The Los Angeles Kings have two enforcers currently patrolling the ice at AHL Manchester. King draft pick Kip Brennan, who just returned from his first stint in the NHL, and the recently signed free agent Ryan Flinn. Both are big, both are young and 21, and both can handle themselves and protect their teammates. It would appear than neither will win any scoring titles, so it would be difficult for both play for the Kings at the same time (although fans would love it). So the question is, who will be the future enforcer?
Kip Brennan (6’4, listed at 222 but closer to 200) was chosen in the fourth round of the 1998 draft by the Kings and has emerged as the top fighter in the system. Brennan went to Lowell last season but was clearly not ready for the AHL and was returned to Sudbury for the balance of the season. This seaso, that appears to have helped because Brennan has taken on all comers in the AHL and more than held his own. Brennan has an enforcer’s demeanor and is learning to pick his spots effectively. Brennan’s recent stint is the NHL was effective if not impressive. He fought two of the most difficult players to fight in the NHL- the awkward Steve McKenna, who he struggled to stand up with, and Andre Nazarov who grabbed the rear numbers of his jersey and held on until the officials came in. He also tried and failed to get Steve Webb to go on the island and drew his first NHL penalty. He used this as a lesson (that was in his NHL debut) and he seemed to learn from that. As he became more comfortable, he was more effective in the low cycle with his lin Read more»
It has been quite a season already for the Kings and their system, but despite an average record for the Big Club, the Kings’ farm system has never stood taller.
The big news around the Kings’ system is the play of their prospects at the World Junior Championships. The Kings owned the rights to three of the top six point scorers in the WJC’s. Gold Medal winner Alexander Frolov is the real deal and the hockey world seems to know it now. Rave reviews about his blend of smooth skating and power around the net are still coming in. Frolov’s walk-out goal in the final game was huge and started the rally that won the game for Russia. Frolov has the potential to be the impact rookie that the Kings have not seen since Luc Robitaille. Frolov could arrive as soon as next season, which would allow him to play with Jason Allison. The Kings must be drooling at the prospect of pairing a playmaker like Allison with a potential finisher like Frolov. In any case, Frolov is emerging as the crown jewel of the Kings’ system.
Another riser is the diminutive Mike Cammalleri. Cammalleri lead the WJC’s in goals and points and emerged as a leader on Team Canada. Cammalleri is not real big, but is an intriguing player due to his scoring and leadership abilities. Mike’s success at Michigan and the WJC’s has him rising up the charts of Kings’ prospects.
Jared Aulin’s 9 points put him third among the scoring leaders at the WJC’s. Aulin is am NHL caliber player who can play both center and wing. Aulin continues to impress as well and caught the eye of the hockey world.
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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