Like their parent club the Los Angeles Kings, the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs are having a phenomenal season. Currently they are No. 1 in the league with 23 wins and 49 points. They are also among tops in both special teams, ranked third in penalty killing and seventh in power play. All of this success comes in spite of a rash of injuries that has struck throughout the organization. The team’s greatest asset is its league-leading defense, which has allowed an average of 2.03 goals per game. This should not be too great of a surprise considering the premium GM Dean Lombardi has placed on defense.
Oscar Moller, C/W – After making 40 NHL appearances in 2008-09, it was somewhat of a surprise to see Moller start the 2009-10 season in the AHL. Then again, Moller was playing a checking type of role with the Kings last season and playing big minutes in the AHL would greater benefit his natural offensive abilities. The results were evident in his stats as Moller has posted nine goals, 10 assists in 26 games and only once went more than one game without a point. He also showed some versatility, playing all three forward positions and in many different situations. The 20-year-old was called up to the NHL where he is currently playing.
Andrei Loktionov, C – In his first professional season, second playing North American hockey, Loktionov has quickly nicely assimilated to the style of play, amassing six goals, 11 assists in 20 games. His play was strong enough that he earned a call-up to the NHL in late November. The cup of coffee was cut short, however, as the 19-year-old sustained a shoulder injury and has since been recovering.
Trevor Lewis, C/W – Now in his third season of professional hockey, the former first-round pick has seen his offensive game slow to develop, having been returned to the AHL in October after not producing in the NHL. The 22-year-old continued to struggle in the AHL, posting no points in five games in the AHL this season. Lewis has been day-to-day with an upper-body injury since the middle of November. His last appearance with the Manchester Monarchs was November 11th.
David Meckler, LW – Another hard-working forward who has played with the Monarchs the past few seasons, 22-year-old Meckler struggled early in the season, posting only one goal and assist in his first 25 games. The third-year pro never wavered though and continued to pepper the goal with shots and work hard along the boards and around the net. His fortunes have started to turn around as he has six goals, two assists in his last seven games.
Justin Azevedo, C – It has been a rough second season for Azevedo. After leading the team in 2008-09 in rookie scoring with 12 goals, 24 assists, the 5’7 center has struggled mightily, posting two goals and four assists in an injury-plagued second season. For the 21-year-old, the offense has just not come as easily this season as it did last. He did not score his first goal until his 10th game and has been plagued with injuries throughout November, appearing in only 14 games this season.
Juraj Mikus, C – In his first season of AHL play, Mikus has experienced some of the expected difficulties that come with European players who are transitioning to North American play. The 22-year-old has been wildly streaky in his production, having cold streaks of four, nine, and six games between offensive spurts. He has only two goals, four assists in 25 games. While Mikus’ offense has been sporadic, his overall game has much improved through the month of December. The Slovakian center is a candidate for a strong second half.
Scott Parse, LW – After starting the season in the AHL, Parse earned himself a call-up to the NHL with his strong play through the first seven games of the season. He stayed with the club for all of November and most of December before eventually being returned to the AHL. To date, the 25-year-old Parse has three goals, 10 assists in 10 games.
Marc-Andre Cliche, RW – Now in his third year as a professional, 22-year-old Cliché has carved out a solid niche as an energy forward. At this point in his career, it would be fair to say Cliché is not going to be a major offensive contributor to the organization. He does bring a lot of energy to the team though, having dropped the gloves on two different occasions. He is also one of Manchester’s top penalty-killers. Through 33 games, he has six goals, including two short-handed markers, and five assists. His offense has been streaky all season long, having gone on four cold streaks of three games or more.
Richard Clune, LW – After missing most of October because of injury, scrappy Clune joined the Kings AHL affiliate in Manchester and instantly added a layer of sandpaper to the team. It was not until December that the 22-year-old became a physical force though, he had six fights, a goal, and three assists in nine games. Total for the season, Clune has two goals, five assists, and eight fights in 23 games.
Corey Elkins, C – The 24-year-old undrafted center has been a bit of a surprise this season as he has posted eight goals, 12 assists in 31 AHL games and was called up to the NHL because of injuries to some of the Kings forwards. As with most first-year pros, Elkins took a little while to fully assimilate to the professional style of game, posting only three goals and one assist in his first 15 games. After that though, he took off and averaged a point per game over the next 16 before earning the mid-December call-up.
Bud Holloway, C – In his second season of AHL play, gritty forward Holloway has really started coming into his own, surpassing last season’s goal and point totals in 20 games. His 10 goals, seven assists in 31 games are second on the team in active scorers and he has a team-high four power-play goals. Although he has emerged as an offensive force for the team, it is the 21-year-old’s defensive ability that is still his strong point. He remains one of the team’s top penalty killers as well.
