By Mike Griffith
Californian Staff Writer
The Bakersfield Californian
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – From the time he could stand on skates, Danny Taylor was destined to be a goaltender.
His brother Max, older by three years, had already taken to skating and shooting the puck and Max needed somebody to guard the net. Who better than his little brother?
“He stuck me in the net when I was about two, I didn’t have a choice or say in the matter,” Taylor said. “I was there and just kind of grew into it.”
Taylor became adept enough at goaltender to catch the eye of the Los Angeles Kings, who drafted him in the seventh round in 2004 and sent him to Bakersfield this season to begin his pro career. He follows in the footsteps of Yutaka Fukufuji (2004-05) and Ryan Munce (2005-06) who were assigned to Bakersfield by the Kings.
“That was a great experience,” Taylor, 20, said of learning he had been selected in the draft. “I woke up at 7 in the morning with a phone call from the Los Angeles Kings telling me I’d been drafted. That was something unbelievable.
“I didn’t expect to get drafted. I talked to one team, and that was LA. It was pretty surprising. I wasn’t a starter when I was drafted. I was a backup.”
That was Taylor’s first year with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League. The starting goaltender that year was Adam Dennis, who was drafted a year later in the sixth round by the Buffalo Sabres.
Taylor was assigned to Bakersfield on Oct. 2, but did not arrive until Oct. 6 as he contemplated returning to juniors for his final year of eligibility.
The Kings, however, had other plans.
“We (Taylor and his agent) didn’t know if it was best for me to come to Bakersfield or go back to juniors,” Taylor said. “But (the Kings) told me my best option was to go to Bakersfield and do the best I could there.”
The reason: the competition at this level is much higher than that in juniors.
“The guys shoot hard and are a lot smarter here,” Taylor said. “I’m facing better competition and learning to be a professional. That’s the big difference from juniors to here in Bakersfield.”
It hasn’t been an easy adjustment for Taylor, who is 2-3-0-0 with a 4.05 goals-against average and .874 save percentage, but Condors coach Marty Raymond is confident better days are ahead.
“He’s a young man who comes to the rink well prepared,” Raymond said. “He wants to play and he wants to win. He’ll do everything he can to get better.”
Taylor admits it’s been a big adjustment — from getting a new truck, his own apartment and not having a goalie coach.
“It’s pretty tough not having a goalie coach here every day directing you as you try to get better,” he said.
The Kings have yet to send their goaltending coach to Bakersfield so Taylor has been leaning on fellow goaltender and six-year pro Jamie Hodson for support.
Both goaltenders are usually among the first to hit the ice for practices and both are near the last to leave the ice.
“Hodgy and I are working hard together,” Taylor said. “He knows what I need to work on and I look out for him. We exchange information back and forth.
“It’s probably the best relationship I’ve ever had with another goalie. He’s been a pro for six or seven years and played in the AHL. I can really look up to him.”
From Raymond’s perspective, Taylor has all the tools he needs to be successful.
“He has really good skills,” Raymond said. “He’s quick and plays the puck well. Goaltending is all about confidence — how you believe in yourself, how your teammates believe in you.
“Look at Hodgy. He started badly or average and got better and better and has more confidence. Tails is a kid who is going to be consistently good once he gets the full confidence and used to (the pro) game. It’s all about hard work, correcting a few details and he’ll be great.”