The lack of depth in the Los Angeles Kings system is perhaps most visible in their lack of wings in their system. While the Kings finally acquired their long coveted scorer in Ziggy Palffy, it came at a serious cost to their system, particularly on the wings. Josh Green showed some signs of greatness, and was one of former coach Larry Robinson’s favorite players. In the Kings’ home opener last season, Green broke to the net and scored on a rebound, showing signs of the power forward many had hoped he’d become. The bad news was that was the last time he went to the net. Green had potential, but was slow and hesitant, which makes him the next Kevin Stevens, which is not what the Kings needed at wing. The number four pick that also went to New York would likely have been forward Taylor Pyatt. The Kings also passed on signing left wing Matt Zhultek, allowing him to return to the draft where Boston took him. So without those forwards, here is the extent of the Kings young forwards, both at the NHL level and in the pipeline.
Pavel Rosa- Rosa was in Robinson’s doghouse for much of the 98-99 season, but enters the 99-00 campaign as a key component to the Kings success. Rosa, even at his worst, showed awesome offensive ability. After scoring two goals in his first game last season, Rosa became a focal point for opponents. Rosa was on the wrong side of some crushing hits, but still accumulated points by assisting on several more goals. Nonetheless, Rosa was sent down because players and coaches both felt he was not giving 100% every shift. After watching Rosa, who was coming off a lost season due to concussions, struggle to find room on the ice, Rosa’s lack of consistent effort seemed to be as much a product of being physically dominated and fear of another head blow. When Rosa returned towards the end of the season, the other players on the ice seemed dedicated to making sure he was better protected, and he flourished. Rosa can flat out move the puck around, and has a sneaky shot. When he has room, he doesn’t tip off where the puck is going, which leaves defensemen and goalies on their heels. A perfect example was his assist on Luc Robataille’s 500th goal. Everyone in the building knew Luc would get the puck, but Rosa had enough room to take the goalie with him, and then left a picture perfect pass for Lucky. Rosa also started to show a mean streak, including a couple hard checks on Zdeno Chara. Rosa will be as good as the rest of his teammates allow him to become. Rosa seems destined for a solid season.
Andrei Shefer- Shefer was the Kings’ top draft pick this season. Shefer played is Russia last season, posting a modest 49 points in 81 games. Shefer is slight in build (6’1″, 180), and plays a good all-around game. Andrei, who is only 17, is part of a Kings’ movement to better skaters with more skill than the hulking, prodding forwards the Kings had made a focus in years’ past.
Brian McGrattan- McGrattan is another product of the 1999 draft. This 17 year-old is more like the big forwards the Kings’ coveted under the Robinson era. McGrattan has size (6’3″, 210) and plays a physical game. McGrattan and George Parros (another 6’4″ forward from the 99 draft) are replacing some of the size lost from the expansion draft and the Palffy trade.
Jason Podollan- Jason Podollan came to the Kings in the Yanic Perreault trade last season. Podollan posted some lofty numbers in the minors last season, but didn’t score a point in six games with the Kings. While he did show some physical presence, including a scrap in the season finale, Podollan didn’t show even a speckle of offensive presence. The Kings are deep on right wing, so Podollan better re-discover his offensive game or face a season as a Long Beach Ice Dog.
Wildcards- There are several players who could move positions or develop ahead of schedule and contribute in the near future to the Kings success. Players who could move positions would be centers Don MacLean and Scott Barney, both of whom can provide both size and offense. Defenseman Kip Brennan could bring his grit to the left wing from his present position of defense. All of the rest of the players in the pipeline are either too young to prognosticate or are destined for long minor league careers. The serious lack of depth and skill at forward is a primary concern for the Kings organization.