Coach Andy Murray has the Kings playing a hard-working brand of hockey that seems to allow each individual the chance to excel in a specific area, thus allowing the team to prosper. Many of the young Kings have shown flashes in the first two games. Here is a quick rundown of some early impressions:
Frantisek Kaberle- This young defenseman has been a pleasant surprise. While Jere Karalahti’s Visa problems have kept him in Europe, Kaberle has taken advantage of the situation and provided the Kings with an offensive defenseman without sacrificing the other end of the ice. Kaberle is smooth with the puck and makes good passes. He never seems to be in a hurry to dump the puck, instead he waits the extra second to find the open man. His defense is not stellar, but he has combined with Garry Galley to provide a solid tandem that is talented with the puck.
Aki Berg- Aki Berg has returned as a physical player who is alot smarter with the puck than he used to be. Berg is paired with Sean O’Donnell who is an adventure every time he has the puck, including a direct pass to Pavel Demitra on Monday for a goal. Berg has shown a little more offense, but the teeth of his game is in the corners where he has made it a point to punish opposing players. Aki seems to still be adjusting to the NHL game after the year off, but clearly has potential to be a top defenseman.
The Los Angeles Kings roster appears to have taken final shape with a grand total of 0 of their top prospects on the squad. Injuries to Scott Barney and Eric Belanger, accompanied by poor performances by Justin Papineau and Pavel Rosa, have lead to the Kings roster full of veterans and older prospects.
These older prospects have shown tremendous promise, particularly on the blue line. Aki Berg and Frantisek Kaberle have had solid camps and will make the team and play of specialty teams. Other older prospects that seemed poised to make the team are Jason Blake, who will center the fourth line, and possibly Brad Chartrand on the wing. Marco Tuomainen has also showed promise and is sure to be a fan favorite because of his grit and the fact that he plays on the same line as Ian Lapperiere.
Points of concern would the the stagnant development of Pavel Rosa and Don MacLean. Neither made a dent with the new coaching staff and only Rosa seems likely to return any time soon. The Visa problems with Jere Karalahti have also dampened his chances to play in the NHL to start the season.
The Kings still have to make some roster cuts to get down to the 22 players that coach Murray wants to start the season.
At the halfway point of the preseason, the Kings have to be feeling pretty good about their team, but a bit shaken concerning their prospects. There were only a few young players expected to even challenge, but as the preseason presses on, they are beginning to take their one way plane flights out of LA. Donald MacLean was sent out Sunday, and one has to wonder if he has a future in the NHL. MacLean seemed to have the best chance of any prospect to make the team, but his play was unspectacular at best. Players like Justin Papineau, Kip Brennan, and Sean Blanchard were not expected to make the team and were consequently sent to the minors. The resulting players still hanging around include a couple of surprises. Jason Podollan has scrapped his past mold as a scorer and is challenging to be a wing on the checking line. He has shown the grit that he always has possessed but has also added an increased emphasis on the defensive side of the ice. Another potential surprise is Fran Kaberle, who with the continued Visa problems of Jere Karalahti, seems poised to sneak on the roster. New coach Andy Murray has publicly recognized Podollan and Kaberle as two of the more impressive youngsters in camp.
Notes: The Kings preseason game Monday night will be the final game ever at the forum. I will personally miss the Forum, but from all indications, the Staples Center will be one of the premiere buildings in the NHL.
Tidbits: Donald MacLean and Jan Nemecek are the only surprise cuts so far. Look for one shocker on the final cutdown.
The Los Angeles Kings training camp has been filled with positives to date. There are some “knowns” in camp so far- the line of Palffy, Stumpel and Robitaille will give the kings their best offensive line since the Gretzky era- and some unknowns- who will fill in the last two defensive spots and when will Jere Karalahti arrive in camp?
The lines seem to be taking shape without much input from young prospects. Donald MacLean played about as quiet an exhibition game as possible against Colorado on Tuesday, and has not yet impressed the new coaching staff. Younger players like Kip Brennan and Brian McGrattan showed some spark but have already been returned to their respective teams, and none of the leftover prospects seem to have done enough to warrant their stay on the big club. The good news is that the Kings seemed prepared for this and have filled the potential voids with more savvy players who know Coach Murray’s system. Players like Brad Chartrand and Len Barrie have shown some spark and Chartrand will likely make the squad. 27-year-old winger Marko Tuomainen has shown an aggressiveness that should make him stick. He plays a sound defensive game, and has the grit needed to dominate a player on that side of the ice.
The Long Beach Press Telegram is reporting that Aki Berg has agreed in principle to a one year contract with the Kings that could be signed as soon as today. Berg claims no hard feelings and says he is ready and eager to play for the Kings this season. This move is huge in easing the concerns of defensive depth. This also puts Berg back on track to the promising future he had two years ago.
Also, the Los Angeles Kings issued the following press release on the condition of prospect Eric Belanger. Belanger was diagnosed with a blood clot that could potentially keep him out for the season. As this article reads, the centerman’s season has been salvaged after all.
INGLEWOOD, CA. – Los Angeles Kings center Eric Belanger underwent successful surgery this morning for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome that caused a blood clot to develop in his right arm, Kings Senior Vice President/General Manager Dave Taylor announced today.
Surgery was performed by Dr. Fred A. Weaver, chief of vascular surgery, USC University Hospital, to remove Belanger`s first rib on his right side. He will be followed over the next month by Dr. Weaver and Kings internist Dr. Michael Mellman. The timing for Belanger`s return to professional hockey will be determined by his response to surgery and rehabilitation over the next month.