Before we begin though, let’s bring new readers up to speed a bit. Now, some might view this as bragging or tooting our own horn, but we prefer to think of it as educating our readers. Prior to the 2011 season, we had Martin Jones ranked as the top prospect in the organization. That’s nearly three years ago. Some thought we were crazy at the time, but look how it played out. In that same prospect ranking, we had Jake Muzzin as the team’s top defensive prospect – yes, over Derek Forbort and Thomas Hickey, a pair of first round draft picks. That situation eventually worked out pretty much as we expected, just look where he’s playing right now. Coming in third on that list was Tyler Toffoli.
Why do we bring any of this up? Simply to lay a foundation. Nobody covers the Kings prospects in greater depth than MayorsManor. Nobody (well, nobody who doesn’t report to Dean Lombardi) talks to more coaches, scouts, General Managers, peers, etc. about the Kings prospects on a regular basis than MayorsManor.
Quite simply, a lot goes into the rankings and there are always well grounded reasons when we tell you things like we don’t think Andrei Loktionov will be an impact player for the Kings, Hickey will likely never play a shift in LA, and Voynov is ready for the NHL a year before he makes his debut. We don’t just dream this stuff up on our own. It’s carefully culled together from hundreds of hours of watching, talking and debating our opinions on each of these players with a myriad of well respected people.
With all of that said, it’s time for the latest round of our Top 10 Prospect Rankings.
One of the biggest requests we get each time we do this (and the list is published twice a year, pre-season and mid-season), is for additional information on guys who didn’t make the list. So, before we get to the actual Top 10, here’s our honorable mention group (listed in alphabetical order, no ranking assigned):
JF Berube, goaltender – He could be the real climber come the next batch of rankings. He’s been handed the keys to the crease in Manchester and will be given every opportunity to take that team on a deep playoff run. Dominant at the QMJHL and ECHL levels, he’s had an impressive AHL season to date. When he’s focused, he’s been as good as any other goalie the Kings have had at the same age over the past 10 years. Like Jonathan Bernier before him, Berube doesn’t have the typical goalie attitude/aura. Off the ice, he’s confident, yet has a naturally friendly demeanor. He’s just ‘one of the guys’ and loved by his teammates. We’ve been heavily tracking him since the summer of 2010 and think his best days are still yet to come.
Nick Ebert, defenseman – He’s a long shot coming off being drafted in the seventh round, but just a year earlier some scouting services had him ranked as a probable first round pick. Such compliments are largely based on his heavy shot from the point. He played briefly with the Ontario Reign (ECHL) at the end of last season, but is back in the OHL this year. Recently, he was traded to the top team in the league, the Guelph Storm, where he now plays alongside fellow Kings prospects Justin Auger (forward) and Zac Leslie (defenseman). The jury will remain out on Ebert until he gets to the AHL and is tested against a higher level of competition. For now, former Kings defenseman and assistant coach Mark Hardy is high on the kid.
Maxim Kitsyn, left wing – We’ve used the term wild card when talking about the talented Russian before and it’s a label that just seems to stick. The 2010 sixth round pick gives the organization depth at a position they sorely need help with (a theme you’ll likely notice throughout these rankings). After becoming LA property, he led the gold-medal winning Russian World Junior team in scoring. Shortly thereafter he came over to North America and helped St. Michael’s to a runner-up finish in the Memorial Cup. Thus, his stock was climbing higher each month. However, he had to return to his native country for a few years to fulfill contract obligations and he nearly fell off the map. The Kings were excited to finally get him signed last summer and get him back on U.S. soil. Following a tough go in Manchester at the beginning of this season, he was demoted to the Ontario Regin (ECHL), where he’s at least getting regular playing time. A gifted power forward with size, he’ll need to be on the score sheet on a regular basis to remain on NHL radar.
Nikolay Prokhorkin, left wing – He probably has more raw talent than his countryman above, but understand that’s more of a compliment to Prokhorkin than a knock on Kitsyn. The Kings organization fought hard – as in a court battle – to keep this Russian sniper in the States nearly two years ago. After being assured prior to drafting him that Prokhorkin was clear of any commitments back home, that turned out to be false. The team’s fourth round pick in 2012 is having a huge year over in the KHL playing a style not very characteristic of a typical Russian hockey player. Hailing from the same home town as Slava Voynov, Prokhorkin’s essentially led his CSKA team in scoring most of the season and shown a willingness to fight, play physical, go to the dirty areas, and work hard – all things that should see his game translate well in North America. He can’t return to the U.S. until the summer of 2015 though. So, it’s hard to rank him in the top 10, despite his impressive offensive output this year. Until he’s being coached in the Kings system on a daily basis, it’s probably safer to view him as somebody on the outside looking in.
Alex Roach, defenseman – The hulking defenseman has been bounced around quite a bit this year, with every movement, at first glance, looking like one demotion after another. However, his return to the Calgary Hitmen as an overager is simply a great opportunity for him, as he’s been given the ‘A’ along with a shot at having a leadership role and a voice, new dynamics for his already multi-faceted game. His size, mean streak, and rocket of a shot have helped Calgary become one of the best teams in the WHL, and he has the second most points from his team’s blueline despite missing about 15 games at the start of the season. He’s a boom-or-bust type of prospect, but the ceiling could be high for him.
Jordan Weal, center (pictured above) – Perhaps the most heavily debated prospect within the MayorsManor war room. Andy Tonge, our correspondent in Manchester who watches Weal on a nightly basis, raves about his solid 200-ft game. Adding to the compliments is one NHL scout who tells us that Weal is definitely a player who will play in the NHL. The only question is how impactful he’ll be as a depth forward. A third round pick in 2010, Weal has always been known as an incredibly gifted offensive player. After a rookie professional campaign in which Weal admitted confidence was an issue, the center has turned the corner and showed just how good he can be. Weal is a very shifty player, capable of carrying the puck coast to coast and throughout the offensive zone in effort to set up a play. He possesses incredible vision and very smooth hands. When the Monarchs roster was decimated with injuries and call ups, Weal stepped his game up to another level. The most underrated part of Weal’s game is his defensive ability, where he is among the best of the Monarchs players at forcing turnovers and stealing pucks. Part of this skill can be attributed to Weal’s above average hockey IQ. He knows where he needs to be, making it seem as if the puck finds him, not him finding the puck. At the same time, Weal will need to add muscle before becoming a regular NHL player. He also is a victim at times of trying to be too fancy.
Part two in this series will take an in-depth look at the Kings prospects ranked 6-10, then we’ll conclude later in the week with the always anticipated unveiling of numbers 1-5. In the meantime, if you’ve missed previous ranking reports, check out the links below.
Top 10 LA Kings prospects – 2013 mid-season rankings (Jan. 2013)
Top 10 LA Kings prospects – 2013-14 pre-season rankings (Sept. 2013)
Ranking the 2011 LA Kings top 10 prospects – fallout from the Brayden Schenn trade (Sept. 2011)
David Hofreiter, Mike Murangi and Andy Tonge also contributed comments in the preparation of this article.
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