For several years now, 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 the team’s top prospects on a regular basis than MayorsManor.
From listing Martin Jones and Jake Muzzin as the team’s top two prospects way back in 2011 – ahead of more heralded guys like Andrei Loktionov and first round pick Thomas Hickey – to being spot on with the early information we shared about Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson, Brayden McNabb and others, this process isn’t always about who is the most skilled or has put up the most points. It is also about where – or if – each player fits into LA’s future plans.
As such, our bi-annual rankings of players in the Kings pipeline has become some of the most popular content we produce each year because of the amount of effort that goes into gathering and preparing the 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 Kings organization.
When the 2014-15 pre-season rankings came out, we provided a list of six Honorable Mentions before counting down the top 10. Here, we’ve trimmed back to focus on the three players who were closest to making the list. Next, we’ll countdown the actual top 10 over a pair of subsequent articles.
HONORABLE MENTION (in alphabetical order, no ranking assigned)
KEVIN GRAVEL: Defenseman, Manchester Monarchs (5th round pick in 2010, St. Cloud State)
It wasn’t that long ago that Gravel was ranked above Derek Forbort on this list. However, after plateauing during his senior year of college, he career is in a bit of a transition. This is actually a critical season for the former St. Cloud captain, as he is trying to earn a NHL contract. To his credit, he has not forced the issue, willingly signing an AHL-only deal with the Kings and determined to prove himself. Thus far, the results are encouraging. On a deep Monarchs defense, Gravel is finding himself on the depth chart above the likes of Kevin Raine, who had an excellent training camp in Los Angeles and turned many heads, and Nick Ebert, who is seen as a better offensive option. In fact, Gravel has outscored Ebert on the season, while playing much better defensive hockey. Gravel competes hard, something that was questioned by the Kings brass, and has shown he is deserving of an upgraded contract this summer. Further, showing a little bit of offense in his game, while still playing solid positional, defensive hockey, is a huge positive for the young defenseman. An in-depth look at Gravel’s potential (including key comments from Mark Yannetti, LA’s Director of Amateur Scouting) can be found here in my feature story for LAKings.com.
ALEX LINTUNIEMI: Defenseman, Ottawa 67’s (2nd round pick in 2014, OHL)
Any of the three defensemen being given honorable mention here would be a good bet to make the next edition of the top 10. If we had to pick just one, though, we’d go with this young Finnish blueliner. After being drafted last year as an 18-year-old, Lintuniemi has been solid. His skating has improved quite a bit and he has started to distance himself from his peers (for example, he made the World Junior team as a younger player). The real test won’t come until he starts to get some of the pro grooming in a few years. However, early indications are he is solid positionally, has a somewhat physical edge, and possesses good transition game. Further, his offensive output is already well ahead of last year’s pace.
ROLAND MCKEOWN: Defenseman, Kingston Frontenacs (2nd round pick in 2014, OHL)
Put bluntly, McKeown has had a mediocre season, somewhat capped off by not making Team Canada’s World Junior team. After captaining their under-18 team to a gold medal, he was considered by many to be a shoe-in for the WJC, but it didn’t happen. Is it the end of the world? No, not really. In fact, the decline in his offensive output is to be expected after being told he needs more structure to his game. We remain confident in the process. Let him build the structure and then the offense will come again. Currently, the wrap on McKeown is that he doesn’t compete the right way, or enough, or consistently. Once he learns to compete the proper way, there is a big ceiling on his future. If the Kings Development Staff can get through to him over the summer, there is a strong possibility he could be a real mover up this list next season. For more on his omission from Team Canada and his lack of statistical punch this year, see the profile I did here on McKeown for LAKings.com just last month.
As always, many thanks to the plethora of hockey sources who contribute to this series – especially Andy Tonge, our writer covering the Manchester Monarchs. His ongoing input regarding players at the AHL level is invaluable. Do yourself a favor and give him a follow on Twitter right now.
If you missed any of the previous articles in this series, several are linked below for your reference.
3 MUST-READ ARTICLES:
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