In recent years the Los Angeles Kings have brought in many players from the OHL, and it has been met with a fair amount of success. Tanner Pearson, Drew Doughty, Kyle Clifford, Andy Andreoff;. the list of OHL draftees is long and successful. That pattern has not changed, as the Kings have a staggering eight OHL prospects out of their pool of ten Junior prospects. Mark Yannetti, the Kings’ director of amateur scouting, and Clay Leibel, the club’s Ontario scout, seem to have a formula for success with OHL selections right now.
The Kings have several players working on solid starts to the year right now. Let’s take a look at a few of the more prominent junior prospects for Los Angeles so far.
Valentin Zykov, RW, Baie-Comeau Drakkar
Acquired: 2nd round (37th overall) in 2013
Valentin Zykov was playing solid all-around hockey to open the year for the Drakkar. He again looked like one of the leaders on Baie-Comeau, scoring at over a point-per-game pace and picking up right where he left off last season.
However, the young Russian was hit with an abdominal strain at the end of October and has yet to play since. He also has missed out on the CHL Subway SuperSeries where he was essentially a lock for Team Russia. Aside from the injury setback, Zykov is again on pace to put together an incredibly solid year in all aspects of the game. He remains one of the more prized prospects in the Kings system to date.
Spencer Watson, RW, Kingston Frontenacs
Acquired: 7th round (209th overall) in 2014
Everyone knew Spencer Watson had scoring capabilities when he came into the 2014 NHL draft, and those skills have been alive and well this season. The diminutive forward is leading the Frontenacs in scoring with 11 goals and 14 assists on the season. His good play also earned him a spot on the Subway Super Series team. The question still remains on whether Watson can stand up to the rigors of pro hockey with his small frame. If he continues to score at the pace he has though than it shouldn’t be a problem. He has showed more of a willingness to play defense, which is a good start.
Matt Mistele, LW, Plymouth Whalers
Acquired: 6th round (180th overall) in 2014
Matt Mistele has been a wonderful surprise for Plymouth. With 14 goals to his name already in 19 games, the 19 year old is getting back to the production levels of his 2012-13 season in which he had 34 goals. His maturation has coupled well with his bullish style of play, and the Whalers alternate captain has seen may of his goals come in the “Dirty areas” of the offensive zone. The Kings were hoping for this sort of bounce back from Mistele, who saw several injuries and a few suspensions in 2013-14. His offensive attributes have definitely come back to him and he is tearing up the OHL right now, leading the Whalers in points by a wide margin with 25 in 19 games.
Michael Amadio, C, North Bay Battalion
Acquired: 3rd round (90th overall) in 2014
Michael Amadio is another player who has been a huge surprise this year for his respective squad. He currently has 19 points in 20 games which includes seven goals with the Battalion. To put this into perspective, Amadio had just 38 points last season in 64 games, and 19 points in 63 games in 2012-13.
The Soo native put in a lot of time in the gym this offseason and it seems to have helped as he has been a man possessed so far. Amadio has been suiting up regularly on the first-line right wing with Senators draft pick Nick Paul (fourth round, 2013) and undrafted 18-year-old Jared Steege. That means it is not as if Amadio is riding the coattails of high profile linemates; he has been the real deal in the early stages of this season. His offensive capabilities have come to the forefront, specifically his vision and great playmaking ability.
Jake Marchment, C, Belleville Bulls
Acquired: 6th round (157th overall) in 2014
Jake Marchment is in the media for all the wrong reasons these days, none of which have to do with hockey.
The gritty centerman was recently suspended 15 games by the OHL for making abusive and sexist comments on the internet app Tinder. He later apologized and took full responsibility. From a numbers standpoint Marchment was off to a fairly good start, but this 15-game suspension puts his on-ice ability on the backburner. This likely is not comforting for the Kings management to hear since they are currently dealing with a difficult domestic violence crisis of their own with defenseman Slava Voynov. Whether or not he picks up his play where he left off remains to be seen, but there is no question that Marchment messed up.
