As the NHL trade season heats up, it’s always a good time to check in on the Kings top prospects. Which players are moving up our rankings, and how are the overall skills developing at various positions throughout the organization? Those are certainly important questions to answer as general managers like Dean Lombardi evaluate their asset pools and determine the best route to making changes for a playoff push.
We’ve already given you the six honorable mentions who just missed the cut this time around (linked here). Before we begin the official countdown to number one, first things first – there are two names you won’t see on the list, Martin Jones and Tyler Toffoli. Like Jake Muzzin before them, they’ve graduated to NHL status. All three were once ranked among the Kings’ elite prospects on previous editions of this list on MayorsManor.
It’s also worth pointing out that different people approach these type of rankings using a plethora of systems and methodologies – 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. Thus, these are who we view as the Kings’ most prized assets.
Finally, we always need to mention that the slotting of players was determined solely by MayorsManor. However, that process was influenced by countless conversations that have taken place in the last six months with hockey executives, coaches, scouts and even players.
Now, per the norm, we’ll count down to the LA Kings top prospect in reverse order, staring with numbers six through 10 here – and then we’ll have the top five posted in the as part of the final piece in this series.
Here we go…
10 – Surprise, we’re going to cheat a little here and give you two for the price of one!
NIC DOWD: Center, St. Cloud State University (7th round pick in 2009, USHL)
It isn’t often that seventh round picks fulfill their NHL dreams, yet Dowd, now in his senior season, has progressed nicely and utilized all four of his college years to improve as a player. Though he does possess offense in his game, the strength of his play comes in his effort level and on the defensive side of the puck. Dowd excels on the penalty kill and is a heart-and-soul player, game in and game out. Not afraid to lay his body on the line for his team, Dowd was named co-captain this season, along with fellow Kings’ prospect Kevin Gravel. His offensive output has increased with each season, a trend he’s on pace to continue this year, as well. After what Dowd hopes will be a lengthy run for an NCAA title, the forward is expected to sign a contract with the team and start next season with the Manchester Monarchs. Other NHL teams have picked up on his upside and are believed to have inquired about him of late.
MICHAEL MERSCH: Left Wing, University of Wisconsin ((4th round pick in 2011, U.S. National Program)
In our pre-season rankings he was an honorable mention, but it’s been another strong year for the Badger senior and we just can’t keep him off the list any longer. Listed at 6-foot-2, and with a stocky frame, he’s the offensive weapon that drives the engine at Wisconsin. He could have turned pro last season, but chose to stay another year in school, where he once again is leading his team in goals and points. As noted previously, he has an exceptional shot that was on par with the Manchester players at last July’s Development Camp in Los Angeles. Foot speed and skating continue to be the one flaw people seem to find in him, but expect that to change once the Kings’ development staff gets a chance to work with him on a more full-time basis. In a fun trivia note for longtime hockey fans, 1993 Kings playoff hero Gary Shuchuk is his assistant coach in Wisconsin.
9 – NICK DESLAURIERS: Defenseman turned left wing, Manchester Monarchs (3rd round pick in 2009, QMJHL)
First off, don’t look at his drop from No. 8 in the pre-season to a No. 9 slot here as a slip. There are two major factors at play here – several of the Kings other prospects have pushed their way up the list and Deslauriers is going through the transition of moving from the blue line to being a forward. He’s been so impressive this season, he’s on track to be the next call up to the Kings. That’s quite the compliment to his skill set and adaptability considering just six months ago several other names would have likely received the call before the Quebec native. As noted in the past, if you could somehow merge Matt Greene’s mean streak with the grace of Alec Martinez, you’d probably end up with Nick Deslauriers on defense. Now, Larry the Left Wing has brought his talents to the front of the rush, where the Kings believe he can better utilize his shot and offensive instincts.
He’s been one of the most improved players throughout the entire organization. Bringing a rare combination of size, speed, skill, and physicality, there’s a lot to like in this prospect. He boasts one of the best shots in Manchester, while also showing slick hands, allowing him to score highlight reel goals. His hits often rock the boards and he’s also shown himself to be a willing combatant when opposing players show their displeasure with his physical play. On top of showing to be a very good forward, Deslauriers still mans the point on the powerplay, giving him an added dimension when he eventually tries to crack the NHL roster. With all the positives, the biggest negative is his defensive work. At times, he can appear lost a bit in the defensive zone, perhaps due to playing a new position. Now in the final year of his Entry Level Contract, his play at both wing and defenseman is already drawing the natural comparison to players like Brent Burns and Dustin Byfuglien.
