Now that it has been a full week since Paul LaDue and the University of North Dakota were defeated by Boston University at the Frozen Four, here is an update on where things stand with one of the Kings top defensive prospects…
Assistant GM Rob Blake – along with Nelson Emerson (Director of Player Development), Mike O’Connell (a key member of the team’s Development Staff), and amateur scout Tony Gasparini – went to North Dakota to visit with LaDue and his father earlier this week. They also met with the UND coaching staff.
There is no denying the Kings are extremely interested in signing LaDue, who just completed his second season of college.
Ranked as the team’s third-best defensive prospect, behind Derek Forbort and Colin Miller, the 22-year-old blueliner has been tabbed as a player who is good at just about everything, and is seen as somebody who is capable of developing into a Willie Mitchell-type player at the pro level.
“He hasn’t made his mind up yet, but we wanted to lay out a game plan for either scenario,” said Blake, referring to the fact that LaDue has the option of turning pro and signing an entry level contract with the Kings or returning to UND for his junior season. “We rwviewed whether he wants to return to school and what we can do development wise with him, or if he wanted to turn pro, what we had to offer him.”
The pro route would include him going to AHL Ontario next season (remember they are moving their affiliate from Manchester to the West Coast). Despite projections that show a logjam of Kings defensive prospects in the AHL next season, Blake is confident there is room for LaDue.
“I think it’s clear if he makes the decision to come out, we’ll make room to fit him in [the AHL]. He’s risen in the prospect [rankings] since he was drafted,” stated the Hall of Fame defenseman. “We didn’t rush him to make a decision, though; there’s no rush. Over the next week here or so, I’m sure he’ll come up with what he wants to do. We just wanted to make sure we laid out both scenarios and whatever direction he wanted to go, we’re going to support it. We kind of showed him a game plan for either or.”
Given how quickly Forbort and several other prospects have developed since leaving college recently, it is reasonable to assume the Kings would like to get LaDue signed as quickly as possible. That isn’t a knock on any specific college program, just the nature of playing about 40 games on weekends while balancing school work, compared to being a professional player who eats, drinks, and breathes hockey. That said, Blake was quick to acknowledge that one thing that provides the Kings a little piece of mind is the high-quality program LaDue is currently playing for.
“If he wants to return to school, we talked to the coaching staff and were very confident in North Dakota’s presentation on making these guys pro hockey players,” Blake noted. “They have a lot of background in that aspect, the facility is tremendous. It was good for me to go and get those perspectives and see things; I hadn’t done a lot of those. Both options were laid out to him and well see what he comes up with for a decision.”
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