We’re back, finally.
And we understand the wait has been much longer than expected, so let’s provide a little context to get started.
Our LA Kings Prospect Rankings usually come out in late-January or early-February. That time period was carefully selected, as it allows us to take a mid-season look at how younger players are progressing in their careers and it takes place after the annual World Junior Championship. Like nearly everything in hockey, though, the pandemic messed things up. We talked to all the usual people for our 2021 list and had the order — both Top 10 and Honorable Mentions — completed this past January. Admittedly, it was a bit wonky, as the Canadian junior leagues hadn’t started their 2020-21 seasons yet, while the number of games played by college prospects were also all over the board at that time. Regardless, we tried to stay on our normal calendar.
Unfortunately, things quickly fell apart from there. The NHL season came on fast and furious, with a 56-game sprint and action nearly every night. We originally were going to delay the rankings until May (when the NHL season was over), but that also came with issues. For example, Tyler Madden was injured — coming off of being ranked No. 5 overall the year prior. Finally, instead of a down period between the end of the NHL season and the Draft, we were swamped with pre-Draft preparation and coverage. Fast forward a few more months and here we are.
So, what’s the plan now?
We’ve made two key executive decisions. For the historical continuity of tracking our rankings over time, we’re going to publish the rankings now ‘as is’ from the January slotting of players. However, we will provide some updated narrative within an individual player’s write up. Yet nothing that took place from January through August 2021 has impacted the rankings (with one slight exception, the aforementioned Madden injury that kept him out for the majority of 2021; more on that in a later article).
The second decision — and it largely builds upon the previous paragraph — is that none of the players selected in July at the 2021 NHL Draft have been factored in yet. Again, if we’re going off of the January 2021 list, guys like Brandt Clarke and Francisco Pinelli weren’t even in the Kings system yet. We contemplated reworking the rankings to include them, yet ultimately opted to stay the course.
Knowing that many of our readers will want updates on those players recently selected, here’s the solution we’ve come up with. While normally Clarke, etc. wouldn’t be factored into the Prospect Rankings until January 2022, we’ll attempt to issue another round of Prospect Rankings heading into the season next month. That would be a mini-update; our way of saying thank you for your patience.
On with the show…
PROSPECT RANKINGS BACKGROUND
For more than 10 years now, this series of articles 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 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.
Previously published this year:
LA Kings 2021 Full Goaltending Depth Chart
LA Kings 2021 Prospect Rankings – Honorable Mentions: Defensemen
Last year’s rankings can be found here:
LA Kings 2020 Prospect Rankings – The Top 15 Players
2021’s Five Honorable Mentions – Forwards (listed alphabetically)
MARTIN CHROMIAK: Forward, Kingston Frontenacs (5th round pick in 2020, OHL)
Last Season: 7 goals, 12 assists, plus-0, 6 PIM in 32 games played (Slovakia)
Last Season: 0 goals, 0 assists, minus-1, 0 PIM in 2 games played (AHL)
He’s a prime example of a player that could have been a near afterthought among the higher-profile names if the rankings came out in January 2021, but he now has some of the most buzz of anybody in Rookie Camp. We gave him a B- for his performance at last year’s World Junior Championship. We didn’t get much of a look at Chromiak during his time with the Reign. He was there for a while, yet only suited up for two games after coming over from Slovakia. At Development Camp last month, he was the star performer among the forwards when they were tested for their ‘sprint profile’ – that’s basically a measurement of how a player accelerates over short distances. We also gave him the MVP Award for Day 2 of Camp.
This season, Chromiak will be playing for an NHL contract. And it won’t come easy. The Kings are currently up against the 50 contract limit and they’ll have another round of prospects to sign come April-July 2022. Could he earn a contract? Sure, absolutely. It’s obvious LA management liked what they saw at Dev Camp, to the point he’s penciled in to play with Quinton Byfield at the Rookie Faceoff tournament in Arizona this weekend.
In a few weeks, when he is eventually returned to his junior hockey club, Chromiak will likely be playing alongside Shane Wright, the consensus No. 1 pick for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Thus, we should be hearing a lot about Chromiak throughout the upcoming campaign. Back before the pandemic shut down the OHL, Chromiak had 33 points (11 G, 22 A) in 28 games with Kingston during the 2019-20 season.
