Per the tradition established here at MayorsManor, it’s once again time for our highly anticipated look at the LA Kings Top 10 Prospect Rankings.
If you’re unfamiliar with this list, for nearly a decade 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 LA’s top prospects on a regular basis than the team at 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, Kevin Gravel, Paul LaDue and dozens of others, this process isn’t always about who is the most skilled or has put up the most points or was selected higher on draft day. It is more about where – or if – each player fits into LA’s future plans.
Endless hours go into evaluating players in the Kings pipeline and preparing our 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.
Similar to years past, we’ll begin with a list of Honorable Mentions before officially kicking off our countdown of the Kings top 10 prospects in subsequent articles. This year’s secondary cast of names will be listed in alphabetical order, without a ranking assigned. Additionally, we’ve sub-divided this list into three separate categories – Future Looks Bright (guys who still appear to have some serious upside), Window is Closing (a group who will be challenged to earn NHL playing time with the Kings moving forward), and Wild Cards (a handful of players who truly could go either way; jumping up the next set of rankings or not even being mentioned at all).
To kick off the 2018 edition of this series, we’re going to begin with three players in the Future Looks Bright category.
JARET ANDERSON-DOLAN: Center, WHL Spokane Chiefs (2nd round pick in 2017)
It’s an age thing, expect a big jump from this 18-year-old Western Canadian product in the rankings next season. Come December, you should see him poised to shine at the annual World Junior Championship. At his current pace, he will likely be one of Team Canada’s dominant players. Last year, Anderson-Dolan put up 76 points (39G, 37A) in 72 junior games. Thus far in 2017-18, he has kicked it up a few ticks, notching 63 points (28G, 35A) in 49 games played. At least one scout noted to us that over the past month, Anderson-Dolan’s game has been especially strong. In total, he brings a skating/compete-based game, is a very driven player, and shoots the puck exceptionally well. More than one scout noted to us he has an NHL level shot and release. Additionally, he has a natural depth to his game, allowing coaches to play him up and down the lineup.
His skating and pace to a game are among the key attributes that separate him from his peers. Jarret Stoll, who now works with the organization’s prospects at center, has also been up to see him a few times this season and has taken notice of how reliable of a player Anderson-Dolan is. It hasn’t been lost on Kings management that JAD is feisty and gets involved in the play. Even if he doesn’t hit his full ceiling, he should still reach the NHL – probably as a winger, not a center. Just don’t expect any of this to happen soon. After another season in the WHL, he’ll likely need a year or two of AHL seasoning before he arrives in Los Angeles.
MIKEY EYSSIMONT: Center, St. Cloud State (5th round pick in 2016)
This player is driven to score and he has the luxury of playing at the unofficial LA Kings college farm team, St. Cloud State – a national powerhouse in recent years – under high-profile coach Bob Motzko. Eyssimont took a big step forward in his training last summer, even spending time working out with SCSU alums Jonny Brodzinski and Kevin Gravel in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, that didn’t translate to big numbers at the beginning of the season, as Eyssimont had to battle through some illness. Now heathy, he’s one of leading scorers for top 5-ranked St Cloud. While looking to still gain strength, improve his stick handling, and refine his staking, the left-shooting forward has top-end skill and offensive instincts that coaches and linemates crave – making him a valuable weapon on the power play.
Having been on the wing for most of his college career, Eyssimont has found his role on the left side. Yet, he wouldn’t mind seeing more time at center down the road. Either way, he’ll continue working to find consistency in his game, especially with all the back-to-back games they play in college hockey. Being stronger on the wall is also one of his top priorities, especially on the forecheck.
And a big decision looms. While it is typical for Kings prospects to leave college early, the decision is likely a coin-flip for Eyssimont at the moment. It wouldn’t be that surprising to see him opt for the same path as Nic Dowd, another former SCSU forward and one-time Kings prospect. Dowd not only stayed in school for his senior year, he went on to become team captain and was named a Hobey Baker finalist. After Eyssimont’s season eventually ends, look for a late May decision regarding his immediate future. Given such a strong relationship between the Kings and St. Cloud, it might not be the worst thing if he stuck around for his final year of NCAA eligibility.
COLE HULTS: Defenseman, Penn State (5th round pick in 2017, USHL)
At 19 years old, Hults is currently a freshman at Penn State, in what the Kings feel is a very good development situation. When he was drafted last summer, scouts told us he showed great progress over the prior two seasons, despite some initial struggles when making the jump from high school hockey to the USHL. Before entering college this season, he was playing top minutes and being used in all situations on a weak U.S. junior team. Hults is a late bloomer with very good size and patience when he has the puck on his stick.
Over the first-half of Penn State’s season, Hults has been very impressive, including playing top-pairing minutes in all situations. Among his many strengths include play with the puck, both on breakout and transition, in addition to solid instincts without the puck. One area where he’s been highly noticeable this season is on the power play; excelling in running the top unit. He does a solid job defensively, creating offense via his breakout pass. Prior to Kings Development Camp this upcoming July, he’ll be working on adding more to his game in the offensive zone and getting to the middle of the ice quicker.
Sean O’Donnell has been out to see him this season and has been encouraged by Hults’ continued development. He is a patient player, puts pucks in the right area for other players to make stuff happen. Standing 6-foot-2, he’s also added some size since being selected by the Kings. He played at 183lbs last season in the USHL, and is up to 197lbs this season – the heaviest he’s every weighed. Hults says he doesn’t feel slower, yet has noticed how much stronger he is, especially in the corners, winning battles. Plus, he remains on the slender side, leaving room to fill out even more.
Finally, this past December, Hults almost made the World Junior team for USA. Despite being one of the final roster cuts made, that experience was invaluable. He hadn’t been part of any USA teams in the past, so it was an accomplishment to even be invited. Hults is just now starting to scratch the surface with his talent. Look for him to take major steps forward in his development next summer.
As always, many thanks to the numerous hockey sources who contribute to this series – especially Andy Tonge, our longtime correspondent, and Cody Warner, who has been covering the Ontario Reign for us since the AHL arrived in California. Their ongoing input regarding prospects continues to be invaluable throughout this process. Do yourself a favor and give them both a follow on Twitter right now.
If you missed any of the previous articles in this series, click here to catch up.
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