Kings’ College Pipeline
End of Season Report
With the conclusion of the Frozen Four, it is time to look back at how the Kings’ prospects fared this season. As with their NHL counterparts, it was a season of highs and lows, successes, disappointments, and inconsistent goaltending for the prospects. However, there is leave for hope for the Kings fan looking to the college ranks for relief – there are some late round gems that might help the NHL team soon. So let’s take a look at the Kings’ college pipeline.
David Steckel, Jr, Ohio St. (1st Round, #30 overall)
David has been a major question mark since he was drafted in 2001 after a great freshman year. His sophomore and junior years have seen a steady decline in point totals, but an increase in his role as a “defensive forward”. David spent the off-season in Columbus developing his strength and working on his defense resulting in a reduction in PIMs and an improved +/-. He continues to use his large frame to play physical, wear down the defense, and frustrate the opposition’s top scorers. With his good hands, quick wrists, and excellent face-off skills, he is an anchor on the penalty kill. He missed the first game of his career when he injured his knee late in February but returned in time for the tournament. A four game stretch in early February saw David score 2 goals and 3 assists, demonstrating that he still has the offensive skills displayed his freshman year. He has another year of eligibility where he will look to improve on his scoring, but not at a sacrifice of his strong defensive play. As it stands now, he is your prototypical high-energy “stopper” 3rd or 4th line center. But the college game does not always suit players of David’s size, strength, and physicality – instead focusing on the quick and the skilled. David’s real litmus test will be his first year in Manchester where his game is better suited.
Noah Clarke, Sr, Colorado College (9th Round, #250 overall)
Many Kings fans already know about the huge season Noah had with Colorado College and his subsequent signing with the Manchester Monarchs. Noah led all NCAA with 49 assists and anchored a line with Hobey award winner Peter Sejna. Noah is slightly undersized (5’10”, 175lbs) but quick with above average speed, tremendous hockey sense, and good passing skills. He has an excellent work ethic and makes the most of what he’s got through hustle and smarts. He does nothing great, but everything well. Noah has certainly demonstrated that he knows how to score even strength – of his 70 points, only 4 came from the powerplay and 1 on the penalty kill. Noah was named to the All-WCHA 2nd team and is a1st team All-American. However, don’t let the huge season Noah has had fool you into believing that the Kings drafted an elite prospect in the 9th round. The ’02-’03 season was Noah’s first on a line with Sejna and the sudden jump from mid-30’s point totals his first three years to 70 seems to suggest that Sejna probably was a significant factor. It remains to be seen whether Noah can continue his point production when not on a line with Sejna. But no one wants Noah to prove me wrong more than I.
Greg Hogeboom, Jr, Miami, OH (5th Round, #152 overall)
Greg’s college career has seen a steady increase in playing time and points. His junior season saw career highs in goals, assists, points, +/-, and a NCAA leading 17 powerplay goals. Greg has a quick wrist shot with good accuracy and has shown great passing skills setting up teammates with can’t miss shots. He has proved to be a bit of an ironman having played in every game in his 3 years at Miami. He started the ’02-’03 season with 15 points in his first 10 games and later scored his first career hat-trick on March 14th against Notre Dame. Going into next season, Greg will look to continue his steady increase in goals and points on a Miami team expecting big things from a top line that will likely include fellow seniors Mike Kompon and Derek Edwardson. Look for a breakout season in ’03-’04 and a late season spot with the Manchester Monarchs. I expect to see Greg in a Kings’ uniform and seeing significant playing time on the third line in two or three years.
Connor James, Jr, Denver U. (9th Round, #279 overall)
Connor is on the small side, but extremely fast and an excellent skater. He has a great work ethic and is constantly looking to improve his game, both offensively and defensively, garnering significant time on the penalty kill. He is skilled with a non-stop motor, creating tough match-up problems for the competition. Connor was elected to the Denver Cup All-star team where he had 1 goal and 3 assists in 2 games. His pure speed and skating ability should earn him some looks at making the NHL team straight out of college. Seeing what the team speed of the Ducks did against the Kings this season (where penalties had to be taken to prevent countless odd-man rushes), having a true burner flying around the rink for the Kings will definitely be a breath of fresh air. Connor’s consistently great +/- and improving goal totals throughout his career suggests that his development will continue through his senior year and will prove to be an absolute steal for a 9th round selection.
Ryan Murphy, So, Boston College (6th Round, #185 overall)
Ryan has seen increased playing time while skating on the 3rd line for a young BC team, posting an improved +8. He is a great 2-way forward waiting for his opportunity to break into the top two lines and show what kind of offensive game he has. Ryan showed what kind of offensive upside he has in his first 2-goal game of his career against Bowling Green. However, he will have to wait his turn as he is expected to be back on the defensive 3rd line behind some excellent juniors and seniors. Look for Ryan to breakout with a top minutes and better offensive numbers in the ’04-’05 season, his senior campaign.
