Los Angeles Kings junior prospects fit the team identity

By Jason Lewis
Chaz Reddekopp - Los Angeles Kings

Photo: Kings prospect Chaz Reddekopp brings size and strength to his defensive role but his offense is trending up too (courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

‏The Kings have a fairly large group of CHL representatives this year, many coming out of the 2014 and 2015 NHL Entry drafts. While they have a large numbers of players, they have few upper-round picks representing the team. They also are strictly limited to just two leagues of the CHL: the WHL and the OHL. With eleven players currently playing in the CHL, only two are from the first three rounds of the draft. The Kings are going to need some late rounders to blossom (and they have a few on their way) to really make the best out of a group full of outliers and depth players.

OHL

Erik Cernak, D, Erie Otters
‏Acquired: 2nd round, (43rd overall) in 2015

‏The epoch that was Erik Cernak’s “Decision 2015” didn’t quite have the hype compared to that of LeBron James, but it did leave a lot of people wondering what was going on. With three potential places of eligibility – Czech-1, CHL, and AHL – Cernak went back and forth between all three options before finally settling on taking his talents to Presque Isle State Beach. Because of his late commitment he has played only 12 games with Erie so far this season but his offensive ability is evident. There will be a big feeling out period for Cernak as he adjusts to North American life, language, and an entirely new development league and style. We should have a better gauge on what he is capable of later in the year.

Michael Amadio, C, North Bay Battalion
‏Acquired: 3rd round (90th overall) in 2014

‏If there was one player who had a breakout 2014-15 last year among the Kings prospects (aside from maybe Mersch), it was Mike Amadio. Although the Battalion was an offensively light squad, Amadio put the team on his back as the one true finisher with the squad. His 71 points led the team in the regular season, and his 15 points led the squad in a 15-game playoff campaign as well.  This season he is back at it, scoring at over a point per game pace for the second straight season. He has 27 points in his first 21 games in 2015-16, while no one else on the team has more than 15 points. Given the makeup of the Battalion offense, it is not out of the question to think he would be closer to a 90-100 point player given his adept playmaking skills and two-way game. He is, perhaps, one of the more underrated centers in the OHL. He is off to a flying start again in 2015-16, and after a pretty solid overall rookie camp with the Kings this is another nice step for the third-round selection.

Spencer Watson, RW, Kingston Frontenacs
‏Acquired: 7th round (209th overall) in 2014

‏The diminutive goal scorer is off to a very similar season to that of his last two in the OHL with Kingston. By that we mean he is scoring with regularity, but still leaves much to be desired on the defensive side of the puck. Aside from that, the offensive consistency is impressive. For a third straight year he is over a point per game pace, and he has registered a point in all but three of his 19 contests this year. His 26 points is good enough to lead the first place Frontenacs right now over other highly regarded prospects like Florida Panthers picks Lawson Crouse and Juho Lammikko. Watson has mainly been playing second line minutes, and the addition of Hurricanes 2014 3rd round pick Warren Foegele who left the NCAA for the OHL may help boost Watson further. Watson is producing yet again, he loves to shoot, he loves to score, but his biggest knock continues to be his slight stature and questionable one-dimension game.

Jake Marchment, C, Erie Otters
‏Acquired: 6th round (157th Overall) in 2014

‏The McDavid-less era now begins for Erie. Be that as it may, they are still 14-2-1 to open the year, and 2nd overall in the OHL Western Conference. Not bad for losing a world class talent right? Kings product Jake Marchment joined the Otters at the deadline last year from Belleville. The start to his overage season with the team has been solid. He has been dominating players this season in a way that he had not in the past. The big 6’3” counterman has been commanding 2C duties for Erie, along with  putting up 17 points in 18 games. He is currently second on the team in goals with 10, just a smidgen behind the otherworldy Alex DeBrincat, who has 28 goals in 22 games. His numbers may pale in comparison on a team that has Dylan Strome (ARI), Taylor Raddysh (2016), and the aforementioned DeBrincat, but Marchment has done well thus far. He is on pace for a career year in what will be his final season of juniors. His line with Kyle Maksimovich (2016) and Nick Betz has been a nice complement to the powerhouse top line of Erie. They have also been scoring a large portion of goals at even strength, which is always a plus.

Jacob Middleton, D, Ottawa 67’s
‏Acquired: 7th round, (210th overall) in 2014

‏Hailing from the same junior squad that gave the Kings Tyler Toffoli, comes 2014 7th rounder Jacob Middleton. The comparisons stop there. Middleton’s low flash, low-key, two-way game is not going to jump out and bite you. However, he has been fairly strong to start the year with Ottawa. He is on pace to break some personal production levels if his point pace keeps up. He has 12 points in the first 23 games thus far. The best thing about it is that the lanky 19-year old has been playing top-pairing minutes alongside 20-year-old Nevin Guy for the 67’s. That sort of responsibility can only help the development process. Ottawa is in good shape in the early goings, and Middleton is getting plenty of experience up at the top of the blueline corps.

