Why Andrei Loktionov needs to be sent to Manchester

Before all the Loktionov lovers lose their mind, relax.

If you’ve heard any of my recent radio/podcast interviews, the kid has talent. He’s still young, he’ll be fine. The Kings thought the cake might be done, they pulled it out of the oven, had a bite and it’s not fully cooked yet. Put it back in the oven for a little longer (in Manchester) and everything will be just fine.

At the end of last season and over the summer, Loktionov talked of only wanting to play center, he felt more comfortable there. Then, when he was called up this year, he was put on the left wing – because that was the need at the time. Everybody tried to put a smile on and power through it. Fact is, it didn’t work. The same issues from last season were still there.

A few weeks later he found himself at center when Mike Richards went down and that should have been his chance to shine. It didn’t happen. Fifteen games into his call-up he has no goals and two assists to show for it. Don’t buy into the ‘he’s not being used properly’ line of thinking. Good players make things happen when given the ice time. He hasn’t done that by any stretch of the imagination.

The only reason he’s still with the Kings right now is because of the NHL’s holiday trade freeze. When Richards came off of IR last week, the team should have needed to make a corresponding roster move to make room for him. Yet, the freeze allowed them to carry an extra player through today.

But, as timing would have it, with the injury to Simon Gagne last night, the Kings might not need to make a roster move today – other than putting #12 on IR.

However, the injury to Gagne shouldn’t save Loktionov from being sent down. It should be the reason he IS sent down. The Kings need offense from the wing to replace what Gagne should have been producing. Putting Loktionov on the wing hasn’t worked. What makes you think it will now? And moving another player to wing to let Loktionov be a center, what’s the point? He’s had his chances over the last two months.

Assuming a trade isn’t out there to be made, here’s what GM Dean Lombardi should be looking at:

– Right wing Brandon Kozun, the Kings 2009 draft pick was one of the top point producers in junior hockey when we was with the Calgary Hitmen (WHL), has played for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship and adjusted nicely to life as pro in the AHL last season (posting 23 goals). Kozun was the clear star of the Kings Rookie Camp in September and he’s repeatedly proclaimed that he’s ready for the NHL. More importantly, nearly every player, coach or scout that you talk with says ‘ignore his size, he’s one of those special players’ who has a fire in his belly and a nose for the net.

– Right wing Linden Vey, another Kings draft pick from the class of 2009. He led all junior hockey players in points last season (posting 116 with the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers) and after a slow start to the season, has really heated up lately – including scoring a goal again last night for the Monarchs. Vey is a first year pro, so Kozun has a slight edge on him there. Although listed at 6-foot even, he may be a smidge less than that. But, he still has a few inches on Kozun if you’re worried about size. Vey is probably not ready for the NHL – the same thing that was said about Doughty, Clifford and many others before them.  Sometimes there’s only one way to find out.

– Winger Ethan Moreau is an option. While people knock his lack of offense this year, how many goals has Loktionov scored? While Moreau would bring some veteran leadership back to the Kings (compared to the two players above) and he has a prior relationship with coach Darryl Sutter, going back to one of the above points – it doesn’t solve the need for ‘fit’ on a line. Moreau is a bottom six player and the Kings need a top six forward to replace Gagne. Not the right move at this time.

– Forward Jordan Nolan – Good kid, good story, having a great season and is somebody to keep an eye on in Manchester as he continues to develop his game. So far, he has 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 25 games this year.  Again, not a top six forward, so he’s also not a good fit right now. (note: Nolan has also been out since 12/11 with an upper body injury. He’s listed as day-to-day.)

Kozon or Vey. Either of those two would be a welcome change.

The Mayor
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RELATED ARTICLES:

Checking in with Linden Vey – talks first pro goal with Monarchs and more

Prospect Brandon Kozun puts the ball in the Kings court

Interview with WHL scoring champion Linden Vey

Interview with Jordan Nolan – from Kings Rookie Camp

What I’ve learned so far this season… by Brad Richardson – comments on his teammates

Prospect Brandon Kozun wins the WHL scoring title

Kings coach Murray – ‘Kozun needs to work on his game’

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