This final article in our Mid-Season Prospect Rankings series is going up a little later than first expected. We could blame the outdoor game in LA, the Olympic break, the trade deadline, or a myriad of other events as the prime culprits for its tardiness. Honestly, would you even care? Probably not. All you really want are the rankings, we know.
As a quick refresher, the rankings on MayorsManor are based upon overall value (i.e. all things being equal, the player you would have to have if you were another GM looking to swing a deal). Although the slotting of players was determined solely by MayorsManor, that process was influenced by countless conversations that took place this season with hockey executives, coaches, scouts and even players.
Before counting down from 10 we offered the following Honorable Mentions: goaltender J.F. Berube, forward Maxim Kitsyn, forward Nikolay Prokhorkin, defenseman Alex Roach, and Jordan Weal. See their full write-ups in the original article.
One important note to add here is the fact that the entire rankings were completed prior to the NHL Trade Deadline. Thus, Hudson Fasching and Nicolas Deslauriers were included. Conversely, defenseman Brayden McNabb (acquired by the Kings via a trade with Buffalo in early March) wasn’t part of the rankings. He’ll make his first appearance on this list when the Pre-Season Rankings are issued in September 2014.
Now, the full Los Angeles Kings Top 10 Prospects list, with links to their write-ups:
3. VALENTIN ZYKOV: Forward, Baie-Comeau Drakkar (2nd round pick in 2013, QMHL)
Despite missing time in the middle of the season – due to playing for Russia at the World Junior Championships – Zykov had his second consecutive impressive season of junior hockey in North America. The Kings’ brass flat-out love this kid, as many quickly picked up on when they traded three draft picks to move up and select him early in the second round at last June’s NHL Draft. Coming off of being named the CHL Rookie of the Year in 2012-13, his goal totals slipped from 40 to 23 this year. However, when you factor in the difference in games played, his points-per-game actually increased slightly, going from 1.12 to 1.19.
Part of what makes Zykov such an attractive prospect is his versatility, maturity, and work ethic. He plays a puck possession game that should help him thrive in the Kings system, while also showing physicality and pure goal scoring ability. Already standing around 6-foot-1 at 205 lbs, the husky Russian will really start to sculpt his body into prime hockey condition once the Kings Player Development group begins working with him.
He could turn pro as early as this summer, but most likely, he’s just on the outside looking in because he’s probably not ready to earn a spot on the Kings NHL roster just yet. He can’t go to the AHL next season, so he could return to junior (QMJHL) or even play in an elite league in Europe for one year.
Regardless, you’ll be hearing a lot about Zykov in the near future. There isn’t much to knock in his game. He brings a tenacious crash and bang style of play on both wings, is always willing to work hard and has a very fun-loving attitude.
For more information on Zykov, click here to read a full feature story I did for LAKings.com earlier this season.
2. TANNER PEARSON: Left Wing, Manchester Monarchs (1st round pick in 2012, OHL)
Don’t be alarmed at him sliding to number two after being ranked one slot higher during pre-season. You could easily make the case for the top two players to be flipped here, sans one thing (described in the next section). Specific to Pearson, he has been up and down with the Kings a few times, including making his NHL debut during the Kings-Sharks playoff series in 2013 – where he admitted his biggest struggle was getting used to the pace of the NHL game. That’s nothing to worry about either. It’s all par for the course when you’re a 21-year-old kid with your whole career ahead of you.
If the left winger can add a bit of quickness to his step, the speed of NHL games should become less of an issue in future years. Like Linden Vey, this Kitchener, Ontario native is a well-rounded player, but in a different vein. While Vey looks for passes first, Pearson looks to fire them. His wrist shot is the strongest asset of his game, which has blinded many goalies in the AHL over the past two years. This season, Pearson has also shown an added ability to play both wings, spending time over on the right side for a few different stretches.
As noted in the past, if used in the proper role, Tanner Pearson could be a poor man’s Dustin Brown. He can score, isn’t afraid to get involved physically when needed and has shown good two-way play. Further, Pearson isn’t somebody you best measure by evaluating his individual skills, but rather as a complete package. He’s a future top-6 player and one of the few highly-skilled prospects in the Kings organization who already has the size to compete at the next level. Between his skillset, style of play, and positional need for a scoring left wing in the organization, Pearson has a lot of extrinsic value. He has shown a steady developmental curve in performance and responsibility, and the next step for him is to become a mainstay on the NHL roster.
For more information on Pearson, click here to read a full feature story I did for LAKings.com earlier this season.
1. LINDEN VEY: Center, Manchester Monarchs (4th round pick in 2009, WHL)
Given his draft position compared to the two players ranked right below him, Vey has earned every bit of the accolades he’s currently receiving. As one person inside the Kings organization summed it up, what they’re asking Vey to do is more difficult than what’s asked of Pearson. Not only does Vey need to score, play responsibly in all three zones, etc. – but he also needs to take key faceoffs and involve his linemates in the offensive part of the game. To that end, he’s exceeded expectations at the AHL level. Can he do it in the NHL becomes the key question moving forward.
Much of that may be determined by size, especially in a Kings organization that has Darryl Sutter as head coach. Listed at 6-foot tall and weighing 189 lbs., Vey isn’t as muscular as Mike Richards (5-foot-11, 196 lbs.) or Jarret Stoll (6-foot-1, 213 lbs.), the two guys he’ll be trying to beat out for playing time next season.
After becoming a prolific scorer his final two years in junior (including winning the WHL scoring race in 2010-11), Vey has continued to develop at the AHL level. Last season, Vey was impressive in leading Manchester in scoring – in just his second pro season. What has impressed many in the Kings organization is the fact he plays well in all three zones. Monarchs Coach Mark Morris has enough confidence in Vey to give him ice time in all situations. Further, even though he’s played limited minutes in the NHL, Sutter has used him on the penalty kill.
Vey is extremely close to forcing his way on to the roster full time. His offensive instincts make him a lethal set up man, while he also possesses a limited scoring ability. His solid work in the defensive zone may go unnoticed by fantasy hockey hounds, but is the type of thing that impresses coaches. His speed, defensive awareness, and on-ice vision will most likely earn him a bottom-6 role in Los Angeles next season.
If you missed any of the previous articles in this series, they are linked below for your reference.
5 OTHER MUST-READ ARTICLES:
LA Kings 2014 mid-season prospect rankings – numbers six through 10
David Hofreiter, Mike Murangi and Andy Tonge also contributed comments in the preparation of this article.
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