The Los Angeles Kings have been forced to use their newly beefed-up farm system several times this season. Injuries have plagued the Kings, but the positive results that have resulted from prospect playing time have made the blows easier to bear. Here is a quick rundown of how each call-up has fared so far this season:
Mike Cammalleri has been a work in progress. Initially, Cammy seemed to have trouble adapting to not being one of the best players on the ice. Many of his moves that had worked for him at Michigan and Manchester were not successful in his initial games with the Kings, but he has done a good job adapting his game. While it is cliché so say, Mike has improved in almost every game he has played. He has been extremely responsible on the ice and moves the puck well. Since being placed on a line with fellow rookie Alexander Frolov, the two have developed their games into a cycling, behind the net type of game that will be a nice supplement to both of their open ice games. Mike has also become a responsible defensive player who shows hustle on both sides of the ice. Despite his size, he plays hard on the puck and has not backed down from NHL contact. The points will come for Cammalleri- the most encouraging part has been his development of his overall game so far.
Joe Corvo has now played two games with the Kings. With the recent acquisition of Dmitry Yuskevich, Corvo’s offensive game is a nice addition to the mix of defensive-minded blueliners the Kings currently play. Corvo, Schneider and Visnovsky are nice offensive complements to Norstrom, Miller and Yuskevich. Corvo is aggressive on the offensive blueline- almost to a fault. Joe makes every effort to keep every puck in the offensive zone, sometimes resulting in potential odd-man rushes for the opposition. (The Kings forwards are generally responsible enough to allow this not to hurt the team so far.) Corvo moves the puck up the ice very well. His passes are very crisp and when he carries the puck, he is compact and quick, making it difficult to take him off the play. It would be nice to see him get a little more power play time to see how he handles that, but so far he has impressed.
Derek Armstrong has been a pleasant surprise. Before his current injury he was excellent on the Frolov-Cammalleri line. Who would have though that Armstrong would have more goals than Bryan Smolinski and as many goals as Jason Allison at this point of the season? Derek is fifth in goal scoring among forwards on the team and has been a real bright spot so far.
Chris McAlpine was expected to be a borderline NHL player this season but has played in 16 games already. While he has not been outstanding, he has plugged a hole very nicely for L.A. and for the most part has not hurt the team. The only question with McAlpine is what potential upside is there in playing him over someone like Joe Corvo. Most King fans would rather see Corvo get his NHL shot than McAlpine have a career season by being average. Nevertheless, his play has been better than anticipated and he is providing valuable depth in the event of a trade.
Players like Kip Brennan, Steve Kelly and Pavel Rosa have all played games with the Kings this season as well, but have since returned to Manchester. The next prospect who will get a look is Jared Aulin, who was called up to replace the injured Steve Heinze on Sunday. The Kings could potentially dress four of their top NHL prospects while still chasing a division title. That is a good sign for any organization.
Former King prospects and current ECHL players Matthew Yeats, Jason Crain and Matt Zultek were all in the news recently. Yeats was called up to the AHL Philly Phantoms and was the #1 star in his AHL debut, making 26 saves and getting the win. Yeats is 10th in the ECHL in save percentage. Yeats is 6-4 with a .907 save percentage and 2.47 GAA. Jason Crain was recently traded to Mississippi of the ECHL where he has 3 assists in 16 games. Crain started the season with Dayton and had 1 goal and 5 assists in seven games prior to the trade. Former Kings draft pick Matt Zultek is alive and well in the ECHL. Zultek has modified his game in the ECHL- he has 7 goals and 5 assists in 14 games, but he also has 73 penalty minutes in his new, more physical style. Maybe Zultek will become the power forward the Kings always hoped he would be…who knows?