Last hour we began the process of looking at the MayorsManor rankings of the Kings’ Top 10 prospects with an in-depth review of players six through 10 (linked here). Now we close the loop by returning to countdown the top five.
As noted in the original article, the final slotting of players was determined solely by MayorsManor. However, that process was influenced by dozens of conversations that have taken place in the last six months with hockey executives, coaches, scouts and even players.
MAYORS MANOR PROSPECT RANKINGS
5. Derek Forbort (D) – When the Kings moved up in the first round to draft Forbort back in 2010, it was seen as a bit of a surprise – especially after the word ‘project’ was often linked to his development. However, now almost three years into his career at the University of North Dakota, the 6-foot-5 defenseman may be putting it all together. An illness that caused him to miss time his freshman season and a later injury at the 2012 World Junior Championship have hindered Forbort from making a significant impact on a national level. Still, he was already on the school’s top defensive pairing as a sophomore and UND is consistently rated as one of the top college hockey programs in the country. Early reports said he wasn’t going to give the team many goals, as he didn’t like to handle the puck too much in the offense zone. Yet, teammates and coaches always note he skates well, makes a great first pass and has good vision on the ice. This season, Forbort has seen a slight tick up in his offensive numbers and he’s been shooting the puck more. That will never be his bread and butter though. In a best-case scenario he becomes Willie Mitchell - a big, smart player who defensively can shut down opponents.
4. Linden Vey (C) – We seem to say the same thing about Vey quite often, he doesn’t get the publicity of the other names above him on this list, yet don’t forget about Linden Vey. He just might have the best pure hockey sense of any prospect in the Kings’ organization. Vey put up big numbers in the WHL two years ago (46 goals and 116 points with the Medicine Hat Tigers) and certainly provided a fine rookie season in the AHL last year, scoring 19 goals. Now centering the Monarchs’ top line with Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, you can see what he’s capable of when playing with equally skilled forwards. Vey is on pace to more than double his assists from a season ago. Like all young players, he needs to continue to build size and strength before seeing a full-time role at the next level. Once Vey improves his defensive game, he’s likely a second line play-making center in the NHL.
3. Jake Muzzin (D) – The question with Muzzin was never if he’d play in the NHL, but when. After suiting up for 11 games with the Kings in late 2010 he’s remained in the AHL until coming to LA earlier this month. Hampered by a few injuries along the way, Muzzin has yet to have that big breakout year in Manchester that would have forced the Kings to call him up sooner. By contrast, Slava Voynov pushed his way onto the roster in Los Angeles. Muzzin is currently with the Kings partly due to injury and partly due to his contract situation – as he would require waivers to be sent back down. However, understand this, he’s earned his opportunity. At 6-foot-3 he has the size needed to be a key contributor on defense. Muzzin has a big shot from the point too, something the coaching staff have tried to take advantage of by putting him on the power play. If he can find the consistency needed to play in the NHL. Muzzin could be a mainstay on the Kings’ blueline for many years to come. Also, he’s shown the ability to be mean at times – something he should use to his advantage, as most of the other defensive prospects don’t bring that edge to their game. Listen to Muzzin on the MayorsManor show here.
2. Tanner Pearson (LW) – One major advantage Pearson has here is that he’s best left wing prospect in the organization. That said, make no mistake about it, he’s not ranked this high solely based on position. Pearson will likely be on the Kings’ second line sooner rather than later. He’s the real deal and the Kings brass have been in love with him from the moment they selected him in the first round (30th overall) at last June’s draft. Currently, he plays on a line with Toffoli in Manchester and if you think of players coming into the league together – i.e. Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in Philadelphia; Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in Anaheim or Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in Chicago - it’s easy to see how this young Kings duo will likely be linked for many years to come. Also of note is that Pearson joined the Kings’ organization as an over-age player. So, even though he and Toffoli were drafted two years apart, they’re actually the same age (separated by only four months). All reports from Manchester suggest Pearson is ‘ahead of schedule’ and could even see a call-up to the NHL this season, if needed. There’s not a lot of flash to his game, but there’s plenty of substance. Pearson is a smart player who puts the puck in the right places. He’s good on the half-wall and in the defensive zone. Knowing his role as a power forward, he enjoys being the muscle on the line and has no problem taking the puck to the net. Listen to Pearson on the MayorsManor show here.
1. Tyler Toffoli (RW) – The kid is good, perhaps even better than most expected. Toffoli scored 57 and 52 goals his final two seasons in junior hockey and still couldn’t make Team Canada’s roster for the World Junior Championship – a move that is still somewhat baffling. This season, he’s stepped into the AHL – where players are bigger, stronger, faster – and hasn’t missed a beat. As a rookie pro, he’s already posted 20 goals for the Manchester Monarchs. Often knocked for his skating ability, Toffoli put it best when he recently told us “I don’t think those people really realize the type of player I am.” We couldn’t agree more. Toffoli and the back of the net go together like peanut butter and jelly. He’s a goal scorer. As was the case with Luc Robitaille, ignore the critics, just put him on the ice and watch the stats pile up. He may get a cup of coffee with the Kings this year – but either way, pencil him in for a roster spot coming out of camp next season. Listen to Toffoli on the MayorsManor show here.
There you have it, our top 10 rankings at the midway point of the 2012-13 season.
Who will rise and who will fall in the months to come?
It remains to be seen.
Next week we’ll take a closer look at several Kings’ prospects who were just outside the top 10 – names like JF Berube, Chirstopher Gibson, Michael Mersch, Nikolay Prokhorkin and Nick Shore.
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