After giving readers a few days to digest the first two players ranked on our LA Kings Top 10 Prospects list, it’s now time to reveal No. 8.
For those catching up, this is article four in our multi-part series. Part I included a deep dive on a trio of players labeled as having bright futures – Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Mikey Eyssimont, and Cole Hults. Then, Part II provided key insight in the futures of players like Justin Auger, Kurtis MacDermid, and Michael Mersch. And the first two players to make the Top 10, Mikey Anderson and Matt Luff, have their full scouting reports up here.
If you’re unfamiliar with our rankings, for nearly a decade this content has become a vital source of player information, as nobody outside the Kings organization talks to more coaches, scouts, and General Managers about LA’s top prospects on a regular basis than the team at MayorsManor. Endless hours go into evaluating players in the Kings pipeline and preparing our write-ups. Additionally, the final slotting of players is influenced by hundreds of hours of game action and debating the team’s prospects with a myriad of well-respected hockey people, including our key sources inside the team’s front office.
MAYOR’S MANOR 2018 MID-SEASON PROSPECT RANKINGS
8. OSCAR FANTENBERG: Defenseman, Ontario Reign (free agent signing, KHL)
Where do we even begin on this one? Well, for starters, the Fantenberg signing was a byproduct of several trips overseas by Kings management last season, while they were keeping tabs on Slava Voynov’s play. Now, a cynic would look at the second non-drafted player to be slotted into the Top 10 (Matt Luff was No. 9) as proof the Kings prospect cupboard is barren. Meanwhile, a pragmatist would likely note that much of this void has to do with the team’s previous GM trading away treasures aplenty, primarily in 2015 deals involving Andrej Sekera and Milan Lucic.
Thus, the new regime should actually be given credit for finding a way to re-stock the shelves on the fly using another method – free agency. Last summer alone, the Kings added prospects to the pipeline using this tactic to land Fantenberg from Europe and two of the top four college hockey free agents (Alex Iafallo and Cal Petersen). That’s not a bad offseason right there. In fact, even if Fantenberg never even plays another game for the Kings, he’s already served his purpose – (a) he came in and pushed other players, like Paul LaDue and Kevin Gravel, for jobs in training camp and (b) he started for the NHL club when they needed help earlier this season. The signing was already a success.
LA Kings have signed 25-yr-old dman Oscar Fantenberg. Played for Frolunda in Sweden, w/ SWE int'l, & was KHL All Star w/ Sochi this season.
— The Mayor John Hoven (@mayorNHL) April 21, 2017
All of that said, his ultimate future with the Kings is still being written. Understand, it is a huge step to come over from Europe and try to play on the biggest stage of them all. There are smaller rinks in North America, different systems to learn, the style of play is different, etc. He had a good camp, then excelled in the beginning of the NHL season; when things weren’t as tight, not as checking, not as hard. As the season moved along and the games became more normal, it was clear to management he was struggling. It was time for him to get some more seasoning in the AHL. They wanted him to get more minutes in Ontario and to have a chance to be a dominate player at that level.
One of the best things about Fantenberg is his willingness to earn his spot. Unlike most undrafted/college free agents these days, he wasn’t looking for a team that would guarantee him playing time. Quite the opposite, actually, as he made it clear to all of management that he wanted to earn his spot. He didn’t want anything handed to him. It was known from Day 1 that he would likely be spending some time in the AHL… and he was perfectly OK with it. There are some players who might say that, but not really mean it deep down. This guy is a rare breed. He meant every word of it. He wasn’t just about giving sound bites, he is sincere.
Fantenberg was courted by several NHL teams before ultimately signing with Los Angeles. As he put it, he just had a good feeling about the organization. He was also ready for a new challenge. “The NHL has the best players in the world, so it is hard to compete, even on the third pairing,” he recently told MayorsManor. “It’s a skillset you don’t play against back home. You have to be ready and on your toes every time. It’s a small rink so everything happens really quickly. You have to be quick in your mind and your feet, work hard to close gaps and those things. Back home, you aren’t forced to stop and start as often. I just want to play a good overall game. I want to play good in the defensive and offensive zone. I want to take care of the puck. Back at home in Sweden, I was more of a shutdown D and didn’t have the biggest chance on the power play. But last year in the KHL, I earned the main D spot on all the power plays, so I think I proved what I can do there.”
On the ice, he isn’t the biggest of defenders. Standing 6-foot tall, he is thick though, unlike a normal 18-year-old recently drafted player would be. Fantenberg is also an offensive guy – a good puck mover — and that’s where he will eventually contribute more. There are other areas of his game he still needs to work on, and that’s where coach Mike Stothers and the team in Ontario will help round out his potential.
Prior to being signed, scouting reports came in on him all over the board. Some saw him as a speedy puck mover, some as a stay-at-home type of defender. He’s never been a big producer on the score sheet and likely won’t develop that part of his game at this point. He was usually a plus-player (for what it’s worth) in Sweden, but never extraordinarily high. He’s also older than the organization’s top defensive prospects; yet he’s also in his fifth year of professional hockey, having played in Sweden’s top league before moving on to the KHL last year.
In summary, Fantenberg’s chance to gain a regular spot in LA is a real one. Although, as always, it is ultimately up to him to seize it. He would do well to accentuate one other piece of his game – albeit his shot, or passing ability, something has to push him into at least the Kevin Gravel or Jake Muzzin range for him to have a shot at a long-term home in SoCal. At the current trajectory, he factors into the team’s 2018-19 roster plans, if not sooner.
With three players down, we’ll turn our attention to No. 7 on the list next. He’s one of a kind, as you’ll soon see.
Like always, many thanks to the numerous hockey sources who contribute to this series – especially Andy Tonge, our longtime correspondent, and Cody Warner, who has been covering the Ontario Reign for us since the AHL arrived in California. Their ongoing input regarding prospects continues to be invaluable throughout this process. Do yourself a favor and give them both a follow on Twitter right now.
If you missed any of the previous articles in this series, click here to catch up.
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