When Los Angeles Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi committed to rebuilding his team from within, he was successful in getting three of the organization’s more notable prospects — who were already in playing collegiate hockey or intended to join a university program — to opt-in to the junior ranks instead.
Lombardi was hoping this move would quicken the development of these highly-regarded prospects and prepare them to integrate with the other prospects and the club as a whole in the near future. It seems as if his gamble is going to pay off. With the addition of another junior prospect via a trade, the Kings had a quite a few notable prospects turn in strong performances this past year.
Bud Holloway, RW — Seattle Thunderbirds
Drafted 2006, 3rd round, 86th overall
After spending the last two years playing in all situations and adjusting to the WHL with the Thunderbirds, it was time for Bud Holloway to step up with the puck and start putting up solid numbers. In what is really not a surprise, Holloway did just that and had a spectacular breakout year in Seattle. The right winger showed why he is one of the better two-way, well-rounded players in the league. After the month of October, Holloway didn’t go more than two contests without landing on the scorers’ sheet, with 65 points (27 goals, 38 assists), 50 penalty minutes and a plus-20 rating.
The Thunderbirds entered the playoffs this past month and handled Tri-City quite easily before they caught up with a strong and potent Vancouver Giants squad, who bounced them in five games. Holloway was rather quiet this postseason, seeing action in six games and only notching a lone assist, 14 penalty minutes and a minus-5 ranking.
A hard worker with leadership qualities, Holloway is slotted to return to Thunderbirds where he should be expected to take over the reins and the captain’s “C” from outgoing all-star overager Aaron Gagnon (DAL).
T.J. Fast, D – Tri-City Americans
Drafted 2005, 2nd round, 60th overall
Fast started his sophomore season at the University of Denver before bolting to the WHL. After the team returned to break, Fast informed the Pioneers head coach George Gwozdecky that he was leaving to explore other playing options.
Fast joined the Tri-City Americans in the midst of what should have been a rebuilding year. Along with a couple other additions, the team turned things around and actually had a franchise-best year going 47-23-1-1. As for the Calgary, Alberta native, he jumped into the Ams system and started producing right away. Only seeing action in 26 games Fast was able to score 22 points (3 goals, 19 assists). Thirteen of those points came in the last month of the regular season as he won the WHL player of the month award for his hard work during March.
In a developmental move, the Kings maybe more inclined to leave Fast with the Ams so he can absorb head coach Don Nachbaur’s system and so he can get used to an intensive schedule. It’s obvious the Kings had some influence on Fast’s initial move from the collegiate ranks to the WHL. Now it wouldn’t be a surprise to let him mature in the new environment before locking him up within the year.
Trevor Lewis, C — Owen Sound Attack
Drafted 2006, 1st round, 17th overall
Trevor Lewis jumped into the mix with Owen Sound and played with some top talent up front in Bobby Ryan (ANA), Bobby Sanguinetti (NYR), and Scott Tregunna. Together, the quartet helped guide the Attack throughout the season and into the playoffs.
Lewis started the season off hot then slowed his production down around the holiday months. To his credit, some of that had to be attributed to the fact he represented Team USA at the 2007 WJC in Sweden. He ramped up his production towards the end of the season to finish with 73 points (29 goals, 44 assists), 51 penalty minutes and a minus-9 rating in 62 games played. Lewis and the Attack headed into that postseason only to swept in the first round by the London Knights. He finished with three points (1 goal, 2 assists) in the four contests.
At the conclusion of Lewis’ season with Owen Sound, he signed an ATO with Manchester and saw action in the team’s last eight games, scoring six points (4 goals, 2 assists). He is also with the Monarchs as they continue on in the playoffs. He has seen action in only one contest thus far and was kept off the scorer’s sheet.
Already signed to an entry-level contract with the Kings and having had enough experience playing in the junior ranks, Lewis should to start the 2007-08 season for the Monarchs.
David Meckler, C — London Knights
Drafted 2006, 5th round, 134th overall
After graduating the majority of their firepower at the end of the 2005-06 season, the London Knights welcomed in David Meckler to help the winning and utter dominance continue. Having had prior junior experience in the USHL, Meckler did not waste time, adapting to the OHL instantaneously.
Having scored often and consistently, Meckler was solid for the London and resurfaced as a steady lamplighter. He finished the regular season with 73 points (38 goals, 35 assists), 53 penalty minutes and a plus-2 in 67 games played.