Damir Sharipzyanov, D, Owen Sound Attack
‏Acquired: Via free agency, signed August 2015

‏The big Russian defenseman missed the first 10 games of the year due to a broken wrist, but has come back to the lineup for Owen Sound in strong fashion. He has logged just ten games so far, but has four points and a goal in those games. Granted, three of those points came in a solitary game against Hamilton. He is also in consideration for the Russian u-20 team and took part in the Canada Russia Series as part of the Russian Selects.

Matt Schmalz, RW, Sudbury Wolves
‏Acquired: 5th round (134th overall) in 2015

‏Schmalz is incredibly similar to a forward the Kings drafted out of the OHL with Guelph in the fourth round of 2013. If you know your Kings draft history, you know we are of course talking about hulking forward Justin Auger. The comparisons are pretty interesting. Both OHL wingers, both had outstanding season to season development tracks, and both are massive kids that play a power forward game. However, both needed to work on skating, defensive zone awareness, and actually using their size to good advantage. This is exactly where Matt Schmalz is right now. It was hard to top the black eye that was his -57 rating last season, but he is well on the way with a -23 to start the season. Be that as it may, it is an altogether weak Sudbury lineup that is scraping the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Some ugly numbers are to be expected. He has been playing primarily bottom six minutes with the Wolves, but is managing to be a decent part of their committee scoring with 10 points in 18 games. Still, his team leading -23 is an ugly stat.

Matt Mistele, W, Oshawa Generals
‏Acquired: 6th round (180th overall) in 2014

‏Mistele has always been an intriguing player whose blend of power, energy, and offensive capability could project very well. For this reason, as the Oshawa Generals prepare to unload players for a rebuild, many teams have called about the availability of the winger. Last season Mistele put together an impressive 81 points in 85 game campaign en route to winning a Memorial Cup. Nevertheless, it seems that the forward could be on the move yet again this year. He was off to a decent start playing quality minutes in the Generals top-six, but has recently gone down with a broken finger that could cost him 3-5 weeks. He continues to be a noteworthy all-around talent, and his overage season could be interesting if he is flipped to yet another legit contender.

WHL

Chaz Reddekopp, D, Victoria Royals
‏Acquired: 7th round (187th overall) in 2015

‏The big defenseman was a surprising standout at the Kings development camp this past fall. He showed worthwhile ability in his own end at containing onrushing forwards and denying players entries with an active stick and good awareness. He also has great size and plays physical against opponents. If there was one player who walked away from the development camp with a bug put in management’s ear, it was Reddekopp. His strong play has continued over into his third year with the Victoria Royals of the WHL. The 18-year old has 8 points in 21 games, and has been playing top pair minutes alongside Ryan Gagnon. Victoria currently stands as the best defensive team in the WHL, and a large part of that falls on the shoulders of a very good blueline group. Keep an eye on this guy as the season progresses, because he very well could have been an excellent late round snag.

Alec Dillon, G, Edmonton Oil Kings
‏Acquired: Drafted 5th round, (150th overall) in 2014

Dillon is primarily a new age goaltender, whose massive size is relied upon to befuddle forwards rather than sheer athleticism. That being said, trying to get young and physically gifted goaltenders to best use that size can be a struggle. Dillon jumped over from the USHL Tri-City Storm last season to take on the WHL in 2015-16. The transition has been rough. While he always had somewhat middling numbers in the USHL, his .871 save percentage speaks to the struggles he has had transitioning to the CHL. He has not faced a barrage of shots either, having faced around 30 shots in row majority of his starts. He has been pulled in two of his seven starts, and has posted above a .900 save percentage in just one.

Austin Wagner, LW/C, Regina Pats
‏Acquired: 4th round (99th overall) in 2015

‏It has been a pretty ho-hum start for both the Regina Pats and forward Austin Wagner. The Kings were hoping to see another year of strong development from the 6’2 forward, who went from a nonexistent two points in 42 games in 2013-14, and turned 2014-15 into a 39-point campaign. While he is on pace to pretty well match that production, he has yet to be a real breakout player. His consistency and strong two-way game may yet prove fruitful at the next level though. He is big, a decent skater, and has altogether average offensive and defensive abilities. He is proving to be a fairly safe, if not unspectacular, middle round pick at this point.

Prospect of the Month

Michael Mersch - Los Angeles Kings

When is it going to happen? Michael Mersch destroyed the AHL in the latter half of 2014-15, had a tremendous training camp, and is again proving to be an effective force in the early goings of 2015-16 for the Ontario Reign. Along with Adrian Kempe, the Kings have two very young and exciting talents playing just down the 10 Freeway in Ontario. The former NCAA standout has all the makeup of a Kings player as well. His gritty, nose-to-the-net game has earned him praise from many within the organization. He just seems to find ways to get to the goal and get pucks on net, averaging over five shots on a goal per game. Coaches love this mentality. It is not a question of if he gets his shot in the NHL, it is a question of when.