For many Kings fans in Southern California, Eric Belanger was just a prospect that people heard about from the local drivetime radio guy. Belanger was the answer to any question about the Kings farm system, even after injuries put his future as a King in doubt. Now, as the Kings have shown some life in the playoffs, Belanger is listed among the reasons for the Kings resurgence.
Eric Belanger was thought to be the playmaking center that the Kings wished for. He was a point-a-game plus as a junior and his skill was talked as he rose through the Kings farm system. Then a series of bizarre injuries and illnesses caused many to consider his slight build (6’0, 177) and his bad luck a precursor to a lack of durability. When Belanger finally resurfaced in Lowell last season his start was unspectacular at best. As Belanger got back into playing shape and his injuries were healed, he showed a new side of his game- a side that would take him to the NHL.
In camp last fall, the Kings saw the new Eric Belanger. Not the playmaking center but rather a hard-nosed, two-way center who could handle the puck and even deliver checks. Belanger’s versatility got a quick workout. In a one-month period, he was the Kings first line center, Lowell’s second line center, a healthy scratch for the Kings to the checking center alongside Stu Grimson and Ian Lapperriere.
Ever since the opening month, Belanger has been a mainstay in the Kings lineup. Belanger finished the regular season with 21 points in 62 games and was a +14. He saw time on all special teams a Read more»
Jared Aulin may turn out to be a first line NHL center, which would suit the Kings just fine. But the Kings have to hope he is more for alot of reasons.
It is becoming clear that the Blake trade has been a positive in the short term. Adam Deadmarsh and Aaron Miller have made the Kings tougher and better on special teams, and the result is the current playoff run. But this trade was made for the long term, and what will that mean?
Jared Aulin will always represent the Rob Blake trade. While the merits of the trade can be discussed for many years to come, the fact is that the Kings will never have what Blake brought- a hammer on the blue line that hit and shot harder than anyone. The Kings seem to be comfortable with that fact and they feel what they acquired in his stead will counteract any losses on the blue line. For fans, Aulin will be the lynchpin on the deal- something that the Kings had for free- a prospect selected by a top team. The Kings’ penchant for blowing first round picks was taken out of the equation here- the pick has been made and they only have to enjoy the results even if they blow the pick that came with Aulin.
The other factor is that Aulin’s emergence can give the Kings some legitimate top prospects. As Frolov and Lehoux continue to impress, the Kings now have a third top forward prospect. If Shefer, Baker or any other forward come along, then DT will have the depth the Kings have lacked at every position in the system. That would make his job a success and make alot of people not necessarily forget Rob Bla Read more»
I am one of the many who did not like the Rob Blake trade. Rob Blake is a one-of-a-kind player who will never be replaced by another player. Even as the Kings prosper since his trade, that big force on the blue line is absent.
As time goes on and the trade is further dissected, it is becoming obvious that the Kings had two goals from this trade: 1- Make up for Blake with a solid defenseman and a forward who is defensively responsible. 2- Take a huge step towards resurrecting the farm system by adding as many as three top draft picks. All in all, it seems to be a good idea.
The Kings were faced with the fact that Blake would not resign. The blame may lie with both parties, but the fact was that Blake would not sign with the Kings. Most King fans thought that Taylor would use Blake to get a goaltender. When he didn’t, the Kings were left without their top defenseman and without a goalie who could keep them in games. The acquisition of the steady Aaron Miller and addition of an experienced goaltender in Felix Potvin has at worst put a band-aid on the problem. Potvin may not be as quick with the glove, but he is seldom out of position the way Fiset and Storr often are, and the Kings defensemen have made a commitment to protecting their zone. The result has been the best play by the Kings all season, and maybe even back to last season.
As for the system, it can really feel the effects of the Kings trade. If DT can select the right prospect and draft two more quality players in the first round, the Kings could add these picks to the ot Read more»
During the Rob Blake talks, one of the expenses the Kings listed was buying their own farm team. The fact of the matter is that no young player is developing at Lowell. Lowell is great for fringe NHL players like Marko Tuomained and Brad Chartrand, but the players the Kings needed to develop this season (Joe Rullier, Kip Brennan, Alexey Volkov)have floundered and even failed. If you look at other teams, the AHL is providing them with NHL talent with younger players. The Kings need to be able to do this soon.
Is Yanick Lehoux the real deal? You can’t blame Kings fans for being a little gunshy. Names like Rosa, Papineau, Perrault and Shevalier show that good numbers at that stage of development do not necessarily translate into NHL success. However, most people who have seen Lehoux think he is the genuine item.
What do the Kings need if they trade Rob Blake? Besides some new season seat holders, they need some size on wing and some ace prospect in net. Volkov’s struggles have the Kings moderately concerned, and while their is talent in net in the system, that seems an area that can never be too strong. The Kings also need a stud. There is no potential goal scorer within three years of having an impact on the NHL level. With Belanger, Reinprecht and Visnovsky, the Kings have some young point scorers, but they are badly in need of a finisher, and no one besides the young Lehoux has shown they can do that.
The Kings season has been a mystery. Poor goaltending, an unresolved Blake situation and home losses to the worst team in hockey have clouded what seemed to be a breakthrough season. Despite all of this, the Kings can see the future right now in the play of Steve Reinprecht, Lubomir Visnovsky and Eric Belanger.
Eric Belanger came out of nowhere to claim a roster spot and has adjusted his game to fit the NHL style of play. Belanger has always had tremendous skill. He has shown his playmaking ability when filling in for Josef Stumpel and the start of the season. But when Stumpie returned, Belanger was returned to Lowell. Injuries lead to his recall and his centering the fourth line, flanked by tough guys Stu Grimson and Ian Lapperierre. Belanger has shown some solid defensive play and the grit that Kings management thought he lacked. Granted, he gets alot more room on the ice because of his linemates, but Belanger has shown that he can adapt his game to whatever situation is needed. After being labeled a flop last season, Belanger’s development may move him into a second or third line center for years to come.
Steve Reinprecht has fooled this fan. Rhino has emerged as a second line center and is among the leaders in rookie scoring. I for one thought he would struggle this season, but his amazing hands and playmaking ability have lead to unexpected scoring chances. He has the ability to dig the puck out of the corners, make moves on a dime, and find the open skater. Rhino is solid on both sides of the ice and is a playmaking center that the Read more»