LA Kings 2020 Prospect Rankings: The Top Three Players

Finally, we’re ready to reveal the No. 1 player on our annual LA Kings Prospect Rankings.

As noted in the previous article from this series, our original intention was to publish the entire Top 15 before the NHL Trade Deadline in February. Things happen. However, the final rankings were completed in January and have been slowly (insert your own joke here) released since that time.

If you’re new to our rankings, know that you’ve come to the right place. Many view this as the definitive guide to the team’s draft picks and next wave of young players. As in past years, we’ve gone through this process in painstaking detail to ensure these reports are unmatched in quality and content. Quite simply, nobody outside the Kings organization talks to more coaches, scouts, and General Managers about LA’s top prospects on a regular basis than MayorsManor team. Endless hours go into evaluating players and preparing our write-ups – including debating info with a myriad of well-respected hockey people, along with our key sources inside the Kings organization – before the final list is completed.

Below are links to previous articles in the 2020 series, as well as pair of other all new reports.

Goalie Depth Chart for Kings Organization

Honorable Mentions – Mikey Eyssimont, Jacob Moverare, Johan Sodergran, Jordan Spence, and more

2020 LA KINGS MIDSEASON PROSPECT RANKINGS

15. Kim Nousiainen
14. Cole Hults
13. Sean Durzi
12. Aidan Dudas
11. Samuel Fagemo
10. Jaret Anderson-Dolan
9. Akil Thomas
8. Kale Clague
7. Mikey Anderson
6. Rasmus Kupari
5. Tyler Madden
4. Arthur Kaliyev

3. TOBIAS BJORNFOT: Defense, Ontario Reign (1st round pick in 2019, Sweden)

Last Season: 11 goals, 11 assists, plus-15, 14 PIM in 39 games played (Sweden)
This Season: 6 goals, 13 assists, plus-13, 12 PIM in 44 games played (AHL)

– Made NHL Debut on October 5, 2019
– Won bronze at WJC 2020 with Team Sweden, alongside Kings prospect Samuel Fagemo
– Won U-18 gold (2019), Hlinka silver (2019), and U-18 bronze (2018)
– First north American professional point came against the San Jose Barracuda on October 19, 2019, his first game in the AHL; scoring a goal and later adding an assist
– Has two multi-point games – both against San Jose

Strengths: Efficient, elusive, and excellent skater. Outstanding hockey sense and leadership, is a winner. Positional play is phenomenal, doesn’t have to extend himself too much.

Needs to work on: Strength because he is undersized. Surroundings around the net, on ice communication. He’ll be a Number 2 or 3 dman in the NHL, depending if he can develop an offensive game. His shot has to be a little better, needs more on it, a little harder.

Outlook for 2020-21 season and beyond: Expect Bjornfot to split time between the American League and NHL this coming season. And that’s not a bad thing. There’s no doubt he’ll eventually land a fulltime role with the Kings, it will just take some time for the full roster to shake out – which will only help his development, as seeing No. 1 minutes in the AHL will help round out his game.

Get to Know the Player: Nelson Emerson on Bjornfot [LINK]

2. ALEX TURCOTTE: Forward, Wisconsin Badgers (1st round pick in 2019, USNTDP)

Last Season: 27 goals, 35 assists, 22 PIM in 37 games played (USNTDP)
This Season: 9 goals, 17 assists, minus-10, 20 PIM in 29 games played (NCAA)

– Represented Team USA in the 2020 WJC alongside Kings prospect Arthur Kaliyev
– Won U-18 bronze (2019) and U-18 silver (2018)
– 15th overall in Big Ten scoring, despite missing multiple games due to illness and injury

The Kings drafted him expecting him to be a 2C with a letter. Turcotte thinks he’s a 1C. If that’s who you think you are, you have to perform better. Good enough sometimes isn’t good enough.

After the WJC, one scout noted to us – “For me, the way he attacks the game and the type of kid he is, I think he learns from this. I think Turcotte learns from this and challenges himself, even though I thought he played a solid tournament. Even though it doesn’t change my opinion of him, I would’ve liked to see more out of him. The path to get him ready isn’t as quick as a lot of people want it.”

His drive, his puck pursuit and pressure separate him from other players at this level of prospects. He pressures opponents with the puck and forces guys to make either a hurried play or forces them into bad passes. It’s not outright turnovers, yet it’s one of the things that often goes unnoticed – forcing opponents to make a pass. This is something that Austin Wagner also does particularly well, and few notice. It creates chaos; it forces guys to do things quicker. So even if the pass arrives at the target, it arrives a second too early. It arrives as the guy is coming back and not going forward. With Turcotte, while he doesn’t create a turnover, he affects the pace of the play. He disrupts the play. Any time you are making a pass before you’re ready or before your option is ready, it opens up opportunities to create turnovers. So even if he didn’t create the turnover, he might have set up the next turnover.

In the current NHL, where getting the puck back is one of the most important elements – where the quicker you get the puck back, the more successful you will be — Turcotte does that really well.

One of the reasons he doesn’t put up more points is because to play his style of game you need to be elite in terms of strength and conditioning. If he wants to play the way that he plays and show off the intangibles that he has, you almost need to be the benchmark. You need to be Alec Martinez or Wayne Simmonds. You need to be one of the top 3 guys in terms of strength and testing. It takes time and it takes commitment, which he is starting to show. Once you have the commitment, it takes a couple of years.

Strengths: Nothing he can’t do when he’s healthy. High level skater, good shot, solid playmaking, plays 200 ft game, accountable, not a lot of holes in his game. He goes into traffic, which can be rare for a highly skilled offensive player.

