While it didn’t bring nearly the level of hype as LeBron James’ decision from a few years ago, the wait is finally over – MayorsManor has learned that highly touted defensive prospect Paul LaDue will return to the University of North Dakota for his junior season, rather than turn pro and sign a contract with the L.A. Kings.
Originally selected by the team in the sixth round (181st overall) at the 2012 NHL Draft, LaDue has steadily climbed up the organization’s depth chart. Ranked No. 9 on the most recent edition of the Kings Top 10 Prospects list, the 22-year-old blueliner faced a tough decision following UND’s loss in the NCAA’s Frozen Four semifinals last month. Although only a second year player, the Kings thought highly enough of him to send Asst. General Manager Rob Blake to North Dakota to meet with LaDue, his parents, and the UND coaching staff – an experience Blake spoke with MayorsManor about here.
In the end, the draw to return to school was just too much for the 6-foot-2 defender to overcome. After all, he grew up in Grand Forks and playing at North Dakota was his dream since first lacing up the skates as a toddler. LaDue is not only considered to be a top-pairing defenseman for one of college hockey’s best programs, he is considered by many to be the best overall at his position in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. Now, he’ll return for what is expected to be one final season at UND, before turning pro next summer.
That’s not the only Kings prospect news, though. MayorsManor has also learned that the team has no plans to offer a contract to 2013 draft pick Dominik Kubalik. Selected in the seventh round that year, he was playing in the OHL at the time. After two years in North America, ending with a 23-game stint as a member of the Kitchener Rangers following his time with the Sudbury Wolves, the 6-foot-1 forward did not attend Development Camp in Los Angeles last July and he returned to his native Czech Republic to play for a team over there.
At the far opposite end of the spectrum – at least in terms of prospects we get asked about the most – it appears the book on Nikolai Prokhorkin has been closed. For those new to the story, this uber-talented forward first showed up on the radar when the Kings selected him in the fourth round of the 2012 NHL Draft. He began the following season in Manchester, but then all hell broke loose a few weeks later. In short, the KHL claimed he was under contract, via a deal he said he never signed. Legal threats went back and forth in a story well-documented here. Then, last summer, he bought his way out of his KHL contract and led the Kings to believe he was bound for North America, only to re-sign with CSKA Moscow. Enough is enough, we’ve been told, as the Kings don’t plan on perusing him any further.
What is the status of Jordan Weal, many of you will ask next. Checking with our sources inside the Kings’ management team, there is a growing appetite for him to make the NHL roster next season. This, of course, is a rather different message than what we were hearing just a few months ago. Many factors are impacting this discussion, not the least of which is his stellar performance in the playoffs, where he currently leads the AHL in scoring with 15 points in 10 games, including 10 goals. This news does come with a twist, as well. Weal could be seen playing wing come October, not playing center for the Kings. Stay tuned.
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