The Los Angeles Kings system remains robust in role players, grinders, and two-way defensemen. This has always seemed to be the case. However, the organization is starting to see a nice evolution from a few players within the system. When you have so few high end picks, you have to hope for the growth of the Mersch’s, the Dowd’s, and the Auger’s of the pipeline to come through for you in filling in the gaps. While some of these players are in the very nascent stages of their careers and development paths, they are starting to rise just like the development team had hoped.
The AHL is currently loaded, while things tend to taper off in NCAA and CHL. Nevertheless, there are good seasons happening all over the Kings’ pipeline, and it has led to some fairly decent movements and new players jumping into and around the Kings Spring top 20.
20. (NR) Jacob Middleton, D, 6.5D
Drafted 7th round, 210th overall, 2014
The Kings love their big two-way defensemen, and Middleton fits that bill. He has donned the “C” for Ottawa and backed it up with an altogether solid year from the 67’s blue line. A well-rounded defenseman, both physical and mobile, he fits the mold of other successful later round King Dmen.
19. (NR) Chaz Reddekopp, D, 6.5D
Drafted 7th round, 187th overall, 2015
He, like Middleton before him, fits a certain two-way mold that the Kings scouts seem to love. The 19-year old has stepped up with another improved year with the Victoria Royals of the WHL, making it his third straight year of positive progression. He was also a standout at Kings training camp prior to the season.
18. (20) Austin Wagner, LW/C, 6.0C
Drafted 4th round, 99th overall, 2015
He came in at 20 on the Fall list, and has had a respectable year to see him move up a tad. There is still going to be a significant question on whether or not he has an offensive game to translate to the next level, but as far as a hard-working potential bottom-line forward, Wagner seems to have the tools.
17. (NR) Spencer Watson, W, 7.0D
Drafted 7th round, 209th overall, 2014
If you are a little unsure about Spencer Watson, that is fine. He is similar to the diminutive pure goal-scorers the Kings have had in the system in the past. Despite the uphill battle he may face in cracking a system reliant on hulking forwards, Watson has had a tremendous season with Kingston, and turned at least a few heads in the Hockey Canada circles.
16. (10) Zach Leslie, D, 7.0D
Drafted 6th round, 178th overall, 2013
There is still a lot to like in Leslie’s game. The mobility and transition game still have glorious potential, and have shown through in small doses in the AHL this year. However, the defensive lapses and comfort with the puck are something still giving him trouble. He has been a regular healthy scratch unless injury strikes the Ontario backend.
15. (19) Nick Ebert, D, 7.0D
Drafted 7th round, 211th overall, 2012
Ebert had a longer stretch and more consistent stretch in the Reign lineup than Leslie, but ultimately lost his spot due to injury and elevation of other players. He has shown flashes of highly aggressive, mobile, and enterprising transitional hockey, but has lapses defensively. Always considered a project defenseman with high upside, Ebert is still very much figuring things out.
14. (NR) Kurtis MacDermid, D, 6.0C
Signed as a free agent in September of 2012
MacDermid has been one of the surprises this season. With a blue line depth chart loaded with players, the free agent signee has been a mainstay on the Reign backend in his rookie season. The only absence was due to a 12-game suspension. He plays a game that really skirts the edge of questionable physical play, but this helps him establish a presence. He has also been sound defensively this year, with good stick and body work on opposing forwards. The occasional hiccup still happens, but he has been a surprise.
13. (15) Alex Dergachyov, C, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 74th overall, 2015
While the KHL has only offered him the minutes of a 4th liner, Dergachyov has stayed in a men’s league at age 19, which says something. He is a hulking mass of a player with good technical skills and defensive play. A great U20 World Junior Championship tournament gave the young center a chance to showcase his developing power forward game. His puck possession play and passionate displays alone had to have Kings fans salivating.
12. (7) Alex Lintuniemi, D, 7.0D
Drafted 2nd round, 60th overall, 2014
The big Finn is in a static position right now due to wrist surgery. He has not had much of a chance to showcase anything this season. While many were disappointed he went down to the ECHL to start the year, the pecking order and seniority on the Reign blueline likely played a part in that. He is a project defenseman, no question, but there are still a lot of raw tools to covet here.
11. (17) Justin Auger, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 103rd overall, 2013
A noted improvement has been made by Justin Auger from this season to last in the AHL. He has pushed himself to be more aggressive and use his size and skill to get in better scoring areas and win battles. Ultimately the stats and the threat he poses have both increased. That being said, consistency still remains the biggest enemy of the massive forward. Game to game it can be a wildly different story.