Kings Top 20 Prospects, Fall 2008

By David A. Rainer

With a glaring need for top prospects on the blueline, GM Dean Lombardi entered the 2008 Entry Draft looking to fill that hole in the prospect depth charts.  Lombardi would use three of the first 32 choices of the Entry Draft to take defensemen, including Drew Doughty with the second overall pick.  Now well stocked in defensemen, the Kings will need to find a way to fill the gap between now and when each is ready to step into the NHL.

Top 20 at a glance

1. (NR) Drew Doughty, D
2. (1) Jonathan Bernier, G
3. (2) Thomas Hickey, D
4. (NR) Colten Teubert, D
5. (3) Ted Purcell, RW
6. (5) Oscar Moller, RW
7. (6) Brian Boyle, C
8. (4) Trevor Lewis, C
9. (7) Wayne Simmonds, RW
10. (NR) Vyacheslav Voinov, D
11. (9) Matt Moulson, LW
12. (10) Jeff Zatkoff, G
13. (8) Peter Harrold, D
14. (12) Jonathan Quick, G
15. (18) Alec Martinez, D
16. (16) Bud Holloway, C
17. (13) David Meckler, C
18. (14) Scott Parse, LW
19. (17) Marc-Andre Cliche, RW
20. (NR) Geordie Wudrick, LW

1. (NR) Drew Doughty, D

Fresh from the 2008 Entry Draft, Doughty makes his debut on the Kings Top 20 in the first overall position.  After great deliberation, the Kings selected Doughty second overall in the draft with the expectation that he will be the cornerstone piece on the blueline for the next decade.

There is little that Doughty lacks.  Intelligent and highly skilled with leadership qualities, he will attend training camp in Los Angeles with a strong opportunity to win a roster spot, if not fulltime, then for the first nine games permitted before being optioned back to his junior squad.  Regardless of what training camp ultimately holds for Doughty, it is more a matter of when, not if, he will make significant contributions to Los Angeles.  With the most upside of any prospect in the Kings organization, and playing at a position that is in desperate need by Los Angeles, Doughty is the team’s future No. 1 defenseman and is the offensive counterpart to the physical, steady play of blue-chipper Jack Johnson.

2. (1) Jonathan Bernier, G

Stepping aside to make room for Doughty at the top of this list, but with no less expectation or excitement, is Jonathan Bernier.  The margin between the two prospects is slim, but whereas Bernier is on track to be a very good NHL goaltender, Doughty can be the very best at his position.  But Bernier is just as important to the future of the Los Angeles Kings.

In camp, Bernier will have a strong opportunity to make the opening night roster.  But Bernier will need to beat out other goaltenders with more NHL experience to win a spot.  As it will be better for his development to play a full season in the AHL than backup duty in the NHL, Bernier might be spending most of his time as the clear No. 1 goaltender for Manchester in the upcoming season.  If the handful of AHL regular season games that Bernier played in at the end of last season are any indication, he might prove to already be too good for the league and find himself in Los Angeles soon enough as the best candidate to be the first homegrown starter for Los Angeles in franchise history.  But the Kings should be smart with his development and not rush him into situations he is not yet prepared for, even when the clamor of the fans for his return to Los Angeles become deafening.

3. (2) Thomas Hickey, D

While Doughty and Bernier are clearly the top two prospects for the Kings, Thomas Hickey is the strong leader of the second tier of prospects, comprising those with high NHL potential but not at an elite level.  Hickey was drafted as an offensive defenseman, but has recently shown a bit of grittiness to his game that will help him adapt to, and compete at, the NHL level if he can add a few more pounds of muscle to a relatively slight frame.  He has already signed an entry-level contract with the Kings, but still has junior eligibility left, leaving an option to return to Seattle of the WHL should he not make the Kings roster in camp.  With no less than four prospects from this Top 20 list battling for the final defensive roster spot on the Kings, it is likely that Hickey will return to the WHL for the upcoming season.  Doughty and Johnson are penciled in as the future top defensive pairing for Los Angeles, but the offensive skills of Hickey match up perfectly with the physical aggression of Teubert to form a potent future second pairing.

