Last year, along with our Honorable Mentions in the 2018 Midseason Rankings, we also passed along scouting reports on a handful of players who were in precarious positions. Each of them, for somewhat unique reasons, were in a sort of now-or-never position. That article, titled ‘Wildcards and Closing Windows’ took a look at guys like Alex Lintuniemi, Kurtis MacDermid, and Spencer Watson.
None of those players were considered for this year’s evaluations, as we consider them graduated beyond prospect status. It’s now up to them to make it on their own as multi-year pro hockey players. Additionally, in an article published earlier this week here, it was explained why we took the unprecedented move of removing four players from consideration in the 2019 Midseason Rankings – Mike Amadio, Matt Luff, Austin Wagner, and Sean Walker.
They weren’t the only ones who didn’t make — dare we say, the Top 20. There were several more prospects who we get asked about, yet won’t be part of the final rankings. Take a look:
Alexander Dergachyov – When GM Rob Blake recently traded the reserve rights to 2013 draft pick Dominik Kubalik to Chicago, it didn’t take long to connect back to Dergachyov. Originally selected in 2015, the 22-year-old center has essentially fallen into anonymity. His offensive production has never arrived, nor does he appear to have any future with the Kings. Unfortunately, he also has no trade value. Don’t look for a Kubalik-type deal on this one.
Jacob Moverare – He’s back playing in Europe and based on the information we’ve gathered from our sources, we don’t expect the 6-foot-2 defenseman back in North America anytime soon – if ever. Enough said. Unless, of course, you really love you some Moverare. In that case, see here for some earlier info on the Swedish defender.
Nikolai Prokhorkin – We get asked about him all the time. And as we’ve repeatedly said, let’s discuss him in detail once he gets to North America, which has been a real challenge since he was drafted in 2012. He has NHL talent, there’s no question. The Kings have scouted him heavily, as recently as this month. Usually, at this stage of the season, Prokhorkin has usually re-signed to stay in the KHL. That’s not the case this time around and he is once again saying he wants to come over and join the Kings. Even so, it’s reminiscent of the current NHL/NHLPA labor negotiations; everything sounds positive, yet you really have to be cautious given history.
Chaz Reddekopp (pictured above, right, with Moverare at the 2018 NHL Rookie Tournament in Las Vegas) – Played his overage year in the WHL last season, so next year will be the final year of his Entry Level Contract. He’s spent time in both the ECHL and AHL this season and he’s a work in progress. The most impressive game we saw from him was in September during the NHL Rookie Showcase in Las Vegas, something Ontario Reign coach Mike Stothers agreed with at one point.
Drake Rymsha – Another late round pick, he’s also spent time shuttling back and forth between Manchester and Ontario. Putting on different jerseys shouldn’t be a problem for him, though, as he played with London, Ottawa, and Sarnia during his OHL days. It’s going to be real tough for Rymsha to make it to the NHL with LA, given where he falls on the depth chart. His best bet may be to shoot for an opportunity at 4C.
Now, with all of that behind us, let’s get started.
All players listed below have been grouped by position and listed in alphabetical order. They have varying degrees of NHL upside; however, currently sit just outside the Top 10 of our rankings…
2019 LA KINGS MIDSEASON HONORABLE MENTIONS
Aidan Dudas – Selected in the fourth round last June, he’s just slightly off his offensive pace of last season, in both goals and points. After scoring 65 points in 68 OHL games with the Owen Sound Attack in 2017-18, he’s currently projected around 56 points. Listed at 5-foot-8, Dudas was a value pick and somebody who could be part of the over-hyped ‘new NHL.’ Some scouts were big fans of his play last year, and a few of the reports we’ve received this season had people encouraged with the improvements he’s made. For example, his skating has gained a full step and he often stands out in the games observed. Dudas has played behind Vegas 2018 first rounder Nick Suzuki and Kevin Hancock much of the season. The latter was recently traded to London, and combined with the dismissal of Owen Sound head coach Todd Gill just a few days ago, Dudas could see a change in his role. Both elements could work in his favor, as he will likely need a big year next year to earn a pro contract with Los Angeles.
Mikey Eyssimont – You have to wonder if this 22-year-old forward is about to get Mersch’d (it’s a new expression we’re trying out, just go with it). He’s under contract for one more season, yet his best opportunity to reach up and grab an NHL audition may have been this season. It will only get tougher looking ahead. Add in the fact that he’s often playing on the fourth line in Ontario and the concerns are obvious. Then, remember he was in college last season and is only 40 games into his pro career. It’s possible he’ll still figure it all out. We’re just not very encouraged. Step one would likely need to see him become the king of development and spend a lot of time training. If you’d like to go back and see his scouting report from last year, click here.
