Adam Gushansky had so much fun writing his first article, he decided to come back for more. Good thing too, since apparently I forgot how to write. No, wait, that’s not it. There’s no hockey. Therefore, no writing. Oh sure, Jon Rosen is giving it the old college try with the world’s most drawn out player evaluations ever. It’s so damn boring over the summer that the most exciting thing to happen at the Insider is a zazz-ly facelift. The Big Mouth is plugging away here and there, letting us all get a quick glimpse into his daily and oft-commercial break inspired psychosis. I’m sure the Mayor is still interviewing players about their ipod playlists and if I were inclined to unscrupulously murder a few minutes of my time I’m sure I could find Half a new photoshop album I could use to reminisce with my sense of humor that I left behind in the 3rd grade. But no, I haven’t been reading, haven’t been writing. We’re Cup champs now and unrequited love can blow me, hockey.
Adam, on the other hand, is going a little stir crazy with the lack of puck. So, thanks to him, you fellow seat-jigglers have something to read. Surly, out.
It’s August – the worst month of a hockey fan’s year. Hockey ops is dormant, trades and signings are few and far between, and training camp is a faint four weeks away.
Now is a good time to look at organizational depth – namely, our prospects. Every year, a guy like Slava Voynov or Tyler Toffoli seemingly comes out of nowhere and has a tremendous impact on our Kings. And while some are in awe upon learning about these guys the first time they get called up, many of us saw that day coming months – even years – in advance. Let’s take a look at some of the players we’ll likely see donning Kings jerseys in the near and distant future.
So, without further ado, here are my top ten L.A. Kings prospects.
- Tyler Toffoli, RW, 2nd Round 2010
An obvious choice. Anyone with a pulse should tell you Tyler Toffoli is the Kings’ best prospect. This guy is the complete package – high-end skill with an accurate and powerful shot, well-above average hockey IQ, and defensively responsible to boot. There’s really not much to say here. He’s a near lock to make the team this year, and whether he starts in a top-six or bottom-six role, he’ll find himself in the former before long.
Dean Lombardi and his scouting team can give themselves a pat on the back for finding this gem in the second round.
2. Tanner Pearson, LW, 1st Round 2012
Having been passed over in the draft twice before the Kings finally selected him, Tanner Pearson has a chip on his shoulder. He has size and good hands, which he uses well to make plays in tight spaces. His inaugural season in Manchester was marred by injuries late, but he was consistent and complemented Tyler Toffoli and Linden Vey well on the first line.
On a Cup-contending team, I see a mature Pearson as a second/third line tweener with grit and a scoring touch. With the logjam the Kings have at forward, it’s unlikely Pearson makes the team out of the camp. But if an injury pops up or Darryl Sutter decides he’s not getting enough production from the left side, watch out for Tanner Pearson.
3. Linden Vey, C, 4th Round 2009
With all the attention that surrounds Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, Linden Vey is the unsung hero of the bunch. His stock has risen ever since his breakout 116-point campaign in the WHL two years ago. He nearly led Manchester in scoring as a rookie, and was fifth in the entire AHL in scoring this year.
A playmaker by nature, Vey has a great shot that he probably doesn’t use enough. His potential is that of a second- or third-line center. Like his counterpart Tanner Pearson, Linden Vey will likely fall victim to the Kings’ depth and won’t make the team out of camp. But he’s knocking on the door. And when that door finally opens, expect Vey to be Jarret Stoll’s eventual successor as third line center.
4. Valentin Zykov, RW/LW, 2nd Round 2013
For a guy who just made the transition this season to the CHL from Russia, one can’t help but come away damn impressed by Zykov’s 40-goal, 75-point season in Baie-Comeau. By all means, he’s raw, but this guy just screams potential.
Says Kevin Forbes from Hockey’s Future: “A complete player, it could be argued that perhaps no draft eligible player in the league is as dangerous in close as Zykov.”
The guy is already built like a tank at 6’ 200 pounds and, though you won’t see him in a Kings sweater for at least three years, he’s a guy to keep a close eye on. First line potential.
5. Andy Andreoff, C/LW, 3rd Round 2011
Here’s where I go a little off the board. For a team with such great organizational depth, how can a prospect whose ceiling is that of a bottom-six forward be a top-five prospect? Meet Andy Andreoff.
In hockey-speak, Andy is best described, succinctly, as a BAMF. Bad-ass mother fucker. He lays it all out on the ice, delivers punishing hits left and right, and has that swagger that makes opposing teams hate his guts. And he does this all with consistency.
Furthermore, he can play center and left wing (and did both a lot this year in Manchester) and has been rounding out his offensive game. If you’ve ever dreamed about the prospect (no pun intended) of having a Chris Neil or Andrew Shaw type player on the Kings, Andreoff is your guy. A glorified utility man.
Expect to see him in a Kings uniform as early as this year.
