Kings Top 20 prospects, Fall 2009

By David A. Rainer

Top 20 at a Glance

1. Thomas Hickey
2. Jonathan Bernier
3. Brayden Schenn
4. Oscar Moller
5. Vyacheslav Voinov
6. Colten Teubert
7. Ted Purcell
8. Andrei Loktionov
9. Trevor Lewis
10. Martin Jones
11. Kyle Clifford
12. Jeff Zatkoff
13. Alec Martinez
14. Justin Azevedo
15. Nicolas Deslauriers
16. Davis Drewiske
17. Juraj Mikus
18. Garrett Roe
19. Scott Parse
20. Dwight King

1. (2) Thomas Hickey, D

1st round, 4th overall, 2007

Hickey takes over the first overall position in this ranking after a bit of a shuffle of names at the top. After finishing his major junior career, Hickey joined Manchester of the AHL for the tail end of the season. While he was not able to push the team into the playoffs, his point per game pace at a time when nearly every team was fighting for their post-season lives showed the hockey world that he is ready for prime time.  With a spot or two open on the Los Angeles roster, Hickey has a fighting chance to land on the opening night roster. His top-four defenseman potential and ability to quarterback a power play will be a welcome addition to a team looking to further improve special teams. But with so many young defensemen already on the NHL roster, will the Kings promote another rookie to their blueline?  Hickey is so well rounded that he might force the Kings to keep him.

2. (3) Jonathan Bernier, G
1st round, 11th overall, 2006

After a slow start and a shaky midseason, Bernier turned his game around. While he was passed over for a call-up to Los Angeles in favor of Jonathan Quick, his position within the organization is not diminished. General Manager Dean Lombardi went on record stating that in the call-up he favored the prospect with more professional experience. After losing focus temporarily, Bernier overcame the let-down to get hot at the end of the season. The battle of Quick versus Bernier as the starting netminder of the future is not over in Bernier’s eyes. He is expected to give incumbents Quick and Erik Ersberg a major battle in training camp, for either the No. 1 or 2 spot. Having just turned 21, Bernier is more than two years Quick’s junior and has the competitiveness not to take the backseat. Nevertheless, if Bernier does not earn a roster spot, it is integral that he get off to a quick start in Manchester to prove that he has not lost focus after a little adversity.

3. (NR) Brayden Schenn, C
1st round, 5th overall, 2009

Drafted fifth overall in this year’s Entry Draft, Schenn makes his debut in these rankings at the third position. The theme of the Kings’ 2009 Entry Draft was grit and competitiveness, exemplified by Schenn, a good two-way centerman noted for his competitive nature. He might not produce at a high enough rate to be considered a first line center, but his ability to fight the opposition for every square inch of ice is an attribute specifically targeted by Lombardi as necessary to build the “winning culture” that the organization has been lacking.  With a plethora of centermen on the NHL roster and only 18 years of age, Schenn will spend the upcoming season back with the WHL Brandon Wheat Kings and likely will not join Manchester until he is 20.

4. (1) Oscar Moller, RW
2nd round, 52nd overall, 2007

The top four prospects for the Kings are so evenly matched that a tiny event in the development of one could have a large impact in their placement in these rankings.  Moller was slow to return to form from a shoulder injury suffered during the World Junior Championship, and in some respects never fully returned to form, and so falls slightly. Moller still has an outside possibility of becoming a first line winger for the Kings, but the safer projection is as a competitive second line scorer. Having been the captain for Team Sweden in his career in the WJC, Moller also adds the leadership intangibles that Lombardi has been focusing upon. Moller has already proved himself as a second line forward in the NHL, but with so many forwards on the roster and the need for some veteran experience, he may find himself beginning the season in Manchester. Expect to see Moller earn his regular roster spot later this season.

5. (7) Vyacheslav Voinov, D
2nd round, 32nd overall, 2008

While eight goals and 23 points in 61 games is a modest total for a defenseman in the AHL, Voinov was only 18 years of age while posting those numbers in his first profession season in North America. Most rookie defensemen enter the AHL as 20-year-olds, but Voinov, as a transfer from Europe, was assigned to Manchester immediately after being drafted and was arguably the team’s best defenseman at times last season. Voinov will not need a single, break-out season to catch the eyes of the organization. Instead, steady and consistent development with better discipline will ultimately result in his making the NHL squad.  But for now, Voinov is just too young.  With two regulars on LA’s blueline 22 years old and younger, and Hickey knocking on the door, Voinov will need to wait his turn.

6. (5) Colten Teubert, D

1st round, 13th overall, 2008

While Hickey and Voinov are the offensive weapons among Kings defensemen, Teubert is the physical hammer alongside. After being drafted by the Kings in 2008, Teubert returned to major junior hockey where he had a tumultuous season. After being cut in training camp, Teubert went back to Regina of the WHL with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. A chip too big, perhaps, as squabbling and undisciplined play led to his demotion by midseason. After working his way back into the line-up, Teubert finished the season strong before being assigned to Ontario of the ECHL to get his first taste of professional hockey. The Kings knew they were getting a prospect with an edge when they signed Teubert and do not want to harness his competitiveness entirely. Teubert will need to choose his spots better and know when the big hit will help the team and when the big hit will drag him out of position.

