Kings Top 20 prospects, Spring 2010

By Josh Deitell

The Dean Lombardi-led Kings management has been firm about keeping their big investments around for long enough to reach their potential, rather than dealing them away for short-term solutions. This philosophy, along with quality drafting, has made the Kings prospect pool rich with top picks as well as late-round gems that look to have promising professional futures.

Recently, the Kings toyed with the idea of trading away some of their youth for superstar forward Ilya Kovalchuk, and although Atlanta eventually accepted an offer from the Devils’ instead, the fact that Lombardi was willing to ante up some of the Kings future speaks volumes about the strength of the organization’s depth, which gives the Kings some flexibility in acquiring playoff-caliber talent without sacrificing too much of their future.

Top 20 at a glance

1. Brayden Schenn, C 8.0C
2. Jonathan Bernier, G 8.0C
3. Thomas Hickey, D 7.5C
4. Vyacheslav Voynov, D 7.5C
5. Colten Teubert, D 7.5C
6. Andrei Loktionov, C 7.0C
7. Davis Drewiske, D 6.5B
8. Martin Jones, G 7.0C
9. Scott Parse, LW 6.5B
10. Jeff Zatkoff, G 7.0C
11. Alec Martinez, D 6.5.C
12. Nicolas Deslauriers, D 7.0D
13. Kyle Clifford, LW 6.5C
14. Juraj Mikus, C 7.0D
15. Garrett Roe, C 7.0D
16. Trevor Lewis, C 7.0D
17. Brandon Kozun, RW 7.0D
18. Dwight King, LW 6.0C
19. Patrick Mullen, D 6.0C
20. Jake Muzzin, D 6.5C

1. (3) Brayden Schenn, C 8.0C
6’0", 198 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (#5 overall), 2009
b. August 22, 1991

Schenn almost stuck with the Kings after a solid training camp this year, but the Kings’ brass decided to send him back to the Memorial Cup host Brandon Wheat Kings to be a marquee junior player.

Schenn has taken the demotion in stride and has been a dominant force for Brandon, posting 81 points in 50 games so far this year, good for eighth overall in the WHL. He’s racked up assists with crisp, accurate passes, but also has a hard snapshot and isn’t afraid to crash the net. His intangible abilities – leadership, grit, determination, and commitment to a complete game – make Schenn a potentially special two-way player.

His strength and power-forward skill set are tantalizing signs of his potential as a top-six forward capable of playing in all situations. He could make an impact in the NHL as early as next season if given the opportunity.

2. (2) Jonathan Bernier, G 8.0C
6’0", 184 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (11th overall), 2006
b. August 7, 1998

This year, Bernier looks more like the goalie the Kings thought they were getting when they spent their 11th overall pick on him: a highly athletic and fundamentally sound goaltender with the ability to steal games with spectacular play. He is a frontrunner for the AHL‘s MVP award, leading the Monarchs to fourth in their conference despite rampant injuries and call-ups. He’s currently top five in all major goaltending statistics: goals against (3rd), save percentage (2nd), wins (5th), shutouts (1st), minutes played (2nd), saves made (1st).

The Kings seem intent on letting Bernier prove he can carry the Monarchs for a full year before giving him another shot with the Kings. If he maintains his consistency, he’ll still have to unseat Jonathan Quick for the starting job. Bernier has the potential to be a premier starting goaltender in the NHL, he just needs to maintain his mental consistency and seize the opportunity when he gets it.

3. (1) Thomas Hickey, D 7.5C
5’10", 182 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (4th overall), 2007
b. February 8, 1989

As a fourth overall pick, high expectations followed Thomas Hickey to the Kings organization. He was solid in his professional debut for the Monarchs last season, but spent much of the beginning of this campaign glued to the bench or in the press box. Eventually, it was discovered that Hickey had been attempting to play through a shoulder injury, and was struggling because of it. Subsequently, he underwent surgery and has been shut down since that time.

A swift-skating, puck-moving defenseman with a hard shot and good defensive instincts, Hickey has the potential to be a great all-around player at the NHL level. He’ll likely be given the opportunity to make the Kings next year on the third pairing. He has the potential to eventually carve out a role for himself as a top-four defenseman who plays on the first power-play unit.

4. (5) Vyacheslav Voynov, D 7.5C
5’11", 202 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round (32nd overall), 2008
b. January 15, 1990

After an impressive AHL rookie season at the age of 18, Voynov has cemented his status as a key contributor for the Monarchs from the blueline, already matching his total of eight goals from 2008-09 and setting new highs in assists (17) and points (25) in 60 games. He was also named to the PlanetUSA AHL All-Star team.