6. Kevin Gravel, D, 5th Round 2010
A fifth-round pick in 2010 who has yet to play a game in the pros is the Kings’ best d-man prospect and sixth on my list. Kevin Gravel, who is entering his senior year at St. Cloud State, is what you want from a defensive defenseman prospect.
Standing at 6’4” and over 200 pounds, Gravel is agile for his size, has above average hockey IQ, and carries a mean streak. After a successful junior year, Dean Lombardi and staff were disappointed – although probably not surprised – that Gravel opted not to turn pro.
Upon completing his senior year, Gravel will likely join Manchester and spend a year or two there before making the jump to the NHL. With Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr not getting any younger, Kevin Gravel might just be what the doctor ordered for the Kings. In my opinion, he’s our most underrated prospect.
7. Derek Forbort, D, 1st Round 2010
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. A once highly touted mid-first-round pick has dropped to #7 on my list. Starting with the good, Derek Forbort is an imposing figure at 6’5” and is as good as any prospect using his long stick to break up plays. He signed an ELC at the end of his junior year at North Dakota and joined the Monarchs, which by all counts is best for his development.
The bad: he’s not overly physical, and his offensive game hasn’t developed as planned. But time is on his side. This is a pivotal year for Derek. No more excuses; he has to show he can play with the big boys. I’m a little more skeptical about him than others, but he has all the tools to prove me wrong. At this point, his potential is that of a second-pairing defensive defenseman.
8. Nick Shore, C, 3rd Round 2011
Add this guy to the list of possible Jarret Stoll replacements down the line. A playmaker and
nice complete package, Nick Shore was relied upon to do the heavy lifting over at the U. of Denver his junior year.
He perhaps didn’t live up to expectations and his production took a dive near the end of the season, but Nick is a promising prospect who is entering his first full season as a pro.
Consistency is his biggest issue, but the tools are there. He’ll probably need two years in Manchester before he’s ready, but he’s is well worth the wait. A potential third-line center.
9. Michael Mersch, RW, 4th Round 2011
It can be argued that no Kings prospect has taken a bigger step in his development this past year than Michael Mersch.
A guy who was expected to be no more than a bottom-six grinder, Mersch exploded his junior year, nearly doubling his goal output from 14 to 23, and leading the Wisconsin Badgers on their late unprecedented run to the Tournament. And by leading, he was a one-man show.
Mersch will return to Wisconsin for his senior year before making the jump to the pro game. Keep a close eye on this kid.
10. Martin Jones, G, Undrafted
When news came out that Ben Scrivens was part of the package in the Jonathan Bernier deal, hope of Martin Jones supplanting Bernier as the Kings backup was lost.
I think Jones is right on track in his development.
An undrafted goalie, Martin Jones has spent the last three years in Manchester, and it’s been a bumpy road. After recording a .924 save percentage his rookie year, Jones tooka step back the following season,
He had steadily improved since then.
In fact, after a terrible start to this past year, Jones played practically every game down the stretch – partly because of an injury to backup Peter Mannino, but also because of his stellar play – and bolstered a depleted Monarchs team into the playoffs.
The story with Jones is simple. He’s got all the tools – size, athleticism, good positioning – but he’s too inconsistent.
Like many goalies his age, Jones’ biggest obstacle is himself. He has to learn to put bad goals behind him and play as if it’s a 0-0 game at all times. This is easier said than done, of course, but Jones is on the right trajectory.
Ben Scrivens is on the last year of his contract, and the Kings seem keen on Jones as the long-term backup for Jonathan Quick. For Martin Jones, the key word, is patience.
Nikolai Prokhorkin, LW/RW, 4th Round 2012
Had there not been a contract dispute early on in the season and he played out the year in Manchester, there’s a good chance Nikolai Prokhorkin would have found himself as high as #5 on this list. But the concern is a real one.
Prokhorkin is slated to play two more years in the KHL before he makes his way back over. And until that happens, I can’t consider him a top ten prospect.
Nicolas Deslauriers, D, 3rd Round 2009
I’m not shy to admit it: I’m not a fan of Nic Deslauriers. He’s a perfect example of a guy with all tools but no toolbox. Too often he tries to do too much, and pinches in at the wrong times. His plus- was a team-worst -14 last year, and although he took a step in the right direction by simplifying his game, he’s nowhere close to NHL-ready at this time. I’m skeptical.
Brandon Kozun, RW, 7th Round 2009
One can’t help but root for a guy like Brandon Kozun. A seventh-round pick in 2009, Kozun has worked his tail off and become a weapon for the Manchester Monarchs, scoring at least 20 goals each of his three years.
Size is obviously a concern, but his tenacity and propensity for physical play make up for the fact. It’s not clear how much room there is for growth, but nevertheless, this year is Kozun’s chance. Should a winger go down early on for the Kings, expect Kozun to receive a long-overdue call-up.
Categories: L.A. Kings News