Recently, Mark Yannetti, Kings Director of Scouting, joined the MayorsManor Live podcast for a Calder Cup preview. If you haven’t listened to it yet, we highly encourage you to, as he spoke rather candidly about the development of four of the team’s top-10 ranked prospects. He also mentioned there being up to five spots available on the NHL roster come training camp – something we delved into here.
Having already shared what Yannetti had to say about Jordan Weal and Michael Mersch, the conversation also turned to the blueline. Derek Forbort was L.A.’s first round selection (15th overall) at the 2010 NHL Draft. After three years at one of college hockey’s top programs, the University of North Dakota, he turned pro in the summer of 2013. Long described as a project, Assistant GM Rob Blake has praised him a few months back, when the primarily stay-at-home defender received his first NHL call-up.
At the other end of the spectrum, second-year pro Colin Miller, who played his junior hockey with the legendary Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, is more of an offensive wizard. While his stock was already on the rise, winning the Fastest Skater and Hardest Shot at January’s AHL All Star Game only helped aid his assertion up the rankings. How do the two players stack up? Yannetti shared the following…
“They’re both exciting. They’re almost photographic negatives of each other in terms of how they succeed. It is funny, if you combine the two you’d have a Norris Trophy winner. It is amazing. Colin’s deficiencies are exactly Derek’s strengths and Derek’s deficiencies are exactly Colin’s strength. I have watched the American League for many years now and I have focused on it quite a bit in the last two years. I have never seen a young player defend as long as Derek Forbort defends. It is something you can teach, but at the end of the day, it’s almost like that ‘hockey sense’ [phrase], where you either have it or you don’t. There are plenty of big guys that don’t defend nearly as long as Derek. There are plenty of big guys that are much more physical, but don’t defend nearly as long as Derek. His defensive depth and the perimeter he creates with his stick and his positioning goes unnoticed a lot of times because people don’t notice. People don’t notice poke checks or notice a guy cutting back because he has no room to go anywhere, or running himself out of room. They notice hits and they notice that big step up. Some of what he excels at gets under appreciated until you really either watch the game closely or you put the film on.”
“Then you have Colin, who stands right out. Hardest shot, fastest skater, and it manifests itself on the ice whenever he is there. He is exceptional and he is exciting and there is an energy that happens when he gets the puck and starts going forward. There’s an energy when he’s on the power play on the blueline. He has obvious talent and high-level ability; but Colin has to fix the defensive part of the game. He just has to simplify and calm down a little bit and that’s normal in the progression of things. It isn’t a surprise to us and it isn’t a surprise to him. That is the hardest part for an offensive guy to learn. On the flip side, the hardest thing for Derek to learn is that he doesn’t have to make the third-option play. We don’t actually want Derek to try to make the third-option play. If Derek makes the first-option play 90% of the time; he is a 15-year NHL player. But, he still hasn’t – neither one has – eliminated that one deficiency in their game yet, but they both excelled this year. You see it in the fact of the minutes they play and how far the team has gone.”
Yannetti also had a few comments when asked about any bearing the Calder Cup Final may have on some of the team’s prospects – including Weal and Mersch – making the Kings roster next season:
“These players have put themselves in position to compete for a job next year. They’ve done it with their play not just from the beginning of this year to the end of this year. It has been a three-year process for some of them and it has been a one-year process for some of them. It is the entirety of really what they’ve done this year, and I expect them all to perform well in the Final. But, two weeks of hockey in May doesn’t determine their spot on the team in September. We look at these players and we rate them. That is what we do, we rate our players. It affects their rating going into camp. Sometimes you go into camp and it is someone’s spot to lose instead of someone’s spot to win. The way these players have performed, I think it is no one’s spot to lose; it is everyone’s spot to win. I see a really open competition between guys that deserve to play in the NHL.”
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