George Parros, Sr, Princeton (8th Round, #222 overall)
George was drafted out of juniors where he showed a bit of a scoring touch for someone his size. However, he has developed into a physical force with little else similar to a Brennan or Flinn but without the fighting skills. He wore the “C” during his senior year on a bad Princeton team and was limited to 22 games due to injury. He has attended summer prospect camps with the Kings and signed a tryout contract with Manchester at the conclusion of the Princeton season. He has since been released.
Richard Petiot, So, Colorado College (4th Round, #116 overall)
Richard is a big punishing d-man, known more for his momentum changing hits than his scoring. He is stay at home d-man who, along with teammate Mark Stuart, forms one of the best tandems of hard hitters in all college hockey. Richard is a good skater for his size (6’3”, 205lbs) and excellent in the corners. However, he needs to improve on his passing out of the defensive zone and his positioning to stay in the NHL. He still has two more years of eligibility and a future as a 4th-6th d-man for the Kings is not out of the question.
Mike Gabinet, Jr, Nebraska-Omaha (8th Round, #237 overall)
Mike is a defense-first d-man who can contribute offensively in the right situations. He has a huge frame that can stand to add a few more pounds (6’3”, 195lbs). He is a solid skater with good passing skills. Mike was hit hard with injuries his sophomore season and had a bit of a disappointing junior season. He will look to bounce back his senior year and hopefully earn himself a tryout contract with Manchester. Unless he adds a few pounds and develops a mean streak somewhere down the line, I think Mike is unlikely to make it to the Kings.
Joel Andresen, Fr, Nebraska-Omaha (5th Round, #157 overall)
Joel is yet another big d-man for the Kings (6’3”, 210lbs). He is a stay at home d-man who provides the occasional offense. He loves the physical play and was seeing top 4 ice-time as a freshman on a very young Nebraska team. As Joel and the rest of the team mature, Joel will see more/better ice time and improve on his already impressive 1st year numbers.
Nathan Marsters, Jr, Rensselaer (5th Round, #165 overall)
Nathan had a disappointing year, but stepped up towards the end of the season posting a 4-4-1 record with a 2.70 GAA and 90.1 save percentage down the stretch. He has proved to be the go-to guy for RPI and turned in two great performances against Union during the ECAC tournament. Although RPI’s season ended with two straight loses to a vastly superior Cornell team, it was his strong play in net that kept the games close. Nathan has a large frame (6’4”) and does a great job of staying squared to the shooter and controlling the rebound. He posted great numbers his freshman and sophomore years and was on the fast track to being the Kings’ answer in net for prospects, but his numbers dipped dramatically this past season. Nathan has all the raw tools to be a very good AHL goalie or maybe a quality NHL backup and I expect to see him bounce back his senior year.
Terry Denike, So, Lake Superior St. (5th Round, #152 overall)
Terry was playing behind a young and inexperienced LSSU team and was second on the depth charts to fellow sophomore Matt Violin. His numbers for his first two seasons were a large disappointment, as he never found the form that set a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League record of 6 shutouts. He has since opted to leave LSSU.
Indicative of the rest of the Kings’ farm system, there are plenty of future 3rd-4th line forwards and 4th-6th d-men that might be ready to step right in to the NHL and contribute. But the college ranks are virtually devoid of high-end talent who can make a significant long-term impact for the Kings.
As disappointing as his college career has been, Steckel might still someday develop into a legitimate NHL powerforward and would be wise to hold out judgment until he gets a chance in the AHL. Hogeboom and James have the offensive skills to make it and stay in the NHL. Clarke can be anything from a high scoring AHL forward who never sniffs the NHL (see 1998 Hobey Baker Finalist Eric Healey) to an inspirational hardworking leader on the 3rd line for the Kings. Murphy is a superb 2-way forward who still needs some time to develop. Parros likely will be shuffled between the ECHL and the AHL.
Petiot and Andresen are a couple of years away from helping the Kings and are definitely 4th-6th d-man material. Gabinet has another year to go and probably will be signed by Manchester at the conclusion of his senior year because of the defensive call-ups the Kings are expected to make in the next couple of years (Zizka, Rullier, Gleason, Rome, etc.).
Denike will try out for a roster spot in the Kings’ minor league system next year. Marsters’ coming season will be pivotal – will he be able to regain the stellar form of his first two years? If so, Marsters might be able to breath some life into a beleaguered crop of goaltending prospects.
This next season will be an exciting season for Kings college prospects. And come draft day, I’ll be glued to my television and computer awaiting the latest crop of young talent to fill the Kings’ College Pipeline.