By now you know, Brayden Schenn has been traded.
The most talked about Kings prospect in years, perhaps ever, is no longer part of the organization – having been shipped to Philadelphia for Mike Richards.
Essentially, GM Dean Lombardi swapped Schenn for the guy many people hoped he would become, Richards – who already is himself!
You still with me?
His departure creates a need to reset the rankings. Sure, this naturally happens every year, with certain players moving up or down based upon their prior season. However, the Schenn trade had one of the largest impacts on the rankings, as he was slotted as the #1 prospect in all of hockey on most lists – not the Kings #1 prospect, but the entire NHL.
Enough about Schenn though, that’s last year’s training camp news.
In about an hour, nearly all of the top prospects – who one day hope to call Los Angeles home – will hit the ice, kicking off this year’s Rookie Camp.
With that in mind, below is the debut of the MayorsManor prospect rankings.
Many of you just skipped ahead and aren’t even reading this paragraph, but here goes anyway… Understand that people use different criteria when putting a list like this together – i.e. the player closest to making it to the NHL gets ranked first or the player with the most upside or even the player who fits the team’s needs best.
The following rankings are based on if I was a GM. In my opinion, these are the players who I see as having the most overall value. A very simple, watered down explanation would be this – all things being equal, I would take a goaltender first if building a team. The only exception would be if there was a Crosby or Ovechkin-like talent available. Things become a little dicier from there because trying to compare the value of a defenseman over a forward is like comparing apples and apple juice. Your body needs both, but for different reasons.
After an initial run at it, I went back though and where needed, gave a slight bump to guys who were probably more NHL ready, thus they are further along in the development curve – so, their skill set is a little more ‘real’ as opposed to pure ‘potential.’
1. Martin Jones (G) – It’s still hard to believe that the Kings were able to sign this guy as an unrestricted free agent. Talk to anybody who played junior hockey over the last four years in the WHL and Jones’ name almost always comes up. To do what he did last year in Manchester, as a rookie, is beyond impressive. He very much looks like the real deal.
2. Jake Muzzin (D) – Size, meanness, off-ice humor (OK fine, that’s not important, but it’s better than being vanilla). The question here isn’t IF he can play in the NHL, but WHEN. Look for him to have a breakout year in Manchester, one where he becomes an on and off-ice leader – and could even wear a letter, as he previously captained the Soo Greyhounds when playing in the OHL.
3. Tyler Toffoli (RW) – Perhaps the biggest debate on this list will be number three and four – and at the end of the day, we might be splitting hairs. Both players are rock solid. The Kings are very high on this kid, with one highly respected member of the management team recently telling me ‘his hands are just sick’ when describing what makes him special. He’s the reigning OHL goal scoring champion and has a shot (probably less than 50%, but it’s still there) of making the Kings roster this season. I’ll give him the slight edge over Kozun heading into camp.
4. Brandon Kozun (RW) – Yes, his size comes up all the time. At 5-foot-8, you can’t avoid it when talking about the bigger, stronger NHL. Smaller players have to be one of two types to be successful at the highest level - either like Mike Cammalleri (sniper) or Theo Fleury (agitator, hard to play against, pure nasty, etc.). Earlier this summer another player in the Kings organization described Kozun as ‘having that fire inside of him.’ Remember, if smaller players don’t play with an edge, they’ll lose out to similarly qualified skaters who have more size. Kozun plays with a confidence that borders on cocky at times. However, in my dozens of conversations with him I’ve never taken it that way. He just believes he is good enough to make the NHL right now. Spend five minutes with him and he’ll make a believer out of you too. There should be a very interesting camp battle brewing with Toffoli.
5. Andrei Loktionov (C) – Durability is the key here. Like Thomas Hickey, he has yet to put all of his skills together. Overall, time is still on his side - he’s only 22 years old. However, each season that slips by without him pushing the Kings hard for a roster spot equates to more grains of sand slipping through the proverbial hourglass. He also looks to be a center going forward - as both he and the Kings coaching staff view the ‘winger experiment’ of last year as a failure.
6. Slava Voynov (D) – The offense is there, yet how tough is he? Without the meanness of Muzzin or polish and ‘gamer attitude’ of Alec Martinez, he’s a step below those two. Still, he’s probably ready for the NHL at this point. There isn’t much more to prove in Manchester – even though that’s his likely home to start the season.
7. Nic Deslauriers (D) – For more on my thoughts about this player, please see yesterday’s article on the Rookie Camp roster breakdown. Basically, he could be the cream of the entire d-man crop of prospects. He had a breakout year in the QMJHL, added weight, his poise is there, etc. Expect him to be ranked much higher one year from today.
8. Derek Forbort (D) – The jury is still out here. He had somewhat of a disappointing freshman year at the University of North Dakota, offensively speaking. Although some might argue the fact that being a starting player at a school with such a deep roster was progress enough for year one. However, you’d hope to see a big step forward from a first round draft pick. In his defense (no pun intended), he was sick with mono in the early part of the season and, admittedly, came back too soon because he wanted to play for Team USA at the World Junior tournament. A big sophomore year and/or an impressive run at the 2012 WJC could see his stock rise substantially.
9. Thomas Hickey (D) – His story has been well documented (drafted much higher than most scouts has him on the board, often injured, etc.). The question marks continue and when he doesn’t make the team out of camp this year (bank on it), that will only create more question marks around one of Lombardi’s early moves at the NHL Draft, back in 2007.
10. Christopher Gibson (G) – The kid speaks three languages and put up solid numbers on a poor team last year. Even though it was somewhat surprising the Kings selected a goalie with their first pick at this year’s draft, they seem to have a good one and somebody who could easily be in the top half of these rankings before long.
Ray Kaunisto (LW) – If we were ranking guys based on their chirping ability, he’d be numbers one, two and three.
Linden Vey (F) – Doesn’t get the publicity of Toffoli, yet don’t forget this guy put up big numbers in the WHL last season.
Andrew Campbell (D) – Probably deserves to make the above list, we just didn’t have a place to slot him. Quietly improving from what most reports say.
Maxim Kitsyn (LW) – The x-factor in all of this. WJC play suggests he’s a future power forward, fast and physical. He’s back to KHL for the next two seasons though, honoring his previous contract. That pretty much takes him out of the equation for now. He’s also probably the best left wing prospect the Kings have at the moment. That said, the Kings are hoping some other recent draft picks (i.e. Michael Mersh and Michael Schumacher) will give them some additional depth in coming years.
JF Berube (G) – Itching to get in the top 10 and if he ends up in Ontario (ECHL), as expected, we’ll get a season-long look at what he can really do on the ice. Recently, he’s been one of the top goalies in the QMJHL.
That’s all for now.
Look for plenty of notes and quotes over the coming days, live from Kings Rookie Camp in El Segundo, CA.