4. (NR) Colten Teubert, D

The second of two first-round choices for Los Angeles during the 2008 Entry Draft, Teubert was the product of a series of trades that began with Michael Cammalleri being moved to the Calgary Flames.  Lombardi went into the draft wishing to obtain a second pick in the top 15 to add even more talent to a beleaguered system of defensive prospects.  Where Doughty is an elite all-around defensive prospect, Teubert adds that big and physical element on the blueline that only Johnson has been able to provide in the system.  Teubert plays a style that is absolutely necessary on any roster, but he has a limited offensive ceiling, especially in comparison to Doughty and Hickey.  His physique, attitude and mental make-up are premium attributes of Teubert as a future defensive defenseman for Los Angeles.

5. (3) Ted Purcell, RW

The first forward appears on this list at No. 5.  But with the likes of Anze Kopitar, Patrick O’Sullivan, Dustin Brown and Alexander Frolov all 26 years of age or younger, there is little immediate need for a forward on the NHL roster.  As such, the Kings have concentrated more on defense and goaltender in recent drafts.  Purcell joined the organization as an undrafted free agent out of college hockey and immediately dominated the AHL as a rookie, posting exceptional goal, assist and point totals.  His play with Manchester earned him a call-up to Los Angeles where he more than held his own.  Purcell is on the brink of making the NHL roster full time and will be yet another young forward added to an already robust stable of skilled 20-somethings upon which the Kings are building their future.

6. (5) Oscar Moller, RW

After being drafted in 2007, Moller went on an offensive run with Chilliwack of the WHL that vaulted his name to the top of most up-and-coming lists.  He will have his opportunity to show that his offensive streak was not a fluke during training camp, but with as many young forwards already on the NHL roster as the Kings have, as well as a number of others in Manchester pushing for playing time, Moller is likely to spend another season in juniors.  Following up the 2007-08 season with another equally stout performance will bring Moller to Manchester at the end of this season as arguably Manchester’s best pure goal scorer.  As the long-term roster for the Kings begins to take shape over the next couple of seasons, look for Moller to push for playing time and take over the spot of such current veterans as Kyle Calder or Derek Armstrong.

7. (6) Brian Boyle, C

When Boyle was drafted in 2003, it was widely recognized that he was a long-range developmental project who required patience.  Five years later, the investment in Boyle is finally beginning to pay dividends.  Temporarily converted to a defenseman in an attempt to capture a higher ceiling as a No. 1 defenseman instead of an energy forward, Boyle returned to his natural position of center midway through the 2007-08 season with a better understanding of the defensive positioning of a forward.  While the conversion did not bear fruit in terms of a top defenseman, it made Boyle a better two-way center, one who can match up against the opposition’s elite scoring center and shut him down.  In a brief stint with Los Angeles last season, Boyle more than impressed, holding his own defensively and demonstrating his ability to score near the crease.  Boyle will likely break camp on the Los Angeles roster and be slotted in as the third or fourth line center.  If the season progresses as hoped, Boyle may graduate from prospect status before the next ranking of Kings prospects.

8. (4) Trevor Lewis, C

Up to this point in his career, Lewis has been more potential than production.  With a full season of professional hockey under his belt, he needs to start converting that potential into goals as Manchester will be relying heavily on the young forward.  Lewis demonstrated good offensive skills and skating ability last season, even if he struggled to find the back of the net for the Monarchs.  But Lewis is still only 21 years of age and not lacking in his skill set.  He needs to refine his game and start translating his smooth skating and puck control into points for his team.  Other Kings prospects have jumped over Lewis on the depth charts as they have shown that their game is successful in the professional ranks whereas Lewis still needs to make his mark.  He will get his opportunity this season, his second of professional hockey, as one of the lead forwards for Manchester.

