Enough is enough. Let’s wrap up the 2021 LA Kings Prospect Rankings.
As noted in an article last week, we appreciate everybody’s patience, as getting to this year’s Top 10 has taken much longer than originally expected.
For context, our LA Kings Prospect Rankings usually come out in late-January or early-February. 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 our full Top 10 and Honorable Mentions — completed this past January. However, multiple delays behind the scenes prevented anything from publishing until recently.
As a reminder, for the historical continuity of tracking our rankings over time, we’re now publishing the rankings ‘as is’ from the January slotting of players. Thus, nothing that took place from January through August 2021 has impacted the rankings. Further, because we’re publishing the ‘January’ rankings here, any player selected in July at the 2021 NHL Draft (i.e. Brandt Clarke, etc.) has not been factored in yet. They will appear in the next edition of our rankings, coming in early 2022.
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.
Three players who meet the age criteria for a prospect, yet have been removed from the process, are Toby Bjornfot, Gabe Vilardi, and Lias Andersson. For the purpose of these rankings, all three have graduated to the NHL. Our usual bench mark is around 50 NHL games of experience. Vilardi (64) and Andersson (89) have met the threshold; although Bjornfot (36) technically hasn’t yet, he is expected to be a full-time NHL player during the 2021-22 season.
Previously published this year:
LA Kings 2021 Prospect Rankings – Five Honorable Mentions: Defensemen – includes Jacob Moverare, Sean Durzi, etc.
LA Kings 2021 Prospect Rankings – Five Honorable Mentions: Forwards – includes Martin Chromiak, Aidan Dudas, etc.
2021’s Top 10 Prospects
JARET ANDERSON-DOLAN: Forward, Ontario Reign (2nd round pick in 2017, WHL)
Last Season: 7 goals, 4 assists, minus-9, 6 PIM in 34 games played (NHL)
Despite playing up with the LA Kings last season, JAD finds himself back in the AHL due to a roster squeeze. For the final year of his Entry Level Contract, he is expected to split time between center and wing with the Reign. He could also see spot duty back in the NHL at times this season due to being waiver exempt. That will not be an option next year. This, his major focus in 2021-22 will be to prove to management that he belongs in the NHL full-time next season.
TYLER MADDEN – Forward, Ontario Reign (3rd round pick in 2018, USHL)
2021 Season: 1 goal, 4 assists, even plus-minus, 2 PIM in 14 games played (AHL)
Madden was injured early in the season and did not return until right before the regular season ended. His sample size last season was really too small to draw any sweeping conclusions. It wouldn’t be that surprising to see him return to his previous form as a Top 5 Prospect in the Kings system.
9. JORDAN SPENCE – Defenseman, Val d’Or Foreurs (4th round pick in 2019, QMJHL)
2021 Season: 10 goals, 30 assists, plus-10, 14 PIM in 32 games (QMJHL)
All eyes will be on this first-year pro in 2021-22. He’s coming off of being named Rookie of the Year in the Q, followed by being named Defensive Player of the Year. As if that’s not enough, he put up 20 points in 15 playoff games for his junior club last season. Ontario coach John Wroblewski will be looking for the 5-foot-10 defender to add a significant punch to the Reign blue line.
8. HELGE GRANS – Defenseman, Malmo Redhawks (2nd round pick in 2020, Sweden)
2021 Season: 3 goals, 9 assists, minus-21, 0 PIM in 43 games (SHL)
Not your typical first-year pro in North America this season. Grans played with and against older players in Sweden last season. A converted forward, ice time should only aid in his play on the defensive side of the puck. Even so, he made the World Junior team after improving his gap control and proving to be a power play contributor, among other areas. Has a good frame, with still some room to fill out more.
7. SAMMY FAGEMO – Forward, Ontario Reign (2nd round pick in 2019, Sweden)
2021 Season: 6 G, 5 A, plus-0, 4 PIM in 18 games (Allsvenskan)
2021 Season: 10 G, 8 A, minus-1, 4 PIM in 32 games (AHL)
Even though the AHL season didn’t start until January, Fagemo had already been playing some hockey prior to that, having signed with a second-tier club back home in Sweden. Over 32 games with the Reign last season, he adjusted just fine. He’s a large volume shooter, who consistently puts the puck on net. His role isn’t that of a true sniper, yet he can rack up enough points by virtue of teammates hammering in rebounds. Now, management will be looking to take his development to the next level – including providing more offense at 5-on-5.
