With nearly a dozen Honorable Mentions out of the way, it’s now time to announce the first two players on our LA Kings Top 10 Prospect Rankings.
For those catching up, this is article three in our multi-part series. Part I included a deep dive on a trio of players labeled as having bright futures – Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Mikey Eyssimont, and Cole Hults. Then, Part II provided key insight in the futures of players like Justin Auger, Kurtis MacDermid, and Michael Mersch.
If you’re unfamiliar with our rankings, for nearly a decade 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. 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 team’s front office.
MAYOR’S MANOR 2018 MID-SEASON PROSPECT RANKINGS
10. MICHAEL ANDERSON: Defenseman, University of Minnesota-Duluth (4th round pick in 2017, USHL)
Should turn out to be the latest in a long line of late-round picks paying off for the dynamic duo of Mark Yannetti and Mike Futa. Anderson entered college this year after playing two seasons with the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks. To say he’s having an impressive year would be an understatement. Despite missing five games (three for injury and two for the World Junior Championship), his 15 points for the UMD Bulldogs ranks him third in the NCHC among freshman defensemen and Top 10 in the entire country. Further, he experienced a bit of a coming out party at the WJC in Buffalo, where he was one of the youngest players to make the Team USA roster. En route to a bronze medal performance, Anderson provided stable and poised play on the third pairing; receiving nearly universal accolades. Ever the student, though, Anderson says he took away several little tips from the U.S. coaching staff, including some pointers that will help him on breakout plays.
Back on draft day, we noted that Kings scouts felt they selected a strong, two-way defenseman; one who played a very hard, competitive game. Coming off a season where he played big minutes with Waterloo and saw significant growth in his game with the puck, it’s been business as usual ever since. Anderson continues to improve at Duluth, playing top minutes in all situations. Although his offensive game has slowed slightly after a hot start, he is still very effective without the puck and shines on the penalty kill. A highly competitive player, with very sound decision making, he can be described as efficient. Within the last week, one scout (not on the Kings payroll) noted to us, ‘I just saw him play; nothing really stood out. And for a freshman D, that’s generally a good thing.’
One of the key words mentioned over and over when talking to people about Anderson is intangibles – something he’s loaded with. The Roseville, MN native has a high ceiling, however there are still some things to work on. Among the few items on that list are further enhancing his shot, gaining strength, and improving foot speed. Regarding that third item, Anderson has been doing off-ice ladder drills this season, as well as focusing on his first three strides during on-ice drills – trying to be as explosive as he can. Look for him to return to school next season and we’re already hearing whispers that he’s going to be a UMD team captain down the road.
9. MATT LUFF: Forward, Ontario Reign (free agent signing, OHL)
This is where things really start getting interesting. First off, anytime you can acquire a free asset and turn him into value at the NHL level, you’re winning (see: Martin Jones, Alex Iafallo, and Jake Muzzin as recent examples). Second, there isn’t one player in this entire series where we received a greater mix of information. Not that there are any concerns about Luff, just that some people in the organization happen to be much higher on his long-term potential than others. This much is clear though, collectively, the Kings see him as an NHL player. In fact, they nearly drafted him – twice. He was just one of those players on their list they never got to in 2015 or 2016. Luff was also well aware of the team’s interest in him, as he told us they were the very first team to ever talk to him when he arrived in the OHL, and they kept the lines of communication flowing through the years, until he eventually signed a three-year Entry Level Contract with the club in September 2016.
While Ontario Reign coach Mike Stothers liked him in training camp that year, Luff was ultimately shipped back to the OHL for another season. An interesting tidbit here is Luff left Los Angeles on a red-eye flight, arriving on Friday morning and promptly scored a hat trick that night for the Hamilton Bulldogs. No wonder the Kings development staff loves him so much – especially Glen Murray, who thinks he sees something special in Luff.
Presently, Luff is physically undeveloped; an area he’s working on.
Best quip from @Matt_Luff25 – "Yes, I'm 6'3'. But they need to get my weight right… I'm up to 208 now."
— The Mayor John Hoven (@mayorNHL) February 3, 2018
He is tall, every bit the 6-foot-3 listed in his profile. A naturally offensive player, Luff also adds a skating element that can be intriguing. Just 20 years old, this right wing was a little lost earlier this season, but has since found his game again and has responded well to the extra ice time coach Stothers has been giving him in Ontario. By all accounts, he appears comfortable and is progressing again. Luff has an NHL release right now. He’s also somebody who gets in there, with some grit to his game.
A probable third-line player when all is said and done, Luff is a shooter. He has the ability to check, but his shot and offensive instincts could produce on the third line. As one Kings executive noted to us, he has enough talent to push for an NHL job next season. However, as we’ve seen with so many other prospects before him, nothing will be handed to Luff. Despite his raw talent, to make the NHL leap this coming October, he’ll need to push hard. Very hard.
There you go. That’s two players down in our Top 10 Prospect Rankings. Next up, we’ll venture deeper into the pack, looking at another free agent signing who happens to slide in at No. 8 on the list.
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.
Note to webmasters/reporters: When recapping news or interviews from this site please remember to include a link to www.MayorsManor.com