Bulat Shafigullin – Gathering information on prospects in Russia can be a tad tricky, to say the least. Know this, though, there is at least one high ranking person in the Kings management circle who is a big Shafigullin fan. In November, Shafigullin had a fine showing for Russia in their series vs CHL teams; which was followed by a disappointing decision to not include him on their World Junior roster. As far as his regular season goes, he’s split time between the KHL and their top development league, the MHL – where he’s been more than a point-per-game player, putting up nine goals and 20 points in 14 games. Of late, he’s been playing 30 minutes a night too, so his coaches have confidence in him. From all accounts, his attitude is said to be outstanding. We also hear the Kings are completely comfortable with his development situation overseas and he is not expected to be in North America next season.
Johan Sodergran – A sixth round pick who made a loaded Team Sweden team at the 2019 World Junior Championships? Yes, that certainly caught the attention of many people in the hockey world. He’s 6-foot-3, can skate like the wind and has power in his game. He’s moved himself into consideration of a what would normally be around a third round pick. Like Shafigullin, the development situation for Sodergran is considered ideal. He’s progressing nicely, to the point of exceeding expectations. He’s playing in the Swedish League, a men’s league – and he’s only 19 years old. Better yet, the 6-foot-3 winger is scoring too, notching seven goals in 29 games thus far. Expect Sodergran to play in Europe again next season.
Cole Hults (pictured above at LA Kings 2018 Development Camp) – He’s still a ways off from really making a splash in the rankings, yet there is plenty to like about the sophomore rear guard. Currently at Penn State, a top-15 ranked program in the country, Hults has settled into being a top pairing D-man on the Nittany Lions blueline. He’s also being used on the top penalty kill and secondary power play units. Hults’ offensive numbers are on par from a year ago, despite the fact he’s often on the ice against top players from opposing teams (i.e. more of a shutdown role). His skating is solid and he has a physical presence to his game; a very efficient player both with and without the puck. Hults is a smart player with very good instincts for position; he just needs to assert himself on a more regular basis in order to make a greater impact in games. Next season he is expected to be back at Penn State, for what should be a defining type year – one that will largely dictate his pro future. For a look at our previous scouting report on Hults, see here.
Austin Strand – The book is still out on this free agent signing. A right shot D, who played four years of junior hockey in the WHL, Strand has had an extremely slow start to his pro career. He didn’t even suit up for his first game with the Reign until November 25th. In 15 AHL games, he’s produced six points (2G, 4A) – a very small sample size. By contrast, Strand posted 64 points in 69 games last season for the Seattle Thunderbirds, including 25 goals. Standing 6-foot-4 and just 21 years of age, we’ll be keeping a very close eye on him over the second-half of the season to see if he can gain coach Mike Stothers’ confidence.
David Hrenak– A little bit of a sleeper pick, selected in the fifth round of the 2018 Draft, Hrenak really couldn’t ask for a better situation. He’s the starting netminder at St. Cloud State, the No. 1 ranked team in college hockey this season. Although he’s second in NCAA in wins this season, it’s been a learning season for the 20-year-old, as he’s still grasping being a true number one goaltender at this level. He’s reported to be highly competitive; though, technically, needs some work to tighten up game. Those close to the situation say he puts a lot of pressure on himself, yet that has played a huge part of the success at St. Cloud this season. Further, those same people have pointed out that his save percentage hasn’t reflected his level of play this season, as the Huskies are the top possession team in the NCAA and although he doesn’t see a lot of pucks, he does face an abnormal amount of high-level chances in games due to breakdowns. Hrenak needs to work on his consistency in these areas. Scouts believe he definitely has the physical tools to make the NHL — size, skating, compete, and athletic ability. However, he will need to address technical aspects of his game this offseason; not unlike most young goaltenders, who must mature mentally in order to stay composed. Keep a close eye on Hrenak come NCAA tournament time. SCSU has a team that should challenge for a championship and he would have to play a key role. Much like Jonathan Quick, coaches note that Hrenak is at his best in tight games, where all he cares about is winning.
Matthew Villalta – In fairness to the player, our scouting reports on Villalta don’t run nearly as deep as most of the players listed above. After a ridiculous 40 wins in 49 OHL games last season, the Ontario native is very quietly having another good year with Sault Ste. Marie, posting a 23-6-4 record thus far. It’s also been a bit of a wild ride over the past month or so. First, Villalta attended Team Canada’s World Junior evaluation camp in mid-December; where he had an outside shot at the team, yet ultimately didn’t make the final cut. Then, just a few weeks ago, the Soo reportedly contemplated moving him at the OHL deadline before ultimately deciding to keep their veteran core and taking a run at the Western Conference. Although emotionally stable, Villalta some scouts are concerned he is still prone to the odd bad goal. Like many in his peer group, this year’s playoff performance will be a big test and a good reflection of where he’s at on the development curve.
Next up in the series will be the entry point to our Top 10 Rankings, where we’ll look at some players near the bottom-half of that list.
Note to webmasters/reporters: When recapping news or interviews from this site please remember to include a link to www.MayorsManor.com