7. (6) Ted Purcell, RW

Signed as free agent, 2007

Purcell experienced his first taste of full-time NHL hockey in the 2008-09 season, with mixed results. His 16 points in 40 games is a modest total for a rookie. Now Purcell is entering his second full season at the age of 24 and needs to take the next step in his development. With a number of other young forwards on the roster or knocking on the door, the Kings are looking for their prospects to take the next step and let the competition between themselves decide the team. Purcell is one of the better play-making wingers among the Kings prospects and so can provide that extra scoring punch for Los Angeles at a time when offense is a question mark for the team. The window for Purcell is closing quickly.

8. (16) Andrei Loktionov, C
5th round, 123rd overall, 2008

Rocketing up the rankings on the heels of an excellent conclusion to the 2008-09 season with Windsor of the OHL is Loktionov. Loktionov really came on strong the moment the calendar flipped to January, after recovering from a December injury, and took it a step higher in the playoffs.  Anchoring the second line for a stacked squad, Loktionov helped lift Windsor into champions of both the OHL and the Memorial Cup, scoring 33 points in 20 games, second only to teammate Taylor Hall. There is still some work to be done adjusting to bigger and more physical competition. Drafted out of Europe, Loktionov can join Manchester next season despite being only 19. A solid season in the AHL will put him on the fast track to the NHL as a gem found in the fifth round, not unlike the sudden and quick progression Sergei Kostitsyn accomplished immediately after being drafted in the seventh round by Montreal.

9. (9) Trevor Lewis, C
1st round, 17th overall, 2006

Unable to find the back of the net during the 2007-08 season despite demonstrating top skating ability, Lewis turned the page and came into his own last season. He increased his point total with Manchester from 28 to 51 and got his first taste of the NHL. Lewis has been targeted as a prospect ready to take the next step this season and compete for one of the few available roster spots in training camp. His speed and ability to forecheck and cycle the puck down low makes him a valuable contributor even when not scoring. These attributes will keep him in the line-up for Los Angeles, even if only on the fourth line, while he earns on-the-job training for an eventual key role on the third line.

10. (10) Martin Jones, G

Signed as free agent, 2008

Having proved thus far to be a steal as an undrafted free agent signed after attending Kings training camp, Jones is on the short list of top goaltenders still in major junior hockey. Jones backstopped the best team in the WHL, the Calgary Hitmen, with a remarkable 45-5-4 record, at or near the top in almost every goaltender stat category for not only the WHL but all of major junior hockey. Some of what Jones accomplished can be attributed to an exceptional team around him, led by fellow Kings prospect Brandon Kozun, that scored in bunches. Jones will return to the Hitmen for another season and is targeted to help fill the gap left behind in the Kings minor league system with the promotions of Bernier and Quick.

11. (NR) Kyle Clifford, LW

2nd round, 35th overall, 2009

The Kings’ second round choice in the 2009 Entry Draft debuts at No. 11 in these rankings. Clifford is another example of Lombardi’s current drafting philosophy of grit and determination. While he might be short on offensive skills, the Kings organization believes that he has the competitive nature to get better in all aspects and might find his offensive game later on. If nothing else, Clifford can be viewed as a rugged and physical forward capable of playing the same role on the NHL squad as Wayne Simmonds did last year. Clifford’s maximum effort on every shift mentality can be contagious and make the players around him that much better.

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

Zatkoff entered the 2008-09 season as the third in a triumvirate of goaltenders who would battle for supremacy in Los Angeles. One year later, with Quick established early as the starter in Los Angeles and Bernier a small step behind, Zatkoff has slightly fallen out of the picture. When taking Ersberg into consideration, the two roster positions in Los Angeles and the starting position in Manchester appear to be settled for another year, leaving Zatkoff as either a backup in Manchester or the starter for yet another ECHL campaign.  He might have the talent to be a serviceable goaltender in the NHL, but with so many other options available to the Kings, there is a lot for Zatkoff to overcome to get his chance in Los Angeles.

13. (13) Alec Martinez, D
4th round, 95th overall, 2007

The next tier of defensive prospects is headed by Alec Martinez – a mobile and positionally sound defenseman. While no single aspect to his game stands out above the rest, his solid all-around game allows him to be quietly effective in both ends of the ice. Martinez concluded his first season of professional hockey after leaving Miami University early. Scoring 23 points for Manchester, Martinez was a consistent contributor to the team even if not reflected immediately on the score sheet. Like Davis Drewiske, there is a good likelihood that Martinez will carve out a career for himself in the NHL in someone’s third pairing, but he has more offensive skills and so a slightly higher position in these rankings.

