Nearly every team in the NHL covets a big defenseman. A big cannon at the point on the power play is something that teams are always seeking. An aggressive, hard hitting, nasty blueliner is a staple for any successful team. The Los Angeles Kings got all of that when they signed the best defenseman outside the NHL, Jere Karalahti, two years ago. Now Karalahti is a healthy scratch and seems destined to make his NHL mark in another city.
Granted Karalahti has his shortcomings. His discipline off the ice has always come into question ever since his drug problems in Finland in the mid 90’s. Reports of Jere’s behavior have been Internet fodder ever since his NHL arrival. No one would argue that Karalahti’s drug problems are behind him and he has stayed out of harm’s way with the exception of an alcohol related incident in 2000. On the ice, he is not the most fleet of foot and his decision making has come into question. He has been learning to play defenseman in the NHL on the fly and while it is an ongoing process, it is an evolving one.
Karalahti’s skills are undeniable. He is a fierce hitter and has a heavy shot. The Kings knew this when he came over and he showed it for spurts in his first season. He had a couple blue line power play goals in his first season and he was relentless in the physical game- he would hit anyone who came near him. These traits did not blend with the Andy Murray style. Jere would often leave his responsibility to make the hit or take the shot and the result was often an outnumbered attack or an unattended forward waiting for Read more»
The Kings have had their problems in the early part of this NHL campaign, but there is reason for optimism. Not only have the Kings acquired a young centerman to build around in Jason Allison, the minor league system that was once considered the NHL’s worst is now showcasing some of the best talent in hockey.
The Kings have stocked up on talented forwards, and are now faced with the pleasant situation of having several players battle for the title of “top prospect”. Alexander Frolov is having a monster year, showcasing every phase of an NHL-type game. In the last ten days he has scored a goal on a penalty shot and added an assist to get the #1 star in the Soviet Wings Dec. 1 game and then garnered the #1 star without scoring a point- his defense earned him that recognition. Frolov is still a boy and has collected 14 goals already- he seems to be developing a flawless game on both ends of the ice.
The Kings also have three players invited to Canada’s WJC tryout camp- Jared Aulin, Mike Cammelleri and Yanick Lehoux. All three players are having solid seasons, as Aulin and Lehoux are among the scoring leaders in their leagues and Cammelleri continues to turn heads at Michigan.
The Kings have two goalies having solid seasons overseas- Cristobel Huet has 23 wins and Alexey Volkov seems to be re-establishing his skills in Russia.
Along with Volkov, two other players seem to be returning to form after struggling last year. Jason Crain has rebounded this season to post 2 goals and 4 assists in 14 games for the #12 Buckeyes. Perhaps best of all, Crain i Read more»
With a hot start, Alexander Frolov has jumped to the Hockey’s Future #1 Kings’ prospect position. While Lehoux and Aulin have both shot out of the gate with great starts, it appears that Frolov may be something special.
Other movement included returns to the top 10 for Jason Crain and Alexey Volkov, both of whom seem to be returning to top prospect form. Parros, Clarke and Olynick have also climbed.
Jaroslav Bendar has also moved into the “graduated” section.
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The Kings acquisition of Jason Allison was another great move by Dave Taylor- not just because of who he received, but more because of who he kept.
Glen Murray and Josef Stumpel are talented players who at one time or another have underachieved in L.A.. Murray is at the end of his contract and Stumpel had worn out his welcome in Los Angeles. While I am sure both will prosper in Boston, the fact that the Kings got the size up the middle they have long coveted and some depth at left wing without giving any of their newly prized prospects is nothing short of amazing. Aulin, Lehoux and Frolov are still Kings, along with Jason Allison.
I have, in this very space, said that Kings’ management would not pay for talent any longer. The Kings have showed their fans that they are not stopping spending money, just trying to stop spending it unwisely.
I like my crow medium rare.
While the Kings’ season has not started well, the prospects that comprise the rejuvenated Kings’ farm system are enjoying fine seasons. Here is a quick look around the system:
The top guns of the system, Alexander Frolov, Jared Aulin and Yannick Lehoux are all starting out their seasons in fire. Frolov has already potted 8 goals in 13 games in the low scoring Russian Super League he plays in. Aulin has 17 points in 9 games following a longer-than-expected stay in camp where he nearly made the Kings big team. Lehoux has 15 goals and 19 points in a mere 10 games. Lehoux in carving a niche as the premiere short-handed goal scorer in the minor leagues.
College stars Mike Cammalleri and David Steckel have started out their seasons strongly. Cammalleri used the stage of a 70 thousand-plus outdoor crown against rival Michigan state to score two goals and add an assist. David Steckel has a goal and two assists in two games for Ohio State.
Fellow Ohio State star Jason Crain, who is coming off of an off season in 2000-01, has been named captain at Ohio State and is already a +2 after two games. Crain was a cherished prospect before last season and Kings’ management is watching and hoping his development continues.
Future King enforcer Kip Brennan has not found the AHL to his liking yet. Brennan was beaten badly by AHL veteran Mel Angelstad in Portland. Kip has only played three games so far and his development has to be a priority for the enforcer-less Kings. (Thanks Earl)
Andrei Shefer is scoreless in 6 games for Severstal Cherpovets in the Ru Read more»