Kings prospects had a taste of deep playoff runs in 2013-14

By Jason Lewis

Nick Ebert - Guelph Storm

Photo: Defenseman Nick Ebert, acquired via trade in December, led the Storm defense in scoring during the club’s OHL Championship run and trip to the Memorial Cup final (courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

The Los Angeles Kings are in the midst of a deep playoff run, one that is eerily similar to their 2011-12 cup run. Outside of that though, there have been a ton of prospects competing with the Los Angeles Kings prospect tag by their name in all of the playoff competitions across the globe.

With several NCAA seniors playing for their last time, an AHL team trying to cash in on a fantastic regular season, and several CHL juggernauts storming towards a Memorial Cup appearance, the Kings had plenty of action going on in their pipeline. Let us take a look at how the King prospects performed in their respective playoff runs.

NHL

Tanner Pearson is the only noteworthy prospect dressing on a regular basis for the Los Angeles Kings in their playoff run. Martin Jones has appeared in two games in relief of Jonathan Quick but has not started a game. Pearson on the other hand has had a rather strong post season with the team. His speed has been a huge benefit to the Kings thus far, and along with former Monarch line mate and prospect Tyler Toffoli, the combination has given the squad a useful boost of speed and energy. The former first round selection has been a wrecking ball for the Kings and now has 12 points in 19 playoff games, including four goals and a plus-9 rating. It looks very much like Pearson has come of age in these playoffs, and is contributing on a level that could help the Kings win their second cup in three years. All the scouting reports that pinned Pearson as a hard-nosed forward with a solid work ethic and knack for the net seem to be ringing true. Darryl Sutter has showed a tremendous amount of trust in the young forward as well, playing him on the penalty kill, power play, and in late game situations. It has truly been a great playoffs for Pearson.

AHL

After an incredible regular season, which saw the Monarchs nab the top seed in the Eastern Conference, they were disappointingly ousted in the first round at the hands of the St. John’s Ice Caps three games to one. The Monarchs offense mustered just six goals in the four games, leaving Jean-Francois Berube very little goal support. No doubt he was the best player for the Monarchs in the playoffs, posting a 1.67 goals against average and a .936 save percentage. The one victory the Monarchs did get was a shutout as well.

Jordan Weal and Linden Vey were held goalless in the series, along with NCAA transfer Michael Mersch, Steve Quailer, Nick Shore, and Scott Sabourin. Andy Andreoff and Jordan Weal finished up with three points apiece in the series to lead the team overall. Defensively the Monarchs looked solid, and the blue line crew that included prospects Brayden McNabb, Derek Forbort, and Colin Miller should be proud of their work. The offense just did not come around for Manchester when they needed it and that ultimately sealed their fate.

NCAA

The Kings had a number of players participate in the NCAA Div. I Tournament. However, none of them had tournaments to remember like last season. Mersch and Wisconsin went crashing out in the first round at the hands of lower-seeded North Dakota. St. Cloud State could not match its dream run of last year and was beaten by top-seed Minnesota 4-0 in the second round, thus ending the college careers of Kevin Gravel and Nic Dowd. Dowd was capable of some heroics for his Huskies squad, scoring with two minutes left in the first overtime period of their first round match up with upper seeded Notre Dame to pull off the upset. Jonny Brodzinski also added a marker in the contest. Paul LaDue had probably the most memorable run of King prospects, as North Dakota knocked off both Wisconsin and Ferris State before losing a heartbreaker to Minnesota in the last second of the game. The young rookie has put together a stellar campaign this year and it was capped off with a somewhat unexpected run to the semifinals by UND. Joel Lowry and Cornell did not make the end of the year NCAA tournament. They did however make it to the ECAC semifinals along with three teams who made the dance in Colgate, Quinnipiac, and eventual champions, Union.

CHL

Kings had a number of prospects on the Memorial Cup runner-up Guelph Storm. Guelph had a tremendous season in the OHL, and the play of Nick Ebert and Zachary Leslie helped the team make a strong finish to the year and clinch a berth in the Memorial Cup. After a strong tournament that saw the Storm reach the finals, the dream run was halted by the Edmonton Oil Kings in the finals. Ebert ended the tournament second amongst defensemen in scoring and looked to take a big step forward in his development. The former seventh round selection was traded to Guelph from Windsor at the deadline and rewarded the Storm with a 16-point playoff campaign. Leslie also proved quite capable, registering three assists in four Memorial Cup games on top of having 10 points in Guelph’s 20-game OHL championship run. Justin Auger also factored into the Storm lineup, which was good to see after suffering a year hampered with injuries.

Elsewhere in the OHL, Kurtis MacDermid and the Erie Otters made a great run to the Western Conference semifinals, losing out to the eventual champions in the Guelph Storm. MacDermid notched three assists in the 12 playoff appearances and continued, as he has all year, to be a big physical presence on the blue line.

In the QMJHL, Baie-Comeau and Valentin Zykov crashed out in heartbreaking fashion. They lost in seven game in the QMJHL finals to Val-d’Or and just missed out on a Memorial Cup appearance. Zykov however was incredibly strong in the postseason as the team’s second-leading scorer. He recorded 22 points in 22 playoff games, a point behind teammate and exciting Canadiens prospect Jérémy Grégoire.

The lone WHL representative in the post-season for the Kings was Alex Roach, whose Calgary Hitmen squad was ousted at the hands of Kootenay in six games.

Europe

Nikolai Prokhorkin, having been a major factor in the CSKA Moscow offense for the majority of the year, could not continue his fine run of form in the KHL playoffs. Moscow was swept out of the first round by the lower seeded Spartak, and Prokhorkin tallied just a goal and an assist in his four games and was a minus-one rating. All things considered, it was a fine year for the young Russian.

Follow Jason Lewis on Twitter via @SirJDL

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