This year’s edition of Future Watch, a special publication put out annually by the folks at The Hockey News, brings a mixed bag of information regarding the LA Kings prospect pool. First off, they gave the team an overall grade of C+, which is quite a drop off from the A- rating of last year.
However, a few factors are at play. First, prized forward Brayden Schenn – the number one rated pro prospect in all of hockey last season – was traded away to get Mike Richards. Not having him around would certainly pull the rating down a little bit. Second, some players automatically drop off the prospect depth chart because of age and/or games played in the NHL. So, for example, the loss of Andrei Loktionov from the group also naturally reduced the rating.
Ideally, you’d like to see ‘new’ high-end prospects replace the ones leaving the list on an annual basis. That didn’t happen here though. The Kings had five players in the top-75 overall last year (Schenn 1st, Loktionov 39th, Derek Forbort 49th, Tyler Toffoli 51st and Slava Voynov 54th.
This time around, they only had two players among the leading 75, with Toffoli slotted at #39 and Forbort at #64 – and placing first and second for the Kings.
While THN only ranks the top 75 players overall, they also provide a list of each team’s top 10. Rounding out the group for Los Angeles were the following players (with a brief excerpt from THN’s comments):
3 – Jake Muzzin, defenseman (Manchester Monarchs, AHL) – “His lack of consistency from shift to shift and game to game has led to poor on ice decisions, keeping him from being ready for prime time.”
4 – Kevin Gravel, defenseman (St. Cloud State, NCAA) – “Always seems to be in the right position…skill set is similar to Rob Scuderi’s”
5 – Thomas Hickey, defenseman (Manchester Monarchs, AHL) – “Sees the ice well and both his skating and ability to win one-on-one battles has improved.”
6 – Chris Gibson, goaltender (Chicoutini, QMJHL) – “Athletic goalie, solid positional skills.”
7 – Martin Jones, goaltender (Manchester Monarchs) – “Doesn’t get rattled.”
8 – Nick Shore (Denver, NCAA) – “Two-way forward with high hockey IQ.”
9 – Maxim Kitsyn, left wing (Novokuzmetsk, KHL) – “Skilled power forward.”
10 – Andy Andreoff (Oshawa, OHL) – “He’ll run you over and beat you up.”
Whenever a list like this is created there are always notable exceptions. Here, the obvious question surrounds Jordan Weal of the Regina Pats (WHL). He posted 102 points two years ago, 96 last year and already has 116 this season. However, at 5-foot-8, he continues to get discounted because of his size. For the first time in three years, he’s headed back to the playoffs before turning pro this summer.
The NCAA playoffs are about to begin, with conference tournaments wrapping up this weekend. Junior hockey playoff brackets will be announced in the coming days as well. Nearly all of the above prospects discussed above are headed to the post-season. So, expect lots of coverage on MayorsManor in the days and weeks to come.
To see how we had the prospects ranking coming into the season, click here.
Special thanks to Rhys Holinaty, our Alberta prairies correspondent, for contributing to this article.