Meckler is continuing to succeed with the Knights in the playoffs. They’re currently battling the Plymouth Whalers in what should be one of the better match-ups this postseason. Meckler currently ranks fifth overall in scoring during the playoffs with 20 points (14 goals, 6 assists). His 14 goals led all scorers in the postseason.
The Knights would love to have Meckler back, but there’s a strong chance he’ll be signed by the Kings and starting in Manchester come next fall.
Ryan McGinnis, D — Plymouth Whalers
Drafted 2005, 6th round, 184th overall
Ryan McGinnis is a part of a strong defensive core with the Plymouth Whalers that suffocated opposing teams’ offense en route to a league-low 173 goals against this year. Though the Whalers missed out on the regular season title to London by a point, many feel that Plymouth is better poised to take the league crown and represent the OHL for the Memorial Cup.
As for McGinnis, he’s a very astute player who has continued to develop into a strong blueliner. He saw an increase in his point production, scoring 30 points (6 goals, 24 assists). However, those points are a result of playing on a well-balanced team on both ends of the ice. Currently in the Western finals with London, the team has a two-game lead over the Knights. McGinnis has seen action in all 11 games for the Whalers and has notched four points (all assists), has 33 penalty minutes and is a plus-11.
Jonathan Bernier, G — Lewiston Maineiacs
Drafted 2006, 1st round, 11th overall
Backstopping the best team in the QMJHL, Bernier has been a driving force in net for the Lewiston Maineiacs. He has been solid all season long and has had the luxury of playing in front of a solid team defense. The combined effort helped the Maineiacs allow the fewest goals this past season and become the best team in the league.
Bernier posted a record of 26-10-0, a 2.58 goals-against average, and a .905 save percentage during the regular season. Currently in the playoffs, Bernier has helped the team coast into the semi-final round against Rouyn-Noranda, where they already have a two-game lead on the Huskies. During the current run, Bernier has a 10-1-0 record, a 2.44 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage.
As for the immediate future, the Kings are desperately in need of solid goaltending back in Los Angeles. Bernier is a solid goalie with all the tools, but it is truly a reach to say he could make the team next season. To add insult to injury, he is too young to play in the AHL next season so expect him back in the Q.
With rookie Maineiac netminder Peter Delmas having an equally impressive season this past year, there’s an outside chance Lewiston could use Bernier as bait in a future trade because he’s going to be gone after the 2007-08 season.
While rookie David Perron paced the offense that rolled this year and went on to outscore opponents almost two-to-one, it was Marc-Andre Cliche who donned the captain’s “C” and took charge of the team on both ends of the ice. Cliche started the season off hot and slowed down towards the holiday months (he went on to miss games in order to represent Team Canada at the 2007 WJC).
Regardless of the fluxuation in point production, there is no other forward that you want on the ice when the game is on the line. Cliche is one of the better skating, clutch, two-way forwards in the league. As a result, he was award the Guy Carbonneau Award this past season by the QMJHL. The award is given to the best defensive forward in the league.
While the offensive was spread throughout a number of players, he ended the season with 54 points (24 goals, 30 assists), 54 penalty minutes and an excellent plus-27 ranking in 52 games played. In the playoffs for the Maineiacs, Cliche has 15 points (2 goals, 13 assists), four penalty minutes and is a plus-8.
The Kings signed Cliche to an entry-level contract. He should be expected to make his professional debut next season.
Joe Ryan, D — Quebec Remparts
Drafted 2006, 2nd round, 48th overall
Ryan is another strong defensive defenseman who can get lost in the mix as a season goes on. While Quebec Remparts went on to get abused from an overall defensive and goaltending standpoint, Ryan proved to be a gritty prospect right out the gate and he continued to play well for the team. A smart, good skating rearguard, he continued to be one of the bigger forces for a team that seemed to be looking to find its identity after coming off a championship 2005-06 season.
Ryan’s offensive numbers this year remained on par with that of his career numbers. He notched 22 points (5 goals, 7 assists), 125 penalty minutes and a pleasant plus-7 ranking. The Remparts earned a berth in the postseason but drew a hot Drummondville team in the first round. The series was short-lived as the Voltigeurs kicked them out of the postseason in five games. Ryan only saw action in three of those games, going pointless. He earned four penalty minutes and had an even plus/minus ranking.
The Remparts would love to have Ryan back in the fold for the 2006-07 season. He should be poised to make the jump to the pro game for next season, but the Kings have yet to sign him to an entry-level contract. Los Angeles has been active in the last calendar year signing prospects, so depending on what other offseason moves may happen, they may wait to ink Ryan somewhere down the road.
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