Kings Getting a Glimpse of the Future

By Tony Calfo
The Kings season has been a mystery. Poor goaltending, an unresolved Blake situation and home losses to the worst team in hockey have clouded what seemed to be a breakthrough season. Despite all of this, the Kings can see the future right now in the play of Steve Reinprecht, Lubomir Visnovsky and Eric Belanger.

Eric Belanger came out of nowhere to claim a roster spot and has adjusted his game to fit the NHL style of play. Belanger has always had tremendous skill. He has shown his playmaking ability when filling in for Josef Stumpel and the start of the season. But when Stumpie returned, Belanger was returned to Lowell. Injuries lead to his recall and his centering the fourth line, flanked by tough guys Stu Grimson and Ian Lapperierre. Belanger has shown some solid defensive play and the grit that Kings management thought he lacked. Granted, he gets alot more room on the ice because of his linemates, but Belanger has shown that he can adapt his game to whatever situation is needed. After being labeled a flop last season, Belanger’s development may move him into a second or third line center for years to come.

Steve Reinprecht has fooled this fan. Rhino has emerged as a second line center and is among the leaders in rookie scoring. I for one thought he would struggle this season, but his amazing hands and playmaking ability have lead to unexpected scoring chances. He has the ability to dig the puck out of the corners, make moves on a dime, and find the open skater. Rhino is solid on both sides of the ice and is a playmaking center that the Kings have longed for. His development lead to the moving of Brian Smolinski to first line wing, which has made the Kings a better team.

Finally, Lubomir Visnovsky has been nothing short of amazing. Despite his small stature, Lubo finds room on the ice and is a very solid defenseman. Visnovsky’s ability to use his body compensates for his lack of size. Any hockey fan who saw him take Chris Dingman off the puck in a game earlier this week had to be amazed at his hockey smarts. Perhaps even more amazing is his blistering speed. Visnovsky can accelerate and move through small spaces in no time to create offense. He also has a wicked shot and never seems to put a teammate in a bad position with a premature pass. All of these factors have lead to Lubo being the #2 rookie scorer and a top contender for the Calder trophy.

Granted, all is not well for the Kings, but for a team who has been knocked for its poor farm system, how many teams start three rookies who are impacting games right away? These three players can be top line skaters for the Kings for many seasons to come.