Rob Blake Clear on Monarchs’ Playoff Mission

Shore Nick Manchester Monarchs AHLFrom the moment we first started posting stories about the Kings’ plans to move their top minor league affiliate from Manchester to the West Coast, Monarchs fans were – understandably – disappointed. However, it certainly can’t be argued the team is going away quietly.

After recently wrapping up the best record in the AHL, and securing home ice throughout the playoffs, the Kings have continued to bolster the Monarchs roster with a plethora of additional talent, including what could be all three of the team’s top prospects at forward.

As reported on MayorsManor, 2014 first round draft pick Adrian Kempe made his North American debut on Friday night – something he discussed here – and went on to play in all three of the Monarchs final regular season games.

Nick Shore, who was leading the AHL in scoring earlier this season, has now been medically cleared, and will be re-joining the Monarchs for their playoff run. In 38 games with the Monarchs prior to joining the Kings for second-half of the season, Shore was on a more than point-per-game basis, recording 20 goals and 42 points.

Rounding out the trio is Valentin Zykov. He hasn’t officially been assigned to Manchester yet, but MayorsManor has been told by Kings management he will be going there after clearing up some lingering health issues. Originally selected in the second round (37th overall) at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Zykov and his Gatineau Olympiques teammates were just eliminated from the QMJHL playoffs this past Friday night. Following a trade there in early January, the Russian-born forward recorded 28 points (15 goals, 13 assists) in 26 regular season games. Then, in the post-season, he added another seven points (three goals, four assists) in 11 games. See a full scouting report here.

As if that wasn’t enough of a boost for Monarchs coach Mike Stothers, he also received defenseman Alex Lintuniemi, the Kings second round pick in 2014, a few weeks back – although he wasn’t originally scheduled to play any games.

“He got in [four] games because of injuries,” said Assistant GM Rob Blake. “They weren’t 100 percent healthy, but should be going into the playoffs.”

Even so, Blake isn’t that concerned about too many new parts arriving at the same time and possibly disrupting what has already been a successful group there this season.

“Winning is the priority,” he told MayorsManor. “It’s been communicated with the coaching staff; we understand the importance of them now being in the playoffs and that becoming the priority. The development part will come with it. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had enough [prospects there now], to have some guys running development down there too. Their staff is comfortable with it. If these kids can get in and fill a role in that lineup and help the team be better, then that’s where they’re going to be.”

The Monarchs will open a best-of-five first round series against the Portland Pirates with Games 1 and 2 in Manchester on Thursday and Saturday. As we have done extensively over the past few years, MayorsManor will continue to provide full coverage here on the site and via our Manchester correspondent Andy Tonge.

RELATED CONTENT:

Blake and Stothers Excited for Adrian Kempe’s U.S. Debut

AHL: Monarchs Win In Kempe’s Debut

Jordan Weal on Not Playing in LA, Being Back in Manchester

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