Kip Brennan- The Most Promising King?
There has been a steady path beaten from Manchester, New Hampshire to Los Angeles, California. King prospects have been back and forth the entire season due to a multitude of injuries on the NHL level. While King fans have been able to see some of the top prospects in NHL action, perhaps no minor leaguer has taken advantage of his chance more than winger Kip Brennan.
This trip to the NHL was not the first for Kip Brennan, but probably the most important. After toiling in Sudbury, then spells in Lowell and Manchester, Brennan was recalled last season during one of Ken Belanger’s injuries. Brennan played fairly well, but was unable to make headway in fighting two of the league’s perennial huggers- Steve McKenna and Andre Nazarov- and was unable to have any memorable impact. After four games, Brennan was returned to Manchester and Ryan Flinn was called to Los Angeles. Flinn’s feats were the stuff of legend- a knockout against Brad Brown and a broken nose to one of the league’s toughest- Scott Parker. Belanger eventually returned and Flinn went back to Manchester, but King fans had seen their enforcer of the future and his name was Ryan Flinn.
Flinn’s size makes him a more attractive enforcer- he is an inch taller and is heavier than Brennan. While both have fought all comers in the AHL, Brennan knock was his lack of girth and the consequent weight differences he might see in the NHL. Brennan put on weight in the offseason, but headed into the season as the third option at enforcer in training camp. An injury during camp did nothing to help him move up the depth chart, and defenseman Brad Norton slid in ahead of him when he was move to forward. Injuries to Ken Belanger and Ryan Flinn, along with several other Kings, gave Brennan and early shot in November where he played two games and earned 9 PIM’s with an unimpressive fight with Ryan VandenBussche. He was returned to Manchester and recalled on December 18. Outside of a foot injury, he has been in the lineup ever since.
Kip has fought any big name he could find since his return. Kevin Sawyer, Todd Simpson, Chris McAllister and Todd Fedoruk have obliged. Brennan traded punches with all of them, soundly beating Sawyer and McAllister, drawing with Simpson and closely losing a slugfest with Fedoruk. His ability to throw with both hands has caught nearly everyone he has fought off-guard.
While fans love the fisticuffs, Brennan’s future seems brighter because he is learning the game and has potential as a skater. Brennan has shown a heavy shot and is becoming a fierce open ice hitter. His ability to play in both zones makes him a potential every night skater, which is something that enforcers of the future must be able to do. Being a former defenseman, Brennan is not a liability defensively, and his skating is improving. As he gains respect on the ice, his offensive improvement will be vital. Kip has shown some ability to put the puck in the net- he had 16 goals and 32 points in 55 games during his final season in Sudbury. His development will be intriguing to say the least- with all the smaller skill players in the King system, it may be vital.
2002 5th round pick Greg Hogeboom is someone to keep an eye on. His game is coming along nicely for Miami of Ohio. Hogeboom has 14 goals and 27 points in 24 games and has a team-leading 104 shots! Greg is also pacing the Redhawks with a +10 rating.
This is Noah Clarke’s senior season at Colorado College. The diminutive forward is putting up a lot of points- 38 in 22 games. It will be interesting to see if the California native gets any shot to play for the Kings someday. George Parros of Princeton is the antithesis of Clarke. He has ample size but only 2 assists in 10 games. Parros would have to really develop to become an NHL enforcer and any sort of hope for an offensive game developing for George appears to have vanished.