Do any of the Kings prospects have a legitimate chance at making LA’s Opening Night roster this season? If so, which ones?
Before entertaining such questions, one must first evaluate how many spots might actually be open for such a competition in training camp.
As reported earlier this summer, MayorsManor projects the opening night roster to be:
Dustin Brown – Anze Kopitar – Tyler Toffoli
Carl Grundstrom – Adrian Kempe – Jeff Carter
Alex Iafallo – Nicolai Prokhorkin – Ilya Kovalchuk
Kyle Clifford – Trevor Lewis – Austin Wagner
To continue the discussion, let’s first plow through the list of veterans because they’ve already secured their spot. This list would comprise nine of the 14 spots at forward – Brown, Kopitar, Toffoli, Kempe, Carter, Iafallo, Kovalchuk, Clifford, and Lewis.
Two additional players could be argued either way. Neither Grundstrom nor Wagner require waivers to be sent to Ontario. Thus, they could start the season in the AHL without fear of another team scooping them up. Even so, barring something completely unforeseen happening over the next two weeks, we would consider them near locks to make the Kings roster. This brings the total to 11 of 14 spots.
Mike Amadio is out of waivers, so would GM Rob Blake really risk losing him to another team without any compensation? Highly unlikely at this point. It would be an unnecessary loss. Why just give up an asset? Even if the return at some point might be a late round draft pick, the Kings needs more draft currency (picks) not less right now. For these reasons, we’re now at 12 of the 14 forward slots being secured.
The only two players listed in our projected roster are Luff and Prokhorkin. And neither need waivers to go to the AHL at this point. In fact, Luff can go up/down as many times as they need the entire year because he will not run out of waivers until the end of the 2019-20 season. If a prospect not currently in our projected lineup was to make the roster, Luff’s spot would most likely be the one given up.
Prokhorkin is a little bit of a trickier animal. The Kings have seemingly waited forever to get him over to North America. After an extended courtship he’s finally here. Even if he had a terrible camp, we would still expect he starts the season with the big club – and most likely be given an extended look (i.e. 15-20 games) – before they sat him down to come up with a different plan. This would most likely see him go back to the KHL, rather than joining the AHL for the remainder of the season. Would he be willing to go there on a short assignment, with the understanding he’d be in the NHL fairly quickly? Possible. Yet, to start the season, we expect him to be in the NHL. There just wouldn’t be a logical reason to rush a younger prospect into the NHL, regardless of how amazing they were in camp over Prokhorkin. Given all of the effort put in to get Prokhorkin to LA, it would seem odd to jettison him away after a couple weeks of training camp.
This basically leaves one forward spot to fight over. Who would have the best shot at snagging it?
Now, if we don’t include this first group of names, we’ll be asked about them later – hence, we must at least mention the ‘Not This Time’ guys:
Aidan Dudas – going back to the OHL, hard worker, played six games with AHL Ontario last season
Samuel Fagemo – coming over for camp was just that, it’s already agreed he’s returning to Sweden
Arthur Kaliyev – will be in OHL for two more seasons; prime trade candidate out of Hamilton (NOTE: For those unfamiliar with junior hockey rules, the Kings will retain his rights throughout his OHL playing days, regardless of which team he is on)
Akil Thomas – headed to OHL Niagara, could be dealt at OHL trade deadline (see here), AHL next season
Gabriel Vilardi – not skating at the moment, check back later
The True Contenders (in order of most likely to least likely)
Jaret Anderson-Dolan – He’s been living in Anze Kopitar’s guest house most of the summer and the plan is for that to continue as the season starts. This mentoring process should aid in JAD’s eventual transition to the NHL. … Given the fact that he had a few games with the Kings last season, it’s easy to just say, ‘Oh yeah, he’ll start the year in Los Angeles this season.’ … Then, when you really look at the roster, if he isn’t playing every night – or at least two out of every three NHL games – you realize he’s actually better served to be playing on the top line in Ontario for the first half of the year and then bring him up. … As mentioned here, the general plan is to clear some roster spots as the Kings season moves along, and one of those spots created will most likely be taken by JAD – when the time comes. … Given how defensively responsible he is, and what a coach’s dream he appears to be, it is also very conceivable that new coach Todd McLellan really wants him around and just isn’t willing to part with him when camp ends.
Rasmus Kupari – If you’re placing bets, the odds on favorites would be Kupari and JAD … He looked every bit the part of the real deal for Finland at the World Junior Championships in Dec/Jan, helping them win a gold medal. … We’ve projected him to start this season in the AHL for quite some time now and we’re sticking with that notion. There’s nothing wrong with a little pro experience before you bring him up to the NHL. He’s only a few months removed from his 19th birthday. … The organization would also likely need to first figure out if he is a better center or wing.
Blake Lizotte – Just like any NHL Draft rankings, we can tier this list. And there is a definitely a break in the list after the first two names listed above. … Here’s the funny thing, though. The gap isn’t as far away as one might think. Lizotte turns 22 years old in December. While that may not sound like much of a difference when comparing him to other prospects, but it’s huge. Sure, he’s only 5-foot-8, but he’s also a physical specimen. The dude is shredded. … He ‘brings his work boots’ every night and if this past weekend was any indication, he is an energy guy capable of creating offense. To say his performance in the NHL Rookie Faceoff tournament was impressive would be an understatement. … Can he do it at the NHL level, which is bigger and faster? Not sure, but we’re now interested in finding out.
Johan Sodergran – Came over from Sweden to play in North America this season, great first step. … Scouting reports on him are positive. … Would likely need a blow-away performance in camp to earn the spot. … He has humongous thighs, like NFL running back type thighs; doubt anybody is bumping him off the puck anytime soon.
Kings scouts have quietly been very high on this guy. Looking forward to seeing what he'll bring to Ontario this year.
Can be a bit of a streaky scorer, very hard worker. Expect Stutts to love him. pic.twitter.com/OCBRIyQ0Zp
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) September 7, 2019
Mikey Eyssimont – At the college level, Eyssimont delivered. Last season was not his best showing, where he largely played a bottom-six role for coach Mike Stothers in Ontario. After changing agents and his approach to being a pro over the summer, the early results have been positive. … Nobody is earning an NHL job after an impressive Rookie Camp. Yet, if Eyssimont can use his recent success to springboard into a hot start during his AHL season, we could see him improve his status among Kings prospects. … For now, it would have to be considered quite the long shot for the St. Cloud State alum to take a spot on McLellan’s whiteboard currently occupied by Luff.
Drake Rymsha – He can easily be listed as the most far-fetched guy on this list to make the Kings roster. Yes, Dwight King jumped the line in 2012, shocking nearly everybody. But this isn’t a Dwight King situation. … Rymsha spent more time in ECHL Manchester last season than he did AHL Ontario. That gives you an idea where is at on the development curve. … In general, he looks fine some nights, but far from a finished product most nights. … If he’s trying to beat out JAD and Kupari for a center spot, you’re likely looking at 300-1 odds in Vegas.
One final thought to add to this quasi math equation – none of the above information factors in the fact that Mario Kempe and Martin Frk were signed to NHL contracts over the summer. Both players would need waivers before assignment to the AHL. There’s also Sheldon Rempal. He was an AHL All Star last season and signed as a college free agent in 2018. He’s also looking to graduate up to the NHL.
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