In the offseason, the Los Angeles Kings declined to offer contracts to several role players. Add to that the deadline trade of Mathieu Schneider last March, and it meant there were a few spots open on the Kings roster during training camp. In the past, the Kings had to make trades to fill holes. For the first time in many years, the team was able to fill those holes with prospects.
The prospect most expected to see make the club was highly touted 19-year-old defenseman Denis Grebeshkov, the team’s 2002 first round pick. But an injury during the Pacific Division Rookie Tournament sidelined Grebeshkov and Tim Gleason stole the show back on the blueline. Gleason seized the opportunity with his physical play and work ethic. Three games into a young NHL season, Gleason is tied for the NHL lead in plus-minus and has been the shot in the arm the Kings blueline needed after losing captain Mattias Norstrom to injury in the season opener in Detroit.
Gleason was originally drafted by the Senators and came over to the Kings last year at the 2003 trade deadline. He had the privilege of playing his first ever NHL game in his hometown of Detroit, but he was playing against the team he grew up rooting for. Gleason had always dreamed of playing an NHL game in front of his grandfather, Leo, who has been in failing health. Leo Gleason was in attendance opening night.
Few believed that this year’s 13th overall pick Dustin Brown would be given a chance to make the club, as management stated. The right winger had a solid preseason and made the opening night roster. Brown was described by scouts as a prototypical NHL winger and fit the bill. After leading the Guelph Storm in goals (34), assists (42) and points (76) last season, Brown tied Luc Robitaille for the club lead with four preseason goals and is the first 18-year-old since Olli Jokinen in 1998-99 to make the club. He has helped add depth and grit to a forward core missing Adam Deadmarsh and Jason Allison.
Centers Jared Aulin and Mike Cammalleri both had great rookie camps and were both expected to make a run at the opening night roster after working hard in the offseason. Unfortunately neither were able to escape the injury epidemic that has been sweeping through the Kings organization. Aulin suffered a separated shoulder sticking up for Cammalleri in the rookie tournament and he is expected to miss four to six months. Cammalleri suffered a knee sprain in a preseason game in Bakersfield and should be back in two to three weeks.
Denis Grebeshkov was also injured in the rookie tournament and started the season with AHL affiliate Manchester. He turned heads with stellar play in the Russian Super League and was thought by many to be the leading candidate to land a job with the Kings out of training camp. Many consider Grebeshkov to be the Kings top prospect and expect him to anchor the blueline for many years to come. Championships have followed him throughout his young career. He helped the Russian National team to goal medals at the 2002 and 2003 World Junior Championships and also helped Yarslavl win RSL Championship.