8 – NICK SHORE: Center, Manchester Monarchs (3rd round pick in 2011, University of Denver)
When Shore signed a contract with the Kings last spring and arrived in LA for extended training, the team’s development staff was definitely impressed with him – openly talking about him being ahead of where they expected him to be coming out of school. Thus far, in his rookie campaign with the Monarchs, he’s built upon his reputation as a solid two-way player. Already leaned upon by coach Mark Morris as a top defensive player, when Linden Vey has been called up to Los Angeles, Shore’s been the guy to get bumped up in minutes and looked at for additional offensive output. There have been bumps along the way for the first year pro, as he missed extended time due to a foot injury, as well as getting off to a slow start to the season. Of late, Shore has been playing more of his customary game. One of the biggest assets Shore brings to the table is strong faceoff ability. Like nearly every player of his age, Shore could stand to add muscle to his frame at some point, furthering his development. He has great hands and hockey sense, which should benefit him well in the future. Pencil him in for perhaps a call up next season, but really look for him to start pushing for a roster spot come summer of 2015. By 2016-17, he should be in the NHL.
7 – ANDY ANDREOFF: Left Wing / Center, Manchester Monarchs (3rd round pick in 2011, OHL)
Some of the shine has come off of Andreoff since the beginning of the year, yet there’s nothing to be concerned about. Part of the hype surrounding AA heading into the Kings training camp last September had as much to do with the team’s needs as it did to his individual skills. So, let’s be clear, as confirmed this week by an NHL scout, Andreoff is a ‘100% safe bet to make the NHL.’ He hasn’t gone backwards in his development this year, just maybe hasn’t taken as many steps forward as he did last season. And that’s OK. The major question surrounding this player is where he’ll ultimately slot into an NHL roster. Will he be a third-line center or fourth-line left wing? A very physical player, his versatility is what’s allowed coach Mark Morris to use him in all situations this season. He also possesses a lethal wrist shot and is a good two-way player. Andreoff tends to find himself involved every game, whether it be on the scoreboard or by mixing it up with the opposing team after whistles. A big and strong player, he would benefit from adding a quicker first step to his skating; he does keep his head up at all times when handling the puck though. Overall, he has a very good set of natural skills, strong attention to detail, and plays hard. While he may not have the statistical upside of players listed above him in our rankings, his work ethic makes it more a matter of when, not if, he makes the NHL.
6 – HUDSON FASCHING: Right Wing, University of Minnesota (4th round pick in 2013, U.S. National Program)
This player is the sexiest name on the entire list. Calm down ladies, we’re not talking Jeff Carter or Jarret Stoll wall-poster sexy; we’re simply referring to him being the talk of the NHL scouting community. There are only a handful of other prospects in the entire NHL right now with as much buzz as this kid currently has going. He’s a true freshman and is among the leading goal and point producers for his team. Fasching was also one of the darlings of Team USA at the recent World Jr. Championships. Several in the Kings front office believed him to have ‘first round talent’ and were prepared to push Dean Lombardi hard to move up in the draft to take him, if needed. MayorsManor was in early on Tyler Toffoli’s ascension through the system and we had Fasching pegged for similar success long before he recorded points in ten of Minnesota’s first 11 games and some of the other media started to take notice. At the WJC, he played largely a shutdown role, showing his coach’s faith in an ability to handle priority minutes. His speed, drive to the net, size, defensive willingness, and strength on the boards make him perfectly suited for the Kings’ system. As the team’s youngest prospect, don’t expect to see him anytime soon. Yet, as the saying goes, his future looks bright. If there was one other ‘untouchable’ prospect besides Toffoli, it’s this one. For an in-depth review of Fasching skills and potential future role with the Kings, see the link down below.
The countdown to No. 1 will continue later this week.
7 OTHER MUST-READ ARTICLES:
Meet Larry the Left Wing, LA’s Newest Hotshot Prospect – Deslauriers feature profile
Youngest Kings’ Prospect Taking Big Steps Forward – Fasching feature profile
MayorsManor goes one-on-one with Kings GM Dean Lombardi – talking Shore and Mersch
David Hofreiter, Mike Murangi and Andy Tonge also contributed comments in the preparation of this article.
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