Needs to work on: Put simply, needs to play his game on a full-time basis. Must improve strength, be more consistent. As one scout put it, “He’ll be playing against the big boys soon enough. Will need man strength.”

Outlook for 2020-21 season and beyond: Will likely get a cup of coffee early on with the Kings, however he’s targeted for the AHL for majority of this coming season. How quickly he earns a full-time NHL gig will be up to him. Most likely, he’s the No. 2 center behind Anze Kopitar on opening night 2021-22. Later down the road, he’ll likely wear a letter in LA.

Get to Know the Player: Tony Granato stops by KOTP to talk about Turcotte [LINK]

1. GABRIEL VILARDI: Forward, Los Angeles Kings (1st round pick in 2017, OHL)

Last Season: 0 goals, 1 assists, plus-0, 0 PIM in 4 games played (AHL)
This Season: 3 goals, 4 assists, plus-0, 4 PIM in 10 games played (NHL)

– Won Memorial Cup (CHL championship) in 2017
– Scored in six of his last seven AHL games prior to his NHL call up, netting 11 points (4G, 7A)
– Scored his first goal on his first shot of his first shift in the NHL (February 20, 2020)
– Has had two multi-point games in the NHL, his first career NHL game and the last game of the season (prior to the COVID-19 shutdown).
– The shutdown also occurred during his three-game point-scoring streak, where he picked up four points (2G, 2A)

Talking with a scout around Christmas time:

“He’s nearing a point-per-game after missing about a year and a half of hockey. That’s crazy. Plus, the hardest thing to do is go into a season without a training camp. Look at how many elite players who hold out always have down years. Coming back, it’s a nightmare catching up where everything is so fast. The fact that he’s doing what he’s doing is pretty amazing. Looking ahead, just get through the season and get the experience of a learning year. Get a full summer and full training camp. It’s baby steps. It’s taken him a little bit more than a ‘bit of time’ to start playing, but we need Vilardi to reach his potential in 2 years. He’s a player. You watch him play and he’s different. In terms of his potential, nothing has changed.

Comments from Kings coach Todd McClelan when we asked about Vilardi recenlty:

“Gabe Vilardi was basically just a name for me (coming into the season). He was an individual that I haven’t met until probably December in that range and didn’t know much about. Obviously, I heard and read a lot about him and his skillset in juniors being drafted as high as high was speaks volumes for the type of player he is. Not being able to watch him, not being able to create a relationship with him during training camp created a unique situation for all of us. He has come in and worked extremely hard on getting healthy, and that’s been well documented, but what doesn’t get mentioned as much is the amount of time that he has spent on the ice trying to get his game up to speed. Extra ice session, extra training sessions and just trying to work on his skillset and he was rewarded with the recall. He made good on the games that he played. In both cases he needs still needs work.

This summer coming up will be his first real training summer in a few so I think he could make real good gains as far as his hockey engine and his ability to create separation on the ice, extend shifts out so that at the 30 second mark you’re as strong as you were at the 15 second mark and all of that is just maturation. They both need that and they’re both going to be good players [ex note: referring to Vilardi and Mikey Anderson]. There still will be peaks and valleys with them, but that’s all part of the plan here – to slowly work them in and get them up and running so when we are ready to strike again, they are big parts of the organization.”

Strengths: Strong stick on puck, vision, and power play distribution. The puck follows him, great instincts, high functioning, and makes plays. He plays with his head up and makes players around him better.

Needs to work on: Strength and conditioning, skating, and acceleration out of the gate. Improve his leg strength, as well as quickness and pace. Must play his whole shift with speed.

Outlook for 2020-21 season and beyond: It’s Turcotte and Vilardi. One of them will be the 2C and the other will play wing. Look for them to be in LA for a long time to come.

Final Comment on Vilardi: There isn’t a single person in the upper levels of Kings management who even flinched when we asked who the No. 1 prospect was in the organization. They’ve been saying Vilardi for a very long time. And his performance over the past six months backed up their faith in him. The sky is the limit from here.

Get to Know the Player: A radio hit on Vilardi and the Kings future plans [LINK]

That’s a wrap on another edition of our annual Kings Prospect Rankings. As always, we’d like to extend a special thank you to everybody who played a role in putting this together – from our staff writers and photographers, to every player, coach, scout, and GM who shared information with us. We value the opinions offered and appreciate the time spent debating the future of hockey. Stay healthy everybody. Let’s do it all again next season.

RELATED CONTENT:

WJC 2020: Checking in With Alex Turcotte at USA Hockey Camp

WJC Post-Mortem: Emerson Talks Fagemo, Bjornfot, and Other European Prospects

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Comments

  1. Joann battaglia says

    With all these great prospects how did Blake get it so wrong with KUBALIK?

    • John Hoven says

      We’ve covered this topic at length. See previous episodes of KOTP. Problem was the player, not the GM. They tried for years to get the player to come over, he wouldn’t and/or couldn’t. For Blake to turn a basically expired asset into a draft pick so many years later is the real story. Solid work IMO.

  2. Tyler Woods says

    Thanks John, look forward to your Kings coverage more than anyone else. That was a solid writeup! Crazy to think we’re gonna have 7-8 picks in the first two rounds between the next two drafts. Do you think Blake would pass on Byfield if available at 2nd or 3rd overall? Curious what your take is on this one considering we have probably the best center depth in the NHL starting to form.

    • John Hoven says

      Would be hard to pass on Byfield. We’ll have more solid draft coverage as the event draws closer. Similar to what we’ve done in years past.