Kevin Westgarth, RW – The 6’4, 243-pound forward has always been a solid enforcer for the Monarchs, having dropped the gloves over 15 times the past two seasons. However, this season, the 25-year-old winger has become a greater offensive contributor. To date, he has posted six goals, six assists in 33 games, matching his career highs in less than half the games. He has remained a physical force though, having dropped the gloves 10 times.
Dwight King, LW – After posting four goals, five assists in nine games with the Kings’ ECHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign, Dwight King was reassigned to the AHL in early December and stayed up. In eight AHL games, the talented forward has two goals, four assists. The 20-year-old has played a mostly checking forward type of role for the Monarchs but has shown that he can also be counted for fairly consistent offensive production.
Michael Pelech, C – Drafted as an overage player, Pelech was brought into the organization to add sandpaper and so far has done just that, spending the season so far with the Reign. In 30 games, Pelech has posted three goals, six assists.
Vyacheslav Voynov, D – In his second season of professional and North American hockey, Voynov has shown much improved all-around play, leading all defensemen on the team in points and slowly developing into the team’s top defenseman. He has contributed in both special teams, having registered three goals on the power play. He has played with incredible discipline too, having been penalized in only three games. In 35 games so far this season, the 19-year-old blueliner has six goals, 11 assists and eight penalty minutes.
Thomas Hickey, D – Out of the gates it was evident 20-year-old Hickey, the Kings fourth overall pick in 2007, was struggling in his first full season as a professional. An offensively gifted defenseman, he failed to register a point in his first six games and he has only registered five points in 15 games, all assists. Finally, it was revealed that Hickey was playing through a nagging injury and underwent a surgical procedure to remedy the problem, putting him on injured reserve through at least February.
Alec Martinez, D – Like many Monarchs players, 22-year-old Martinez has had some injury issues this season. In his case, it was an early October injury that caused him to miss the beginning of the season through the middle of November. Since his return though, Martinez has shown mobile skating and good puck-handling abilities, particularly on the power play where he has two goals. Through 16 games this season, he has three goals, four assists.
Drew Bagnall, D – The 26-year-old defenseman was off to a career season with two goals, six assists, and five fights in 27 games before sustaining a lower-body injury in early December. Having not made an appearance since December sixth, the defenseman is currently week-to-week.
Andrew Campbell, D – Now in his second season with the Monarchs, Campbell has still struggled to assimilate to the professional style of play. The 21-year-old has also recorded a multitude of minor infractions and at times struggled in his own end, particularly during October and November. The blueliner has improved his play in his own end as of late and as the season goes along, should continue to improve. Through 33 games, he has one goal, two assists.
David Kolomatis, D – Another overage player drafted and brought into the Kings system, Kolomatis has shown deft puck-handling and good offensive instincts as a first-year pro. Through 31 games the 20-year-old has two goals, nine assists, playing mostly in even-strength situations but also some time on the power play.
Patrick Mullen, D – Yet another mobile, puck-moving defenseman in the Kings system, 23-year-old Mullen joined the Kings this past season as an undrafted free agent. In his first professional season, he has been a solid all-around defenseman, logging minutes in both even-strength situations and on the power play. There are concerns about his durability though as he has already had several minor injuries this season and is at times overpowered in his own end. In 26 games, Mullen has two goals, both which came on the power play, and four assists.
Joe Piskula, D – Another older defenseman on the team, 25-year-old Piskula has been among the Monarchs most consistent defensemen and only one of two players who have appeared in all games this season. The blueliner’s main purpose with the team is to kill penalties and play a steadying if unspectacular type of game in his own end and so far has handled those duties with aplomb. In 35 games, Piskula has two goals, five assists.
Jonathan Bernier, G – The Kings have been careful to try and not rush their blue-chip goaltending prospect and in his second full season as a pro, Bernier is starting to round into the No. 1 goalie he was envisioned as. In 26 starts this season, the 21-year-old has a 16-8-2 record, a 1.88 goals against average, a .944 save percentage, and four shutouts.
Jeff Zatkoff, G – Drafted the same year as Bernier but two rounds later, Zatkoff, like his netminding partner, is having a stellar 2009-10 season, posting a 7-2 record, a .942 save percentage, a 1.93 goals against average, and two shutouts. The 22-year-old is currently playing as the backup to Bernier but there is no question that if the Kings organization did not have a glut of young goaltenders, Zatkoff could start in the AHL.