LA Kings represented in CHL well by small but talented group

By Andrew Knoll
Photo: Tyler Toffoli is the current goal-scoring leader in the OHL. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

The Los Angeles Kings may not have any first-round picks in their mix of five junior-level prospects, yet they still boast some intriguing young players in the CHL. Their quintet contains the goalie whom they considered the top player at his position in the 2011 draft and a balanced selection of two gritty forwards and a pair of prolific scorers.

OHL

Andy Andreoff, LW, Oshawa Generals
Acquired: 3rd round (80th overall) in 2011

Andreoff returned for an overage season with Oshawa, a move that has yet to prove all that fruitful. While Andreoff has scored a point per game, the Generals are off to a rather poor start. They are eighth of ten teams In the Eastern Conference despite having played at least two more games than each of the other nine clubs. While he ranks third on the team in per-game scoring, he has skated at minus-12, the worst rating of any Oshawa skater.

He now checks in at over six feet and over 200 pounds with more physical maturity than his peers, but that advantage has not produced the dominant campaign some had hoped for from Andreoff. He missed some games early in the season and is currently nursing a shin injury from a shot he blocked. Even so, Andreoff has recorded five multi-point games already this season.

The Generals have been a streaky club that has shown a few glimpses of their full potential this season. Until they stabilize a bit, it may be hard to get a clear read on Andreoff. That said, an overage player who is not only one of the team’s top offensive players but one of its tough guys could be a huge part of righting the Oshawa ship. Andreoff has a nice mix of pro level size, solid pound for pound strength, grit and respectable scoring touch, somewhat similar to Kyle Clifford.

Michael Schumacher, LW, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Acquired: 7th round (200th overall) in 2011

Swede Michael Schumacher took his talents to North America this season, spending time in Kings camp in Los Angeles and then competing for Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL. He has notched 18 points in 23 games while playing a strong physical game thus far for the Greyhounds.

To describe Schumacher in a word, it would be huge. His North American exposure (the draft, Kings rookie camp and the OHL campaign) has given many their first face-to-face look at Schumacher. He is actually considerably more imposing than his pre-draft measurements suggested, standing nearly 6’5 and weighing around 205 pounds. His fitness level was also strong for his age and size. While Schumacher said his early growth was once a source of physical awkwardness, his coordination has consistently improved as he has settled into his body.

Schumacher appears to be an excellent value draft selection. Despite his size he has respectable mobility with solid lateral movement, agility and straight ahead speed. Improved coordination, refined skating technique and filling out his highly projectable frame could turn him into a big, fast athlete with decent skills. His learning curve appears somewhat steep, but his transition to the CHL may ease some of that burden.

Tyler Toffoli, RW, Ottawa 67s
Acquired: 2nd round (47th overall) in 2010

Toffoli earned a reputation as a premier finisher, a tag he justified in rookie camp and training camp with the Kings. While his speed is hardly blinding, Toffoli has above average hockey sense, a quick release and a lethally accurate shot. After a relatively impressive preseason that included a two-point exhibition performance, Toffoli has returned to the Ottawa 67s for his final junior season.

There he has posted jaw-dropping numbers, notching nearly two points per game and averaging more than a goal per contest. After winning a share of the OHL scoring title last season, he currently leads the league in goals (26) and is second in scoring with 47 points. He and Doug Hamilton (BOS) were named captains for the OHL squad in this year’s Subway Super Series, the third such series for Toffoli.

His signature game this season came against the Niagara Ice Dogs. With the 67s missing key players and competing in their third game in three days, Toffoli keyed a 5-2 victory in which he scored three goals and set up two more. That was one of nine multiple-goal games for Toffoli, who has firmly established himself as a prominent prospect in the Kings organization. With more repetition, a bit more efficient skating form and physical maturation, Toffoli could become a somewhat unorthodox sniper at the NHL level.

QMJHL

Christopher Gibson, G, Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Acquired: 2nd round (49th overall) in 2011

Christopher Gibson has taken a big step backward statistically this season, although some of that can be attributed to a higher tempo for this Chicoutimi club. Though the premium they have placed on getting pucks to the net has been a mixed bag, they have a negative goal differential but a .554 winning percentage, it may pay bigger dividends if Gibson can re-enter the zone he played in for much of last season.

In Kings training camp, Gibson and Martin Jones were the two prospects that got consistent reps. Although he showed flashes of brilliance, Gibson also struggled at times. He had some difficultly reading the game at the next level, but was also able to make a brilliant save on a challenging shot here and there.

Even with his variable performance, Gibson impressed the organization in his first trip to Los Angeles. He was praised by both head coach Terry Murray and goaltending coach Bill Ranford as a coachable goalie with a strong commitment to improvement, a positive attitude and a deep desire to succeed. Ranford and Gibson himself both acknowledged the rawness of Gibson’s overall game. However, Ranford was quick to point out that Gibson possesses things that cannot be coached-tremendous athletic ability and a host of competitive intangibles.

WHL

Jordan Weal, C, Regina Pats
Acquired: 3rd round (70th overall) in 2010

At 5’10 and 170 pounds, Weal does not stand out as a physical specimen away from the ice. Once the puck drops however, he is a temerarious puck hound with a flair for forcing turnovers on the forecheck. Offensively, he has had 11 multi-point games en route a point-and-a-half-per-game campaign thus far.

Weal has worked hard to gain strength without losing mobility. In addition to his quickness, agility and high fitness level, Weal puts forth great effort on the ice. He said moving his feet constantly and creating a "moving target" were essential elements to his game. The Kings were clearly impressed with his performance as they inked him to an entry-level deal this offseason.

Over the past three seasons, no one has scored more points than Weal in the WHL. He competed in the Subway Super Series and will now set his sights on making Canada’s World Junior roster. A gifted playmaker with finishing ability, Weal will have to worker harder than similarly skilled players with more size. Nonetheless, he has succeeded famously to this point and will enter an NHL which features more diminutive players than ever.