Kings Top 20 prospects, Spring 2009

By David A. Rainer

Top 20 at a glance

1. Oscar Moller 8.0B
2. Thomas Hickey 8.0C
3. Jonathan Bernier 8.0C
4. Jonathan Quick 7.5C
5. Colten Teubert 7.5C
6. Ted Purcell 7.0C
7. Vyacheslav Voinov 7.0C
8. Brian Boyle 7.0C
9. Trevor Lewis 7.0C
10. Martin Jones 7.0C
11. Matt Moulson 7.0C
12. Jeff Zatkoff 7.0C
13. Alec Martinez 6.0C
14. Bryan Cameron 6.0C
15. Justin Azevedo 7.0F
16. Andrei Loktionov 6.5D
17. Garrett Roe 6.5D
18. Scott Parse 6.5D
19. Marc-Andre Cliche 6.0C
20. Dwight King 6.0C

1. (6) Oscar Moller, RW

2nd round, 52nd overall, 2007

Only a shoulder injury sustained during the World Junior Championships prevented Moller from graduating before the release of this ranking.  Having secured himself with a roster spot with the Kings during training camp, Moller hit the ground running in his first season in professional hockey.  Even with major junior hockey eligibility remaining, Moller broke camp with the Kings and contributed solid all-around play on the third line, including spot starts as a top-six forward.  By the time the Kings released Moller to play for Team Sweden during the WJCs, Moller was skating a regular shift as a top-six forward.  A shoulder injury, which was sustained during the tournament but diagnosed as a broken clavicle only after the tournament, kept Moller from returning to the Kings.  He is already back from his injury and contributing once again to the Los Angeles efforts to make the playoffs.  Moller is already a top-six caliber forward for the Kings and is still developing with a strong possibility of being a top-line forward.

2. (3) Thomas Hickey, D
1st round, 4th overall, 2007

Having tremendously raised his stock since the beginning of the season, Hickey might be No. 2 in these rankings but is nearly in a dead heat with Moller as the top Kings prospect.  Hickey was unable to earn a roster spot with Los Angeles during training camp and was returned to Seattle of the WHL.  Concentrating more on his defensive game and shutting down the opposition, Hickey’s offensive numbers took a dip to begin the season with Seattle.  After anchoring a stellar Team Canada during the WJCs, Hickey returned to the Thunderbirds and exploded offensively without neglecting the defensive responsibilities that he focused on to begin the season.  Hickey is recognized as the clear best defenseman on the ice most nights irrespective of the team the Thunderbirds are playing.  It appears that Hickey is ready to make the move to professional hockey and may be emerging onto the Los Angeles roster to begin the 2009-10 season.

3. (2) Jonathan Bernier, G

1st round, 11th overall, 2006

The developmental process is often simply about converting potential to production.  This aspect has been missing from Bernier this season en route to losing out to Jonathan Quick for a promotion to Los Angeles and Daniel Taylor as the starter in net for the Manchester Monarchs.  The season began with Bernier as starter for the Monarchs, but a merely average start opened the door for Quick to split time in Manchester.  When Los Angeles came searching for a replacement goaltender, it was Quick who earned the promotion, leaving Bernier to assume complete starting duties in Manchester.  His production began to fall off, again opening the door for Taylor to secure playing time where he has temporarily supplanted Bernier as the starter.  Bernier is universally recognized for a tremendous amount of potential with refined technique, but Bernier must learn patience and consistency if his potential is ever going to be converted to production.

4. (14) Jonathan Quick, G
3rd round, 72nd overall, 2005

Quick has been the willing beneficiary of Bernier’s challenges.  After playing his way into regular playing time in Manchester, Quick earned a promotion to Los Angeles occasioned by an injury to Erik Ersberg.  By the time Ersberg was ready to return, Los Angeles was ready to trade someone to keep Quick in the line-up.  Two shutouts in his first five games put Quick squarely on the map as an emerging NHL goaltender.  Six wins out of seven road games on an east coast swing in February meant that Quick was the Kings goaltender to stay and a long-shot candidate for the Calder Trophy.  If Bernier is the Kings goaltender of the future, he will need to beat out Quick for the job.  Quick is one of the more athletic goaltenders in the NHL and can steal a game, something that is lacking in the skill-sets of the other goaltender prospects for the Kings and can give him a clear leg up in remaining as the starter in net for the next decade.

