With Anze Kopitar and Willie Mitchell likely out for next weekend’s season opener due to knee injuries, many have wondered who in the Kings organization might be called up to fill those gaps on the main roster. After all, for the first few years of GM Dean Lombardi‘s tenure, all the hype was around the deep pool of prospects he was stockpiling.
Up front, throw out every scouting report you’ve ever read on Tyler Toffoli (second round, 2010 NHL Draft). Like Luc Robitaille, all the kid does is score. Two seasons ago he led all of junior hockey with 57 goals and won the OHL scoring title. Last season his 52 goals and 100 points continued to show off his offensive abilities. Now a rookie in the AHL, he’s put up 29 points in 35 games. And his 18 goals are tops on the Monarchs, tied for third best in the league and tied for the overall lead among first-year players.
Yet, it was a bit of a surprise to see him added to the Kings training camp roster because, for as impressive as he’s been to date, he’s probably not ready for top-6 minutes in the NHL – and the last thing they need are more bottom-6 players around, they already have too many.
Combine that with the fact on Thursday Lombardi indicated the Kings weren’t planning on brining any extra forwards to camp. Perhaps Toffoli’s two goal performance on Friday helped push Lombardi to re-think things.
“I’ve got no problem with numerous guys in lesser roles and that’s the way it should be,” he said, when we asked him about who from Manchester might be ready for some NHL action soon. “So, if we’ve gotta get a fifth or sixth defenseman, I’ve got no problem with that. If we’ve gotta get a fourth line player and bring him along, I think we’re good. But if you’re talking an impact guy down there at this stage, I can’t say an impact guy. I don’t know where you’d put him anyway right now. But I think there are a number of guys there that we’re probably going to have to use (at some point)…because with the 48-game schedule and everything they’re going to have to come up.”
Defensively, LA has several options. Jake Muzzin and Andrew Bodnarchuk are coming to camp, but it easily could been Andrew Campbell, Thomas Hickey or Nick Deslauriers coming along as the second d-man.
Muzzin, pictured above, is the most obvious choice because he likely projects out as a replacement for Mitchell down the road. He’s 6-foot-2 and can you give you some offense. Plus, he brings a little NHL experience, having played 11 games with the Kings back in late 2010. He might have gotten a longer look at the start of last season, but he was injured at the time and that kept him off the ice.
Hickey is always the tricky one. Like all former first round draft picks (fourth overall, 2007), the expectations were high right from the start. Add in a lost season due to injuries a few years and it’s hard to say what they really have in the former Team Canada captain.
It wasn’t that long ago when scouts would say most defensemen don’t mature until they’re about 25 years old.
Hickey will be 24 next month. So, while it wouldn’t be fair to label him a bust yet, time is of the essence.
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