Early in his tenure as General Manager in Los Angeles, Dean Lombardi once said ‘I need everything’ when asked what type of players he was looking for to help the struggling Kings.
Now, many years later, after methodically stocking the prospect pool through shrewd drafting and multiple trades, the 54-year old Massachusetts native has a new problem to deal with. Not only is he learning what it’s like to lead as a Stanley Cup winner, but he’s also managing the challenge of dealing with other clubs from a position of strength as well.
You see, his once barren cupboards are now fairly full.
So stocked in fact, that the team recently lost Thomas Hickey, a former first round draft pick, via waivers. There just wasn’t a place for him on the NHL roster. And, per the rules, they couldn’t stash him away in the minors forever.
Which brings us to the MayorsManor rankings of the top prospects in the organization at the moment.
While reviewing the list below it should be noted that people use different criteria when putting lists like this together – i.e. the player closest to making it to the NHL gets ranked first or the player with the most long-term upside or even the player who fits the team’s needs best.
As noted in the past, our rankings are based upon overall value. Put simply, all things being equal, which player would you have to have if you were another GM looking to swing a deal.
Finally, we should also mention that the 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.
We’ll count down to the top prospect in reverse order, staring with numbers six through 10 here – and then have the top five next hour.
MAYORS MANOR PROSPECT RANKINGS
10. Brandon Kozun (RW) – With 11 goals through 42 games played in Manchester this season, Kozun is on pace for his third straight year of at least 20 goals scored in the AHL. At 5-foot-8, it’s never long before his size enters the discussion though. As noted in past rankings, 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.). Nearly every player we’ve spoken with that was a teammate of Kozun’s or has played against him says the same thing – he’s very driven and hard to play against. He also thinks he’s ready for the NHL. But, others insist he still needs to work on his defensive game. His best assets are good hands, speed and quickness. Overall, we’ve been told he has a shot at the NHL. Listen to Kozun on the MayorsManor show here.
9. Andy Andreoff (C/LW) – Like Dwight King before him, Andreoff could be the wild card that throws off the balance at the top of these rankings. He’s one of the few true power forwards in the Kings’ system, but his offensive production has dropped off since being selected in the third round of the 2011 NHL Draft. At the time, he had just completed a 33 goal, 109 point season in the OHL. The Kings wanted to sign him and send him to Manchester, but he opted to return to Oshawa for his over-age year. Rather than dominate the younger players, he finished his junior career with a 22 goal season. Now, as a first-year pro, he’s notched six goals in 37 games played with the Monarchs. To move up the list he’s either going to need to regain his scoring touch or, ala Trevor Lewis, reinvent himself as a checking line player. Listen to Andreoff on the MayorsManor show here.
8. Kevin Gravel (D) – He could turn out to be one of those late-round draft gems. Selected during the fifth round of the 2010 NHL Draft in Los Angeles, Gravel has grown into a more coveted player than he was back then. Now a junior at St. Cloud State University, he has great range with his stick. Although that’s not a national power house school, they’re doing a fine job of developing him, as he was one of Team USA’s better players on the blueline at the 2012 World Junior Championship. Gravel is primarily a stay-at-home defenseman, like Rob Scuderi. And at 6-foot-4, he could be a future shutdown guy in LA if he packs some more strength on.
7. Nick Deslauriers (D) – If you could somehow merge Matt Greene’s mean streak with the grace of Alec Martinez, you’d probably end up with Nick Deslauriers. He’ll dazzle you with skill, then knock your head off if you deserve it. The one concern with him at the moment is that he hasn’t taken a significant step up yet. Following a breakout year in the QMJHL in 2011-12 – where he was one of the best defensemen in the playoffs too – last season he managed just one goal as a pro. Now, with three goals in the first half of this season, coupled with regular playing time, he appears to be settling in to what he will ultimately become.
6. Martin Jones (G) – Consistency. If Jones ever finds it, the 6-foot-4 goaltender will quickly climb back up these rankings. Although he’s shown flashes of brilliance over the past two seasons in Manchester, he’s also been less than impressive for month-long stretches. By contrast, Jonathan Bernier owned the net during his final year in the AHL, making everybody stand up and take notice. Jones has yet to make his mark and that’s part of the reason he’s slipped a few spots down the rankings. Stats aren’t everything when evaluating a player’s future, as the team around him can have a major impact on the overall numbers. However, it’s still telling that Jones’ key metrics have yet to return to where they were during his first year as a pro in 2010-11. Recently, Lombardi was also quick to point out that Jones isn’t ready for the next step. So even if Bernier is traded at some point in the months ahead, don’t expect to see Jones in Los Angeles this season. Listen to Jones on the MayorsManor show here.
POSITIONS 1-5 COMING UP NEXT HOUR
[UPDATE: The top 5 prospects article has now posted here.]
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