14. (15) Justin Azevedo, C

6th round, 153rd overall, 2008

Drafted as a 20-year-old in 2008, Azevedo was assigned last fall to Manchester.  Known for his elusiveness in the offensive zone, Azevedo provided instant scoring after returning from a training camp injury. Despite his diminutive size, Azevedo fought his way to 36 points in 49 games for the Monarchs and showed potential for even more offense as a sophomore with an injury-free training camp. He will have an uphill battle to make the Kings’ roster on a full-time basis with a number of more developed forwards ahead of him, but the Kings have had pint-sized competitors like Mike Cammalleri, Brady Murray and Matt Ryan as successful parts of the team due to their heart. Top offensive numbers for Azevedo this season may result in his quick call-up to Los Angeles to see if his game will translate to the NHL.

15. (NR) Nicolas Deslauriers, D
3rd round, 84th overall, 2009

The Kings third round draft choice from this year’s Entry Draft debuts at No. 15.  Deslauriers is a mobile defenseman with a good shot who can mix it up despite not having ideal size. He is going to make his mark as an offensive defenseman and could climb up the rankings very quickly as he improves on those skating and shooting skills. With a number of defensemen already in the system, Deslauriers will have plenty of time to develop in the QMJHL before the Kings will consider him for professional duties. The young blueliner has a lot of development in front of him and is far from a sure-fire prospect, but possibly has the highest potential in the system for defenders outside of Hickey.

16. (NR) Davis Drewiske, D
Signed as free agent, 2007

On the other end of the spectrum in terms of potential is Drewiske, who is never going to be an offensive player and not one to physically dominate an opposing forward.  The 24-year-old has good feet and positioning to keep himself between the forward and the goaltender and subsequently the puck out of the net. While he has been penciled in as a possible starter on the third defensive pairing for Los Angeles to start the season, he has likely leveled off in terms of his potential. The Kings are not likely to get much more than a third-pairing defenseman out of Drewiske, which is fine for an organization looking for a “bridge” player to fill the gap between the now and when one of the more talented defensemen are ready to step in. While Drewiske is an important piece for an organization to have, his long-term contribution to the Kings will be limited and so is kept in the bottom half of these rankings.

17. (NR) Juraj Mikus, C
Signed as free agent, 2009

Formerly a Montreal Canadiens prospect, Mikus signed as an unrestricted free agent during the offseason after leading the Slovakian Extraleague in assists and placing second in the league in points at the tender age of 21. Mikus was the perfect compliment as the center to former Kings right wing Ziggy Palffy that resulted in career years in Europe for both players. Mikus is a low-risk, high-reward prospect as little has been invested in him and if he flops in North America, little will be lost to the Kings. But the organization is betting on more from Mikus as he has shown that he can be a play-maker in a top professional league among men 10 years his senior. 

18. (17) Garrett Roe, C

7th round, 153rd overall, 2008

As a dark-horse candidate to be a Hobey Baker Finalist this season, Garrett Roe will look to improve on his steady offensive numbers from his first two seasons with St. Cloud State.  With the offensive potential and points that Roe has been able to accumulate in his career, it stands to reason that he should be higher up in these rankings, but he is another of the diminutive forwards that the Kings have come to be famous for, standing at only 5’8.  He will need to prove himself every year and every game to convince the hockey world that he can compete against bigger and tougher competition. While the heart and determination of a prospect like Roe cannot be underestimated, he is still a high risk to succumb to stronger competition or not be able to translate his game to the professional ranks.

19. (18) Scott Parse, LW
6th round, 174th overall, 2004

Enjoying a bit of a bounce-back season in 2008-09 for Manchester, Parse still has not been able to establish himself as a scoring left winger and is being passed over by either more talented forwards or younger forwards with more time to develop. After an injury-plagued 2007-08 season Parse returned to the Monarchs and proved to be a reliable if unspectacular forward. He scored 39 points in 74 games. Parse is in the final year of his contract with the Kings, a watershed moment in his career. He will need to catch the eyes of the Los Angeles coaching staff early or be lost in the shuffle and not be re-signed by the Kings.

20. (20) Dwight King, LW
4th round, 109th overall, 2007

Holding on to the final position in these rankings by the slimmest of margins is King.  After completing his fourth full season with Lethbridge of the WHL, King signed an entry-level contract with the Kings and will be assigned to Manchester to begin the season. He is a hard-working forward who will get the “dirty” goals that Lombardi is intent that the team does a better job at scoring. At 6’3 and 220 lbs, King has the ideal size to play in the crease. He does not have the potential to score in bunches in the NHL, but he can contribute the hard-fought goal that can change the momentum of a game. King, however, will need to earn his keep in Manchester before he can set his sights on the fourth line for Los Angeles.

Missing the Cut

Bud Holloway, Marc-Andre Cliche, Robert Czarnik