Roland McKeown, D, Kingston Frontenacs
Acquired: 2nd round (50th overall) in 2014
Roland McKeown has had an up and down season so far. He has yet to score a goal through 18 games and has not looked very potent offensively thus far. McKeown is, however, considered a do-it-all style defenseman, and other parts of his game have been decent.
Given his production in 2013-14 where he had 11 goals and 42 points, the Frontenacs will be looking for more out of their captain. He has looked much better as of late, but the 18-year-old has definitely gotten off to a slower start than many anticipated.
Zac Leslie, D, Guelph Storm
Acquired: 6th round (178th overall) in 2013
Zac Leslie nearly made the Manchester Monarchs out of training camp with the Kings, but was eventually sent back down. He did, however, earn himself a entry-level deal with his solid rookie camp performance. Along with looking impressive in camp, the 20-year-old has been on fire to start the year, scoring at a point-per-game pace. He has seen a ton of time on Guelph’s power play as well. His plus-minus rating remains the only blemish on the puck-mover’s record thus far. Leslie is currently in a system stacked with defenseman, and his hot start is just what he needed in order to stand out from the pack.
Alec Dillon, G, Tri-City Storm
Acquired: 5th round (150th overall) in 2014
The Kings fifth round selection in 2014, Alec Dillon has been off to a fabulous start with the Tri-City Storm of the USHL. The big 6’5 goaltender has played all but three games for the Storm this year, and holds an 8-3-2 record through 14 games which includes two shutouts. His save percentage has been floating around the .920 area along with a goals against average just above 2.00. His calm and collected style of goaltending has put him among the top three in the league so far this year.
There is still some question about where Dillon will end up next season. With a scholarship to RPI (Rensselaer Poly Inst.) waiting for him, he also has the powerhouse Edmonton Oil Kings holding his CHL rights. If he keeps up his fine numbers the Kings may want him to move into the CHL where he would face stiffer competition on a nightly basis.
Los Angeles Kings Top Performing Non-Junior Prospects: October
He is not high profile, nor is he expected to do much, but Brian O’Neill has been in tremendous form this year for the Monarchs. He continues to be one of the offensive leaders of the squad, as well as one of the veteran leaders in the locker room. Manchester is suffering from some growing pains this year with many of the team’s best and brightest being moved up to the NHL or to other organizations. O’Neill has been doing his part in picking up the slack.
Nick Shore is another Monarch who is doing his share of hard work this season. He has been an excellent all-situations player for coach Mike Stothers, and has been putting the puck in the net on a regular basis. Shore was named the CCM/AHL player of the week for the week ending on November 16th, and is definitely making his presence felt within the organization. Last year had a bit of a learning curve to it, but Shore looks alive and well as a legitimate top-six center this season.
The 22-year-old defenseman Paul LaDue had to claw and scratch his way into a full-time spot with University of North Dakota last year, and the team was rewarded with his stellar performances. This year the sophomore was expected to perform, and he has. With eigt points through the first 10 games, LaDue is the top defensive scorer for UND. He has hit a bit of a cold spell since, but he is still performing very well in the NCAA this season.
Los Angeles Kings Prospect of the Month: October
While Adrian Kempe’s numbers do not look all that impressive to the naked eye, he has looked a much more mature and mentally strong competitor this year in the SHL than the previous year. Kempe is seeing the ice better and seemingly grasping the speed of the game on a much different level right now. All of this bodes well for the LA Kings, who hope he can make the transition to North America sooner rather than later. You can not help but think of another young draft pick by the Kings, Anze Kopitar, who played and excelled in Sweden not too long ago. While the big Swede has a long way to go and a lot to learn still, he has has taken a positive step in his progression this season and is still an 18-year-old playing against grown men. The future is very bright for the big power forward.
Follow Jason Lewis on Twitter at @SirJDL