each season are those when he can play against friends and former teammates. The NHL is home to several Monarchs alumni including George Parros in Anaheim, Tom Kostopoulos in Montreal and Mike Weaver in Vancouver to name a few.

“It’s always interesting playing against friends or former teammate,” explained Cammalleri. “When you respect the person you’re playing against, you battle against them even harder. I get excited to play against them and hopefully beat them. Then I let them hear about it after the game.”

Before and after these games, Cammalleri looks forward to catching up with his friends and former teammates to see how each other is doing and what is new in their lives and careers. While in Manchester, he became close friends with Parros, who recently won the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks, and Clarke, who is currently with the AHL affiliate of the New Jersey Devils in Lowell, Mass.

“Noah called me when he passed me in the all-time records for the Monarchs and I couldn’t have been happier for him. He is a great hockey player and really deserved it.”

Hints of Cammalleri still remain in Manchester if you watch very closely to the game on the ice. For those who never saw him play in Manchester, one of his signature moves is scoring a goal while down on one knee.

“It is a move I practice ever day in practice. I think I have probably scored half of my goals this year on one knee,” said Cammalleri.

He has progressed through his hockey career sporting the familiar No. 13, including in Manchester and now for the Kings. Superstition has nothing to do with it.

“I have been wearing it my whole life, ever since I was seven years old. I never believed in the unlucky 13, it has always been lucky 13 to me.”

There were many great moments that Cammalleri remembers of Manchester but the one memory that stands out for him has been the fans.

“I really appreciated my experience in Manchester and the fans are amazing. Their hospitality toward myself and the team was above and beyond. Manchester is the premier place to play in the American Hockey League and I am glad I got to live that experience.”