5. (4) Colten Teubert, D
1st round, 13th overall, 2008

The excellent beginning to this season has largely been overshadowed by Teubert’s recent struggles since returning from the WJCs.  Vastly increasing his goal, assist and plus/minus rates from prior seasons, Teubert was on his way to competing as the top defenseman still in major junior hockey.  His pairing with fellow Kings prospect Hickey during the WJCs helped bring a gold medal to Team Canada.  But lackluster play and inconsistency began to infect Teubert’s game upon return to the Regina Pats of the WHL.  He has already been signed to an entry-level contract and will compete again next training camp for a spot on the Los Angeles roster, but he must first learn to harness his energy and aggressiveness to make them an asset and not a liability.  At the tender age of 18, the sky’s the limit.  But the fine line between an elite, physical defenseman and an over-aggressive, out of position defenseman is discipline.

6. (5) Ted Purcell, RW

Signed as free agent, 2007

Expected to break camp with Los Angeles, Purcell did little to earn a roster position and was assigned to Manchester to begin the season.  Taking the minor set-back in stride, Purcell competed hard while in Manchester and was one of the first call-ups to Los Angeles in December.  A rocky and inconsistent stint with Los Angeles ended with his reassignment to Manchester in mid-January, despite solid offensive numbers.  Purcell began to find his game on both sides of the ice in his second tour with Manchester and has since been recalled to Los Angeles. Regardless of the ultimate outcome, it is evident that Purcell is on the cusp of the NHL and is nearly ready to assume full-time duties.  Depending upon whether Los Angeles moves one or more of their veteran forwards at the trade deadline, Purcell might have seen the last of Manchester.

7. (10) Vyacheslav Voinov, D

2nd round, 32nd overall, 2008

A great start to his hockey career in North America has pushed Voinov up these rankings.  Dropping into the second round during the draft due to concerns over his signability out of Russia, Voinov has demonstrated first-round potential in placing 10th in point-per-game average for rookie AHL defensemen – the only 18-year-old in the group – despite being slowed by nagging injuries.  He has firmly established himself as the top offensive defenseman for Manchester and is still developing.  His offensive potential is endless, but still only potential.  Voinov could earn himself some on-the-job training in Los Angeles as early as next season should the need for another offensive defenseman arise.  However, he must first improve on his decision-making and defensive awareness as NHL coaches are reluctant to trust young defensemen if they are not at least sound in their decisions.

8. (7) Brian Boyle, C
1st round, no. 26 overall, 2003

Like Purcell, there was a strong possibility that Boyle would spend the entire season with the Kings.  Unfortunately, like Purcell, Boyle did little to earn his keep in Los Angeles and was sent back to Manchester after unmotivated play.  He has managed to stay in the Los Angeles lineup for 20 games, but mustered only two points, showing more of a tendency to play on the periphery than to stay strong around the net.  The excitement that was gained last season has largely dissipated and morphed back into the questions of old.  Boyle is an enormous talent, both in terms of skill as well as size, but needs to show more than he has demonstrated to date.  He is battling Purcell and Matt Moulson for playing time in the NHL and may need to wait until next training camp to start anew and re-establish himself.

9. (8) Trevor Lewis, RW
1st round, no. 17 overall, 2006

Lewis is another prospect that needed to convert potential to production this season.  While he has not taken the AHL by storm this season, he has shown marked offensive improvement, enough to earn a six-game try-out with Los Angeles, scoring three points for the Kings.  It has been a relatively successful second professional season for this 22-year-old.  As a late bloomer, it was understood that Lewis would take some additional time to develop his rough skills and might require a third full season in Manchester before ready to fully push for a roster spot with Los Angeles.  The Kings would like to see him first dominate the AHL and grow a little more assertive in his game before moving to the next level.  Lewis has at least proven this season that he is progressing.

