Striving For More
Manchester Monarchs right wing Brandon Kozun has produced offensively at each level of his hockey career. It is likely the main reason he was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the sixth round (179th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Kozun burst on to the professional hockey scene with a stellar rookie season with the Monarchs in 2010-11 when he scored 23 goals and 25 assists for 48 points.
In 2011-12, Kozun again reached the 20-goal mark, set a career-best assist record with 26 helpers and finished the season with 46 points (20-26=46). While still impressive, Kozun expected more out of himself offensively after having such a strong rookie season.
“Last year was a little bit of a rollercoaster for me,” said Kozun. “I had times where I was really good and I had times where I was not so good and I had slumps. I think that is all about learning how to be a pro and getting better. I think mentally, I am in a lot better place. I have matured a lot as a player and a person. I think I am really starting to come along and sometimes it takes people longer to become pros and get to the place you want to be in.”
Kozun reached 20 goals in his second consecutive AHL season a little differently than he did in his rookie year. In his first year, Kozun had numerous “goal scorer’s goals” and highlight reel tallies. Last season, Kozun had a few highlight reel goals but many of his tallies came from camping out in front of the net.
“I think I have always been pretty good at going to the tough area to score goals,” explained Kozun. “Last year, I had quite a few (gritty goals) and just the way the game is developing, a lot more goals are scored in front of the net and I think people are starting to understand that. Scoring 40 to 50 goals is a hard task these days. It is not like the old days when you could do that. 20 is the new 30 and 30 is the new 40 so if you get up there, you have to get those greasy goals.”
Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris has observed growth and more potential at both ends of the ice in Kozun’s game and thinks he can further progress into the dynamic player he wants to become.
“He is becoming a more complete player,” said Morris. “He has a better understanding of his responsibilities in all areas of the ice. I think he is willing to pay the price. On many of the key goals for us, he was going in the fray, creating screens and havoc in front of the net and jumping on loose pucks for quick (rebounds). He is a more sound defensive player and plays better along the wall in his own zone gathering pucks. He has taken a lot of risk out of his game and that has earned him more valuable playing time in key situations. (Offensively,) I think he had a tendency to tip his hand when he came in over the blueline. His first inclination was to pass and now he is working at getting more pucks to the net or checking up and coming late into the zone where before he had a tendency to look right at the guy he was on a two-on-one with and being no threat to shoot the puck himself.”
Kozun agrees with Morris and believes it is a matter of not complicating the situation.
“Sometimes I think pass way too much and I think sometimes I try to over think things a little bit and I try to make the great play when sometimes you only need the simple play,” said Kozun. “This year, I am going to try and shoot the puck more and hopefully it will lead to more goals.”
Kozun has begun looking forward to the coming season and is focused on having another strong season.
“I am starting to get more excited,” acknowledged Kozun. “As it gets closer, it is nice to think about getting back on the ice and get things going. I know last year, the kind of numbers I had, to me it was not a bad year but I think I could have done a lot more and I am just excited about going out there to try and help a team win and hopefully put up an even better year.”
When the 2012-13 season starts, the speedy skater will have a fresh start to meet the new expectations of himself.