Kings NCAA prospects update

By David A. Rainer

The Los Angeles Kings currently have 12 prospects developing their game in the collegiate ranks.  With five forwards, four defensemen, and three goaltenders, the crop is well balanced in future stars and role players.  David Meckler and Trevor Lewis both left their college programs in the offseason to play in major juniors.

 

Forwards

 

The group of forwards is highlighted by Brian Boyle and e”>Scott Parse.  Both entered the season as possible Hobey Baker Award finalists.  Where Parse has lived up to that billing, Boyle has leveled off in his production does not appear bound for the award podium.

 

Parse has been in the top five in the league in points for most of the season and has led the University of Nebraska-Omaha in points almost since the first game of the year.  The Mavericks were hoping for a second straight berth in the NCAA tournament this season, but midway through the season, a return to the tournament seems unlikely, but through no fault of Parse.  Playing at both forward and, occasionally, at defense when needed, Parse has met all expectations with 50 points through 36 games and solid leadership from the very beginning.  Expect the Kings to make a significant push to sign Parse once the Mavericks season ends.

 

Likewise, Boyle has been a senior leader for Boston College as the Eagles look to return to the NCAA tournament championship game.  Boyle has come on of late, scoring 21 of his 36 points since the holiday break in leading Boston College in assists, points and power-play goals.  The Kings will make every attempt to come to terms with Boyle at the conclusion of the Eagles’ season.

 

While Parse and Boyle supply the star power, Martin Guerin provides much needed energy and physical play.  After a down year offensively in 2005-06, Guerin has returned to form with 31 points through 36 games, including six points in a two-game home-and-home series against Robert Morris.  Guerin continues to provide solid defensive play from the front line for Miami and has been looked to for contributions in all situations for the RedHawks.  Similarly, Guerin will be graduating at the conclusion of this season and might be a late-season addition to the Manchester Monarchs.

 

John Michael Curry and Mike Sullivan round out the remainder of Kings college forwards.  Curry has proved to be a gritty forward for the University of Minnesota-Duluth.  He has set new career highs in assists (11) and points (13) through the first 30 games and often leads the team in penalties and penalty minutes.  Curry has another year of college eligibility left before he will look for a professional contract.  Sullivan’s production has declined in this, his senior campaign, down from his career high of 27 points in the 2005-06 season.  Sullivan plays the role of a power forward well, but has the Clarkson season concludes, it remains to be seen whether he has shown enough progress and potential to warrant signing him to a professional contract.  However, Clarkson’s turnaround this season is due in no small part to Sullivan’s contributions to the team.

 

Defensemen


The offseason acquisition of Jack Johnson added that elite player to the group of collegiate prospects that the Kings were lacking.  Just as importantly, the fact that he plays on the blueline also filled a need on the Kings depth charts.  Johnson started out the season with 13 points in his first 12 games, including a nine-game point streak.  Even with the tremendous beginning, Johnson has turned it on since returning from the World Juniors Championships where he starred for Team USA.  In a six-game stretch at the end of January, Johnson scored 8 goals and 14 points.  Johnson has proved himself in all situations – four goals on the power play, two goals on the penalty kill, a University of Michigan leading 59 penalty minutes and second on the team with a +19.  The moment Johnson decides to pursue professional hockey, the Kings will be ready to ink him to a contract.

 

The remaining three defensemen playing NCAA hockey for the Kings provide more depth than star power to the group.  The offensive progress of Josh Meyers has been a pleasant surprise this season.  He has already doubled (20) his point production from last season (10).  Meyers is tied for second amongst all collegiate defensemen with eight power-play goals.  Paul Baier has yet to fully find his offensive game, with only five points through 27 games.  But his body size and style lend to other needed aspects of his game.  While Baier’s scoring has been down since his freshman season, his large 6’4, 225 lbs frame posses an intimidating threat on the blueline.  With another year of college eligibility, Baier may be a welcome physical addition to Manchester next season.  Scoring his first and only collegiate goal in his first career game, Martin Nolet has been used sporadically by the University of Massachusetts in his freshman year.  He leads the team in penalty minutes and, like Baier, uses his considerable size on the blueline.

 

Goaltenders

 

The Kings have three very intriguing goaltender prospects playing college hockey this season.  Matt Zaba is a very solid and fundamentally sound goaltender that will be graduating at the end of the season.  Zaba has been the clear No. 1 goaltender for Colorado College the past couple of seasons, posting a 13-9-3 record in 2006-07 with goals-against average of 2.40 and a save percentage of .917 in 26 games played.  He has been extremely reliable in net for the Tigers in his four years and will provide the same stability for the Kings organization at the conclusion of the Tigers’ season, likely starting out in the ECHL and working his way up the depth charts.

 

Jonathan Quick is a highly talented sophomore who has been a workhorse for the University of Massachusetts.  Quick has played in 29 of the Minutemen’s 30 games, posting a 13-10-5 record.  Facing an average of 30.1 shots per game, Quick has turned away 92.3 percent of those shots, good for 10th in the league.  His 2.31 goals-against average is remarkable for the number of shots faced, including 83 in a two-game home-and-home series against Boston College. Quick has improved drastically in just this season as the rest of his team has matured around him.  Look for Quick to finish the remainder of the season strong and emerge as one of the top goaltenders in all college hockey next season.

 

Platooning with Charlie Effinger last season, Jeff Zatkoff has begun to emerge as the primary goaltender for Miami.  Zatkoff has gone 12-4-3 in 20 games for the RedHawks, including a five-game hiatus to attend the World Juniors Championship for Team USA.  Zatkoff is 13th in the league with a 2.23 goals-against average and 16th with a .920 save percentage.  While his production is slightly off from his freshman season, Zatkoff is gaining more ice time and experience.  Heading into his junior and senior campaigns, look for Zatkoff to solidify himself as the No. 1 goaltender.

 

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