He’s another of the many Kings prospects to represent his home country during the WJC tournament in Dec/Jan. It’s also worth mentioning just how young Chromiak is compared to LA’s other prospects. He just turned 19 years old few weeks ago and is actually a day younger than Byfield.
AIDAN DUDAS: Forward, Ontario Reign (4th round pick in 2018, OHL)
Last Season: 6 goals, 5 assists, minus-18, 8 PIM in 37 games played (AHL)
He just needs to figure out how to play his role on a more consistent basis. Team Canada put him on their WJC team for a reason, and he was effective. Then, as a first-year pro last season, Ontario Reign coach John Wroblewski saw what he wanted from Dudas in spurts. At the same time, Wrobo regularly challenged Dudas to give more. Essentially, he wants him to be the ultimate pest.
Wrobo on Dudas drawing back in — He impacted the game. Good on PK, solid on his draws, had a couple really good chances… He needs to be a fly in the other team's ointment, an annoying pest. He lost a little of that, needed a quick reset. We love Aidan, look fwd to next wkend.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) March 8, 2021
Additional comments from Wrobo at the end of March:
He’s building an identity. He needs to be a thorn in the side of the other team. We believe that he can facilitate offense, he can be a contributor, but his calling card is going to have to be that he is the most annoying guy to play against. The other team absolutely hates it when he rolls the board; they’re worried about him, they’re concentrated on him. The other team’s goalie is having to manage him in the paint. The other team is chirping him before faceoffs. He has to be peskier to play against. That’s going to be his avenue to the NHL. It’s not going to be as an offensive player; it’s going to be as a gritty, team-first, and dynamic pest that is out there killing penalties and doing everything he can to get the other club off their game. Then he pounces, he has enough skill to pounce on it and make plays, but that has to be something that is secondary for him. He has to be that annoying player to go against. We’re seeing glimpses of it, but it’s not often enough. … Sometimes for a guy like that, who needs to inject a little bit more of that pest — that F-you on it — he’s going to have to learn that.
AATU JAMSEN: Forward, Pelicans (7th round pick in 2020, Finland)
Last Season: 18 goals, 38 assists, plus-23, 40 PIM in 36 games played (U20 SM-sarja)
Immediately following the 2020 NHL Draft, I had an NHL executive not affiliated with the Kings text me that Chromiak and Jamsen could be the steals of the weekend. He’s pushing for a roster spot on Team Finland at the upcoming World Juniors, after participating in their summer evaluation camp a few months ago. More recently, Jamsen suffered some neck whiplash on a hit from behind and he ended up missing several games. However, he returned to action just a few days ago, making his Liiga debut with the Pelicans, scoring a goal and assist.
As one scout noted to us, Jamsen just needs to bulk up, physically speaking. Other than that, the tools, compete, and drive are there. How he performs this season will be interesting to track. He was a rookie in the U20 league and finished second in scoring. Jamsen is hardly ever hit. “He’s a slippery snake on the ice and produces consistently,” said one NHL scout in Europe. Defensively, his play without the puck is very good and he doesn’t cheat. The big question will be, can his game translate as he moves up a level this season?
Our previous scouting notes on Jamsen can be found here.
ANDRE LEE: Forward, UMass-Lowell River Hawks (7th round pick in 2019, USHL)
Last Season: 7 goals, 9 assists, plus-7, 18 PIM in 20 games played (NCAA)
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it dozens of times – don’t sleep on Lee. Sure, he was drafted in the seventh round, so he’s not as sexy of a pick as a Vilardi or Turcotte. Yet, he caught our eye the very first time he attend Dev Camp a few summers ago – and not just because he stands about 6-foot-5. Lee has silky smooth hands, especially around the net. And Kings Director of Player Personnel, Nelson Emerson, has joined us on the podcast to talk up Lee, as well.