9. (7) Wayne Simmonds, RW

Simmonds has come a long way in only a single season.  Drafted as a relative unknown, he attended training camp very thin on his 6’2 frame and extremely raw in skills.  Nevertheless, he impressed enough that the Kings kept him in camp for as long as possible before finally being returned to juniors just before the end of preseason.  Simmonds did not score at the record pace that Moller did, but contributed at a steady pace throughout the season, both in terms of points, physical play and leadership.  His all-around game led to being named to Team Canada for the U20 World Juniors Championship, a difficult task in itself.  Because Simmonds has more of a physical game than a skilled game, he is a perfect candidate to be thrust onto the Kings roster at a young age and learn on the job, similar to the path taken by Dustin Brown.

10. (NR) Vyacheslav Voinov, D

The third of three defensemen on this list taken by the Kings during the 2008 Entry Draft, Voinov has already signed an entry-level contract and will be playing in North America, the ultimate location to be determined in training camp.  Voinov is a skilled offensive defenseman who, at this young age, sometimes is overly aggressive.  Like Simmonds, Voinov is very raw.  But because Voinov plays on defense, a position difficult to learn at the NHL level, and his game is more skilled, he is likely to spend much more time in the minor leagues honing his raw skills than Simmonds.  The current controversy over Voinov’s signing with the Kings to the dismay of the Continental Hockey League (KHL) may impact his development as there is uncertainty over when Voinov should be permitted to cross to North America.  Regardless of the finer legal points to the transition, Voinov had expressed a clear interest in coming to North America immediately, the first step in his development as an NHL defenseman.

11. (9) Matt Moulson, LW

Along with Boyle and Purcell, it is anticipated that Moulson will either break camp with the Kings or be called up shortly into the season.  He exceeded all expectations last season by finishing at a point per game pace in the AHL and contributing solid secondary scoring for the Kings early in the season.  He has proven that he can compete at the NHL level and Los Angeles might provide him the opportunity to do so on a full-time basis this season.  He has solid scoring abilities from the left side, which makes him a valuable commodity as, on average, points from the left wing position are harder to come by than the right wing.  He does not have as high of an upside as other forwards on this list, but can and will be a solid contributor at the NHL level.

12. (10) Jeff Zatkoff, G

Bernier is not the only goaltender in the Kings system with legitimate NHL starting potential.  Zatkoff left college hockey early, signing an entry-level contract during the offseason.  With Bernier and Jonathan Quick already in the system, it will be tough for Zatkoff to find significant playing time.  But the Kings were high enough on Zatkoff to bring him into the already packed minor league system to begin his training under the watchful eyes of the Kings coaching staff.  He does not have the future franchise goaltender tag that Bernier has, but can be a solid and steady No. 1 goaltender in the right situation.  He will spend a couple of seasons in the minor leagues before he can be expected to see meaningful minutes in the NHL, whether with Los Angeles or with another organization.  If both Bernier and Zatkoff develop to their full potential, the Kings will have a valuable trading chip in Zatkoff that they can use to fill any hole in their roster in future years.  Or, if Bernier falters, Zatkoff is a good insurance policy to have.

13. (8) Peter Harrold, D

Seemingly on the brink of joining the NHL squad since he was signed by the Kings during the 2006 offseason, it appears Harrold has finally earned his opportunity.  He received spot call-ups from Manchester over the past two seasons, but never showed enough to force the Kings to keep him on the roster.  But with the exodus of veteran defensemen from the NHL roster, the road is paved with ice time for Harrold entering this season.  He is an offensive defenseman who can be lost or overpowered by the opposition at times.  The Kings are hoping that he can correct some of these positioning issues with on-the-job training.  He will likely never be more than a third pairing defenseman with spot power-play duty, but he is serviceable enough at the NHL level for now.

14. (12) Jonathan Quick, G

Sometimes lost in the race between Bernier and Zatkoff to the NHL is Jonathan Quick.  He has proved just as much at the collegiate level as Zatkoff, has already appeared in an NHL game like Bernier, and showed more pure athleticism in net than both. It might be the competition between the three that pushes each to reach higher developmental levels as each will have more incentive to practice and work on their skills year-round to earn the precious few playing minutes available in the farm system.  Again, if Bernier develops to his full potential, Quick could fill the role as the solid backup in Los Angeles or as trade bait.  With three goaltenders with legitimate NHL ability already in the minor leagues, there are a number of possibilities available to the Kings and a degree of uncertainty as to the future destinations of the three netminders.