10. (NR) Martin Jones, G
Signed as free agent, 2008

Dean Lombardi searched the collective bargaining agreement with a magnifying glass and found in the small print a way to steal a top prospect.  Signed to an entry-level contract during training camp under section 8.9(b)(ii) of the collective bargaining agreement, which allows teams to sign a player otherwise still subject to the Entry Draft if that player was passed over in the Entry Draft and signed to a tryout contract in training camp, Martin Jones has lived up to the Kings investment in him.  He is in the top three in most goaltender statistical categories for the WHL, including an overwhelming 42-3-3-1 record.  At only 19 years of age, Jones represents the second wave of goaltender prospects for the Kings who will be competing for playing time in Manchester as Bernier and Zatkoff begin to move up and into the NHL.  Jones may not have been in the goaltending conversation to begin the season, but has certainly shown that he is at least a viable candidate to eventually wear a Kings sweater.

11. (11) Matt Moulson, LW
Signed as free agent, 2006

The last of the three prospect forwards expected to spend the bulk of his season in Los Angeles, Moulson also found himself eventually reassigned to Manchester as the 19-year-olds Moller and Simmonds pushed him out of a job.  He picked up right where he left off in Manchester in maintaining a point-per-game pace.  Unfortunately for his prospect status, Moulson is getting up in age and running out of opportunities with so many younger and more highly-skilled forwards are vying already vying for playing time in Los Angeles.  While Moulson has the benefit of playing left wing in an organization woefully thin in left wings, he is likely not to exceed the third line in Los Angeles, a position often given to the on-the-job training of younger prospects.  He is still a serviceable fill-in forward option or may be used in a package trade if determined that there are not enough forward positions available for the number of forwards ready to compete in the NHL.

12. (12) Jeff Zatkoff, G
3rd round, 74th overall, 2006

Seemingly lost in the talk of Quick and Bernier is the other top professional netminder in the Kings organization, Jeff Zatkoff.  He received brief taste of action in the AHL when Quick was promoted to Los Angeles, but soon was reassigned to Ontario of the ECHL to receive top minutes instead of an occasional start in Manchester.  Zatkoff is a solid prospect and a steady goaltender who will rarely beat himself, but has been passed over on the depth charts by others who have either accomplished more to date or have more physical skills.  Quick appears to be in the NHL to stay, leaving both Bernier and Zatkoff to compete for the top minor league position with the losing netminder possibly being shipped out in a trade within the next year or two.  While it may appear to be an issue finding enough playing time for goaltenders in the Kings system, it is an unexpected and refreshing problem to have.

13. (15) Alec Martinez, D
4th round, no. 95 overall, 2007

Signing an entry-level contract in the offseason after leaving Miami University early, Martinez has had a season of adjustment with Manchester.  Slow to start the season, Martinez has gotten better as the season has gone on, finally breaking out with an offensive explosion in the month of February.  He is a more mature and reliable defenseman than Voinov is right now and so might be the more reliable offensive defenseman to call up in an injury situation for the Kings.  With the top four defensive positions in Los Angeles locked up with Jack Johnson, Drew Doughty, Matt Greene and Kyle Quincey, the final two spots will be fought over by a number of different defensemen, three of whom are more highly esteemed than Martinez.  It will be an uphill battle for Martinez to crack the Los Angeles line-up and is an insurance policy if Voinov fails to develop.

14. (NR) Bryan Cameron, C
3rd round, 82nd overall, 2007

The forward prospect who has come the longest way so far this season has been Bryan Cameron.  Already well thought of and a steady producer in the OHL, Cameron elevated his game to another level and has been consistently in the top five in scoring.  A three-game suspension in early February knocked him off his game and slowed his pace a bit, but he remains in the top 10 in league scoring.  A solid skater and good team player, Cameron has likely already earned himself a tryout contract and future assignment to Manchester at the conclusion of the Belleville season.  As Manchester has been below average on the power play this season, Cameron will be a welcome addition to their special teams as he knows how to work the open areas of ice to his advantage for quality scoring opportunities.