LA Kings prospect @Andrelee71 – again, with the clutch goals… https://t.co/MZkKG1rI9Y
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) February 10, 2021
LA Kings prospect @Andrelee71 with a HUGE goal! (see below)
And now UML has tied the game 4-4 with only a few minutes remaining in regulation. 4-4 https://t.co/YHwxPRYoCu
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) March 17, 2021
Last year, in his second college season, Lee was a primary part of the UMass offense. Not only did he have 16 points in 20 games, he also had a knack for scoring timely goals. Perhaps none bigger than in the Hockey East tournament. Lowell is expected to be a top-20 ranked school when the NCAA preseason polls come out soon. Their head coach, Andy Jones, often had Lee on his top line last year. We’ll expect more of the same this season.
Need more? Lee was also a fantastic guest on Kings Of The Podcast. If you missed it, do yourself a favor and click here to listen to more of his story.
KASPER SIMONTAIVAL: Forward, KalPa (3rd round pick in 2020, Finland)
Last Season: 3 goals, 4 assists, plus-1, 4 PIM in 5 games played (Mestis)
Last Season: 3 goals, 4 assists, plus-3, 8 PIM in 30 games played (Liiga)
Last year, Simontaival split time between two leagues, and played for Finland at the World Juniors. We gave him a solid B for his performance last time around and he’s expected to be a featured player on the team again at this year’s tournament.
Overall, Simontaival still needs to work on his explosiveness and being harder to play against without the puck. He has the instincts and the vision, along with the deception, to produce. However, his stamina and play on the defensive side of the puck is still rather average. Like a handful of other Kings prospects, Simontaival was recently a little banged up; to the point it kept him out of his KalPa debut last week.
Perhaps knowing this report would publish today, Simontaival recorded a pair of goals across the pond.
Kasper Simontaival with 2 goals in his first game of the season #GoKingsGo https://t.co/PY2Uo2jyQo
— The Armchair Scout (@Davidenkness) September 17, 2021
Other Players in the System:
To be clear, Andersson really doesn’t belong here. He’s already played 89 NHL games and will turn 23 years old in a few weeks. By our standards, he’s no longer a prospect. Assuming that people will ask about him — as he’s sort of a tweener at this point; having split time between the AHL and NHL last season — we opted to include a few notes here.
Originally drafted seventh overall by the New York Rangers in 2017, he came to Los Angeles via a trade last October. In his first season with the Kings organization, Andersson was a consistent producer with AHL Ontario, recording 17 points in 15 games. Over the course of 23 games in LA, he managed three goals and three assists. However, that likely isn’t a true representation of what Andersson can do, as he was bounced around to different lines and different positions while coach Todd McLellan was working through other roster issues last season.
Moving forward, Andersson is expected to play wing (on the left side more than right), not center. Giving him a more consistent role should see him settle in and gain more confidence as the 2021-22 season wears on. He’s also out of waivers now, which is why we have him penciled into LA’s opening night lineup.
If we had a label for ‘One to Watch’ this season, Laferriere definitely fits the bill. Over the last two seasons he’s been better than a point-per-game player in the USHL, recording seasons of 19 and 26 goals. In his NHL Draft year, Laferriere posted 45 points in 42 games for the Des Moines Buccaneers, then backed that up with 50 points in 49 games last year. Looking ahead, he’s set to join Harvard this season as a freshman.
Quick notes on LA Kings pick at No. 83, Alex Laferriere (RW, USHL) – Was a top rookie in the USHL. Lead prep school in scoring a year ago. Highly skilled winger who was very small just 20 months ago, now he’s about 6-foot. Great hands and instincts offensively. Top six potential.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) October 7, 2020
More scouting notes on Laferriere can be found in a previous MM article here.
He’s a real question mark at the moment. We’d assume LA really isn’t sure what they have with the 6-foot-2 winger. He looks like he should be a hockey player in North America. However, the jury is still out. His initial foray into the organization produced rather pedestrian results, just two goals over 48 games played during the 2019-20 season. He started last season in Europe, but then underwent back surgery and missed all of the 2021 AHL season. Surprisingly, he was very noticeable at Dev Camp last month in LA. There were a lot of bigger name prospects on the ice and he did not look out of place one bit. In fact, he was one of the the more impressive players during the end-of-week scrimmage.
Wrobo End of Season Interview: Talking LA Kings Prospects, Ontario Reign Summary
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