15. (18) Alec Martinez, D

With no graduations from these rankings, it stands to reason that most prospects would drop a couple of spots as new faces from the 2008 Entry Draft are added.  But Martinez is one of the few prospects who actually moves up after an outstanding season with Miami University.  He demonstrated enough skill and maturity last season to seriously be considered a viable candidate to join Los Angeles as early as this season.  Martinez is a two-way defenseman with respectable enough skating ability to keep pace with the forwards at the NHL level.  He does not have as high of a ceiling as the first three defensemen on this list, but like Harrold, can be serviceable enough at the NHL level.  If he does not join Los Angeles to start the season, he will likely take the spot in Manchester vacated by Harrold’s promotion to the Kings.

16. (16) Bud Holloway, C

The heart and soul of the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) will be on the move to Manchester this season and try to bring the same two-way game that made him a popular player in Seattle.  While he scored at a point per game pace last season, do not look to Holloway to put up points in bulk during his professional career.  He is a prospect who will need to find his niche in the NHL as a two-way forward on the third line.  Holloway can be an on-ice leader and excels on the penalty kill as well as at even strength.  The more intangibles he can bring to the table, the better his chances of getting to the NHL.  For now, Holloway will need to work his way up the ranks as other, more skilled forwards will receive the opportunities in Los Angeles, leaving plenty of playing time in Manchester to show the coaching staff what he can bring to the table.

17. (13) David Meckler, C

David Meckler is another former Monarch forward expected to step up and assume a larger role with the departure of Boyle, Purcell and Moulson.  He provided solid secondary scoring for the Monarchs last season and plays a style that results in most his goals coming from within arm’s length of the goaltender, similar to the role played by Boyle on the power play last season.  It is likely that Meckler will fill Boyle’s shoes in Manchester.  If Meckler makes it to Los Angeles, it will be as a high energy player on the third or fourth line who will stay physical deep in the both zones and bang home loose pucks for hard-fought goals.  But right now, the Los Angeles roster is crawling with grinding forwards under contract and Meckler will have to wait for his opportunity or beat the incumbents outright.

18. (14) Scott Parse, LW

A series of injuries derailed Scott Parse’s season from the very start.  He never was able to fully show what he is capable of as he was constantly either rehabilitating an injury or trying to play his way back into game shape.  While injuries can raise a red flag for a player’s future development, it would be difficult to count injuries against a player who prior to this had never been an injury concern.  Parse deserves a mulligan for last season and should be judged based upon what he does from this point on.  He entered last season as a solid, potential second or third line play-making forward and still retains this potential.  He will join Manchester for the coming season and a quick start could erase the memories of his lost 2007-08 season.

19. (17) Marc-Andre Cliche, RW

With his speed and defensive awareness, Cliche will likely be a fourth line and penalty killing specialist at the NHL level, but may develop into a third line center similar to former King Eric Belanger.  The one hurdle to Cliche’s rise to the NHL is the number of fourth line forwards the Kings already have under contract.  Other organizations do not typically line up at the door to acquire a fourth line forward, so Cliche will need to wait for other contracts to expire or an opening due to injury.  Until that time, he will work on the offensive aspects to his game in Manchester.  There might be other forwards in the Kings system who have more offensive ability who did not make this list, but none are better at the defensive side of the game than Cliche.

20. (NR) Geordie Wudrick, LW

The last of the four new draftees added to this list, Wudrick mixes scoring ability with brute force.  At 6’3, 204 and still filling into his frame, he has the prototypical power forward skill set from the left side.  The great benefit of a player like Wudrick is that even if he does not reach his top potential, he possesses enough skating ability and physique to make contributions in a defensive role.  If his scoring ability can round out in a few years, he might resemble the Tomas Holmstrom type player the Kings have been searching for on their third line since Scott Barney and Jens Karlsson were drafted.  Wudrick will return to Swift Current of the WHL to continue his development and is still a number of years away from reaching the Los Angeles roster.

Missing the cut: Bryan Cameron, Gabe Gauthier, Linden Rowat, Drew Bagnall