6. AKIL THOMAS – Forward, Ontario Reign (2nd round pick in 2018, OHL)
2021 Season: 11 G, 15 A, minus-4, 12 PIM in 40 GP (AHL)
Thomas has adjusted well to the professional ranks. While his skating and grit are often called out when discussing his abilities, Thomas’ developing shot is making him even more of a threat. Like Fagemo above, Thomas now has a year of AHL pro hockey under his belt. Unfortunately, he had double shoulder surgery over the summer and is expected to be sidelined until around late November. Once he gets going again, look for him to quickly eclipse what he’s already accomplished. Back in May, Thomas was named ‘Most Likely to Breakout in 2021-22’ in the Reign End of Season Awards (read here).
5. RASMUS KUPARI – Forward, Ontario Reign (1st round pick in 2018, Finland)
Last Season: 12 goals, 21 assists, plus-13, 65 PIM in 43 games played (Finland)
This Season: 6 goals, 2 assists, minus-8, 9 PIM in 27 games played (AHL)
The ranking here is more reflective of other players moving up than him moving down. He has had a nice return to the professional ranks since coming back from injury, and seemed to respond well to Wroblewski challenging him to utilize his teammates more. He’s also another player who split time between Europe and the AHL last season due to the pandemic. Kupari still has two more years remaining on his Entry Level contract, which should be ample time to sort out an important question – Is he a wing or a center? We believe more of the former; time will tell. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him bounce up and down between the AHL and NHL over the next 12-18 months, as the Kings continue to evaluate what they truly have in the 21-year-old forward.
4. BROCK FABER – Defenseman, University of Minnesota (2nd round pick in 2020, USA)
2021 Season: 1 goal, 11 assists, plus-17, 14 PIM in 27 games played (NCAA)
Of all the players in the Top 10, the one with the most momentum just might be Faber. He earned a gold medal with Team USA at the World Junior Championship and a B1G TEN championship back in college, while quickly working his way up the lineup for both teams. His composure under pressure is unmatched. He also earned plenty of recognition for his fantastic freshman outing. Expected to turn pro as early as April 2022, this could be a pivotal season for the young rearguard. He’s expected to be one of the featured players for Team USA at the upcoming World Junior Championship, and will likely serve as one of the alternate captains.
3. ARTHUR KALIYEV – Forward, Ontario Reign (2nd round pick in 2019, OHL)
Last Season: 14 goals, 17 assists, plus-4, 24 PIM in 40 games played (AHL)
Beyond playing a full season for the Reign last year, Kaliyev also played one game in the NHL – making his debut for the Kings and even scoring a goal. Like Byfield, he benefited from extenuating circumstances to develop at a level of competition most appropriate for him. The bigger stage didn’t bother him a bit, as he was named Player of the Year coming off his rookie campagin.
2. ALEX TURCOTTE – Forward, Ontario Reign (1st round pick in 2019, USNTDP)
Last Season: 6 goals, 15 assists, minus-2, 20 PIM in 32 games played (AHL)
His production and rhythm took a hit as he missed a few weeks due to injury early last season. He turns the intensity up when he’s on, and he contributes to the pace of the game. Although many are in a hurry to rush him to the NHL — especially when they look at other first round picks from 2019 — looking at the broader picture is important. Turcotte has played the fewest games of any Kings prospect over the past three season, partially due to injury, yet also due to circumstance as well (i.e. playing in the USHL and NCAA limited the scheduled games he could have even played in). Like is often repeated when discussing prospects, patience will be the key with Turcotte. He’s a driver when he’s on the ice and coaches appreciate all the little things he does to help create offense for his linemates. Turcotte’s .66 points-per-game last season in Ontario was on par with the team leaders. He’s sneaky good and should only get better.
1. QUINTON BYFIELD – Forward, Ontario Reign (1st round pick in 2019, USNTDP)
Last Season: 8 goals, 12 assists, minus-9, 24 PIM in 32 games played (AHL)
Thanks to the pandemic shutting down the OHL, Byfield was able to play in the AHL – which was actually the perfect scenario for his development. Under normal times, he would not have been eligible for the American League. Additionally, late in the 2021 season, he was also able to suit up for six NHL games with the Kings. Purely looking at his stats doesn’t tell the story. It took him all of about 10 AHL games to adjust to pro hockey. The NHL is not a developmental league, so the opportunity to round out his game against professionals in the AHL is tremendous. Barring an overly impressive training camp, the working plan is for him to start the season back in Ontario and then hopefully work his way up to LA in the second half of the season. Understanding why the Kings signed Philip Danault this summer helps greatly in understanding the narrative here.
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