After Record-Setting Debut, Kings Rookie Gabe Vilardi Stays Mentally Sharp in the Downtime

Video Duration:

If anyone would know about the agonizing wait for a dream put on hold, it would be Gabe Vilardi.

In 2018, the Kingston, Ontario native signed a three-year entry level contract with the LA Kings, only to spend most of the 2018-2019 season and part of the 2019-2020 season rehabbing a chronic back injury.

Then on February 20, he got his first NHL call-up when the LA Kings hosted the Florida Panthers. Not ten seconds into his first shift on his first shot on goal, he scored, setting a new NHL record for fastest first career goal.

Only nine games, two goals and four assists later, on Thursday, March 12, the NHL suspended the season.

SI’s Kaitlin O’Toole caught up with Vilardi who is at home with his family to find out how the 20-year-old rookie star is faring in the downtime.

“It's more mentally challenging right now I think for me and obviously everybody's staying at home, so just trying to stay sane, I guess,” he said.

For Vilardi, it’s important to stay in shape, but he’s a big believer in the mental aspects of being an athlete. “You have to stay mentally sharp, I think. It’s tough when you’re in a situation like this,” he added.

After his long-awaited debut on the national stage, and promise as a solid Kings contributor, he’s also accepted the reality of the situation at hand.

“Who knows what's going to happen. We don’t really know if we’re going to be playing again anytime soon,” he said. “It’s not looking like it.”

But just in case, he wants to be there mentally, so if and when they do come back, he is ready to go.

After showing such promise for a team in a rebuilding phase, LA Kings fans will have to continue waiting for now and be ready for when the date to return is announced.

Vilardi was selected in the first round as the eleventh overall pick by the LA Kings in 2017. Before being drafted, Vilardi was the No. 4 ranked North American Skater by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau.