Despite a poor end to the season, the team has plenty to be proud of. Starting the year with a top line of Tanner Pearson, Linden Vey, and Tyler Toffoli, things looked good for the primary affiliate of the LA Kings. Over the course of the season though, all three saw call-ups to Los Angeles, before Pearson and Toffoli ultimately stuck in the NHL. Just as big of a loss, the team saw starting goaltender Martin Jones finally crack the Kings roster and has cemented himself into the role of backup to Jonathan Quick.
Even with injuries compounding the departure of top players, the team found a way to win, and win consistently. The Monarchs didn’t lose three straight all year until the playoffs. Additionally, this season saw many players take big steps in terms of development towards achieving their goals of becoming NHL players. MayorsManor correspondent Andy Tonge spent all year covering the team’s home games. Here is how he graded their efforts this season, beginning with the forwards…
(Note – not all players to play on the team this season will be a part of this grading. For example, Nic Dowd and Michael Mersch were college signings and only played at the very end of the season. That was too small a sample size for evaluation here. To see their full MayorsManor scouting reports, click here.)
Andy Andreoff: A-. There isn’t much to dislike in Andreoff’s game – that is unless you are a fan of the opposing team. A forward capable of playing left wing or center, Andreoff is a true pest. He will get under the skin of opposing players, plays a strong, physical game, is capable of killing penalties, and can utilize a very strong wrist shot to score goals. Andreoff is likely the closest Monarchs forward to sticking with the big club next season, as his versatility would allow Darryl Sutter to use him in a variety of roles.
Sean Backman: B. One of the faster players on the team, Backman found a home on the Monarchs top line for the last half of the season. Not an overly skilled player, what Backman does possess is a great work ethic and chemistry with roommate and former Yale teammate Brian O’Neill. On top of playing an offensive role on the team, Backman was often utilized as a penalty killer.
Hunter Bishop: C+. A speedy and versatile forward, Bishop found himself in and out of the lineup over the course of the season. When playing, he saw time from everything as a second line winger to fourth line center. While he will likely never become an NHL player, Bishop is a solid addition to an AHL bottom six.
Andrew Crescenzi: F. Acquired for Brandon Kozun earlier in the year, the move was puzzling at the time and still is today. Though both players asked their respective teams for a trade, Crescenzi failed to even secure a fourth line role with the Monarchs. Crescenzi has good size and is very strong on faceoffs, but struggles in almost every other area.
Zach O’Brien: B. After an incredibly successful junior career in the QMJHL, O’Brien started his pro career this year in Ontario of the ECHL. After injuries decimated the Monarchs roster, O’Brien was brought in on a tryout contract and ended up staying for the rest of the year, even finding a role in the team’s top six. A good offensive player, O’Brien led Manchester in goals during the post season. Defense and skating are slightly below average, though the winger took strides without the puck as the season progressed. Expect him to get an invitation to the Kings Development Camp in July.
Brian O’Neill: A. After a rookie campaign in which O’Neill only scored three goals, he followed it up by burying a team-leading 26 this season. One of the hardest working forwards on the team, O’Neill showed great chemistry with Jordan Weal and a true ability to score goals. After Nick Deslauriers was traded to Buffalo, O’Neill took his game to a whole new level, scoring two hat tricks over the course of two weekends. O’Neill is also a leader for the team, serving as one of the assistant captains for coach Mark Morris. His play was so impressive this year the Kings recently rewarded him with a two-year contract.
Steve Quailer: D. Quailer is a player that is hard to peg. Not skilled enough for a top-six forward role in the AHL, he also isn’t physical enough to play in the bottom-six effectively. At six-foot-four, a lot is left to be desired physically. Strength is a key issue, as Quailer is knocked down rather easily, despite being taller than most players hitting him.
Scott Sabourin: D+. This may come as a surprise to many Kings fans, who watched Sabourin in the pre-season with the Monarchs’ parent club and came away impressed. The fact of the matter is Sabourin is incredibly raw. While he possesses the tools to become a solid NHL player in the future, he is a ways away from that happening. Sabourin went almost three months without scoring a goal and didn’t contribute much in other areas.
Nick Shore: A-. Shore’s rookie season started slow, struggling to contribute offensively early on. As he became more comfortable, Shore began to show why he is highly regarded in the Kings organization. There are very few holes in his game. He is capable of contributing offensively, while still playing very solid defensive hockey, as well as being a key faceoff taker for Morris. Shore’s 200 foot game will be an immense help in his inevitable transition to the NHL ranks.
Linden Vey: B+. Statistically, Vey had the best points-per-game ratio on the team. While that alone warrants a good game, there are holes in his game at times that are troublesome. As a center, Vey is below average in faceoffs, and can be prone to turning the puck over. No one can deny the skill Vey has, but at times he tries to do too much with the puck on his stick. Instead of forcing plays, Vey can stand to better himself by making the simple plays and not give up the puck as often.
Jordan Weal: A+. For the second straight year, the Monarchs had a player finish in the top 10 of AHL scoring. Weal’s 70 points in 76 games were good for fifth in the league by year’s end. Weal proved to be a durable player too, playing in every game for his team, despite being knocked around all year by the bigger and stronger players in the league. Weal, without a doubt, is the most creative player on the team and is gifted with a pair of hands that allows him to make truly special plays. His size has limited him at times, but he still found a way to score nearly a point per game. What’s more impressive is the fact that Weal seemed to step up in big moments, tallying assists on both Monarchs goals during their last playoff game.
UPDATE: Part two of this series, looking at the defensemen and goaltending, has been posted here.
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