15. (NR) Justin Azevedo, C

6th round, 153rd overall, 2008

Azevedo, because of his slight build, will need to silence the naysayers with each step in his development.  Early in his professional career, Azevedo is not having any trouble proving his critics wrong, scoring nearly a point per game for Manchester.  While this bodes well for his development, he needs to dominate the AHL offensively before being considered as a legitimate option for the NHL.  When he is not scoring, there is not much else to his game that is a positive contribution to the team effort.  So score he must and score he has thus far.  Since Lombardi is known for rewarding good play in the minors with brief tryouts in Los Angeles, and as no one will know how Azevedo will adjust to the size of the NHL without throwing him into the fire, Azevedo is a good candidate to receive a five-game stint if the Kings are eliminated from the playoff race.

16. (NR) Andrei Loktionov, C
5th round, no. 123 overall, 2008

Another 2008 draftee who slid down the draft board due to concerns over signability, Loktionov immediately crossed the Atlantic to join the extremely talented Windsor Spitfires this season.  And he has more than contributed his share to that wealth of talent.  Loktionov has stayed above a point per game pace for virtually the entire season en route to being named to Team Russia of the CHL/Russia Challenge.  At the age of 18, he is an unpolished player with raw offensive skills who is largely still learning the game.  Loktionov will benefit greatly from patience from the Kings and not rushing him into situations that he is unprepared for where bad habits could develop.  As the Kings are well stocked in forward prospects in the minor leagues, Loktionov could stand to wait another season before moving on to the next step.

17. (NR) Garrett Roe, C

7th round, 153rd overall, 2008

There is a very talented group of sophomores vying for the Hobey Baker award this season and Roe is leading the charge.  Like Azevedo, he is a diminutive forward with a tremendous drive who has found in college hockey a place to thrive.  Not unlike former Kings prospect Connor James, Roe may find a niche for himself in the organization as an elusive forward who can create match-up problems for the opposition.  If nothing else, he could develop into a depth forward for the organization as a low-risk prospect out of the seventh round.

18. (18) Scott Parse, LW

6th round, 174th overall, 2004

Returning to the lineup after missing almost the entire 2007-08 season with various injuries, Parse has made solid contributions to the Monarchs offensively.  He is only the second left wing in these rankings and the shine has largely diminished from his former status as a top prospect when he graduated from college hockey.  He continues to be an option for Los Angeles by virtue of the extremely thin group of left wing prospects at their disposal.  At 24 years old, he is running out of time to convince the organization he belongs in the NHL, but holds onto the bottom of these rankings.

19. (19) Marc-Andre Cliche, RW

Trade with New York Rangers, 2007

Cliche began the season on the disabled list and only recently has returned to the line-up.  He finished last season as a speedy defensive forward and it would be unfair to downgrade him before he has had an opportunity to show his development this season.  He showed enough in training camp to add his name to the list of Monarch forwards who could be called upon in an emergency situation.  That assessment has not changed as he tries to play his way back into mid-season shape in Manchester.  Cliche will not develop into an offensive force, but can be just as valuable in a defensive role on a stopper line in the NHL.

20. (NR) Dwight King, LW
4th round, no. 109 overall, 2007

Many prospects could have landed at the No. 20 position in these rankings.  But this time around, the final position goes to one of the hardest working left wings in major junior hockey.  King is not blessed with tremendous skill.  He has a large and broad frame that hustles to create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.  With the organization short on left wings, King could be a perfect hard-working compliment to more skilled teammates.  He represents the fifth draftee from the 2007 class to make these rankings (sixth if not for the recent graduation of Wayne Simmonds). 

Missing the cut: Davis Drewiske, Bud Holloway, David Meckler, Geordie Wudrick