It’s been made pretty clear that the Kings system is depleted at best. With that in mind, assume the Kings will lose a few players during the off-season to expansion et all, and there seems to be a few open roster spots. The question is who will make a run at these spots? In past seasons, the Kings have signed guys like Len Barrie to fill “fringe” positions on the third or fourth lines. Thirty year old players with some skill are stop-gap solutions at best. So who will help the Kings soonest? Here is a stab:
If the question was who is going to play in the NHL soonest, Pavel Rosa would be the answer. Rosa seems poised to be a top pick in the expansion draft. Rosa has had several opportunities to sparkle and has done nothing with them. Barring involvement in a trade- which seems to be growing more and more unlikely, Rosa will spend next season in Columbus or Minneapolis. Rosa is probably the only sure shot for next year, albeit with another team.
Donald MacLean is in another resurgence. He is starting to play better in Lowell and as I saw him play last week I am reminded that he has one thing that many others do not- tremendous size. A third or fourth line center with size is a premium. MacLean has to either commit himself to one side of the ice or develop a nasty streak because his game has not developed to the point where he can excel offensively as well defensively. I would not be surprised if MacLean makes a move to the big club next year as the fourth line center.
Joe Rullier would likely make the jump to the NHL with any other team but the Kings. Assuming the Kings lose or trade two defenseman, which seems a best case scenario with an aging Galley, a tradeable Berg and a possible expansion loss, then the Kings would have Frankie Kaberle and maybe another defenseman or two from the system to join what is becoming one of the most solid blue lines in hockey. Rullier has shown that he can be a special player but he may be best served with a year at Lowell. If that is the case, then players like Peter Hogan and Richard Seeley would likely get a shot. I am a big Richard Seeley guy but I think he needs another year at Lowell. Other names of unspectacular defenseman who could plug a hole for a year or two are Jan Nemecek and Sean Blanchard.
At forward, the Kings need muscle more than anything and Kip Brennan and Brian McGrattan can provide that. They are both very young and Kip Brennan could use a little more bulk and experience at forward. They are likely a year away. Greg Phillips has good size and has gained experience at Lowell. For some reason he has always been an appealing player to me. He has size and a growing mean streak and could be a sleeper for next year. Scott Barney was targeted to make the roster next year but has not seen ice this season so his development has been pushed back. If Barney could play next year, that would give a huge boost to the Kings and the pipeline.
Goalie Alexey Volkov could make a move next year. While the Kings would probably like to pace his arrival, a trade of a goalie could rush his NHL career. Volkov will be ready next year, but will probably come to the Kings in two seasons. Hopefully by then the Kings will have replenished the system with more front line prospects who can fill in sooner than later.