A highly skilled puck-mover, Voynov came over from Russia as an extremely raw, offensive-minded defenseman. He’s spent his time in the AHL refining his defensive game, and although he’s still prone to lapses, he’s shown improvement and a willingness to adjust his game. The Kings have the depth to be patient with Voynov, but he could get his chance to show his ability at the NHL level as early as this season. Though he projects as a second-pairing defenseman with first-unit power-play ability if he does reach his potential, his big-league future is hardly concrete.

5. (6) Colten Teubert, D 7.5C
6’4", 201 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (13th overall)
b. March 8, 1990

With an aggressive playing style that’s downright brutal at times, Teubert is a menacing presence whenever he steps on the ice. His bread and butter is intimidation, using his massive size and strength to overpower and outwork opposing players. This season, as the captain of the Regina Pats, Teubert has been leaned upon to play big minutes in all situations. He’s had a successful year offensively, on pace to improve on his career highs in all scoring categories with 10 goals, 27 assists in 52 games, respectable numbers for a bruiser. His size and strength are already that of an NHLer; if he improves his defensive positioning and his decision-making, he could fill a valuable role on the Kings blueline, but he’s likely still a few years and much AHL refinement away from making an impact.

6. (7) Andrei Loktionov, C 7.0C
5’11", 187 lbs
Acquired: 5th round (123rd overall), 2008
b. May 30, 1990

A crafty center who has improved rapidly under the tutelage of mentor Igor Larionov, Loktionov was taken late by the Kings in the 2008 draft at 123rd overall as a boom or bust pick, which now looks like a stroke of brilliance. The 19-year-old rookie has put up 17 points in his first 20 games of AHL hockey, playing a solid game founded upon offensive creativity and a high all-around compete level.

Loktionov impressed so much that he earned a call-up and a spot on the second line, a tryout which was abruptly cut short by a dislocated shoulder injury which leaves him doubtful to play again until March. Loktionov could challenge for a roster spot out of training camp next year. He oozes potential, and has the talent to be a premier offensive player with the ability to dictate the flow of a game with the puck on his stick.

7. (15) Davis Drewiske, D 6.5B
6’2", 222 lbs
Acquired: Signed as free agent, 2008 
b. November 22, 1984

Drewiske impressed enough during this year’s training camp to stick with the team in a supporting role. Before suffering a shoulder injury in January, he was a valuable piece of the Kings’ defense, providing the team with a stabilizing presence on the back end with his great positioning and stick skills. Though he’s struggled slightly since his return, his play before his injury is indicative of a promising future. He hasn’t been heavily employed in offensive situations for the Kings, but he’s a responsible player with the puck, with the ability to outmaneuver forecheckers and make a safe outlet pass.

Though he will never be the type of player to forgo his defensive responsibilities for a scoring chance, he was on the power play at Wisconsin and does have some offensive abilities. Even if he doesn’t progress further, Drewiske has proven that he has the smarts and defensive skills to be a solid bottom-pairing defenseman in the NHL. At 57 NHL games played, he’s nearing the end of prospecthood.

8. (9) Martin Jones, G 7.0C
6’4", 187 lbs
Acquired: Signed as free agent, 2008
b. January 10, 1990

Jones will not be able to break his remarkable career high of 45 wins from 2008-09, but the tall, positionally sound goalie has still won a respectable 28 games out of 40 so far this year with top-10 numbers league-wide in goals against average, save percentage, and shutouts. His solid play earned him the chance to play for Canada at the World Junior Championships.

Jones has a lot to prove and a lot of adversity to overcome if his future is to be with Los Angeles, including three very capable goaltenders in Bernier, Quick, and Jeff Zatkoff, who’ve all established themselves in the Kings system. He should get his shot with the Monarchs next season, but will have to be spectacular to steal the starting job, and could just as easily be returned to juniors for another season with the Kings’ cramped crease situation.

9. (18) Scott Parse, LW 6.5B
5’11", 197 lbs
Acquired: 6th round (174th overall), 2004
b. September 5, 1984

Once a struggling minor-league winger whose injury-plagued 2007-08 season left his professional hockey future in question, Parse has put himself back on the radar with a stellar start to the 2009-10 season. Called up as an injury replacement, Parse earned himself an extended stint with solid play. He’s suited up in 48 games for Kings so far this year, posting eight goals and 13 assists, all at even strength, and a +12 rating that’s fifth on the team.

Parse has the potential to be a second or third-line winger, but his NHL future, especially with the Kings, is still not entirely assured. Good play from the end of the Olympic break to the culmination of the season will do wonders for his chances of getting an extension with the Kings, but Parse has made strides in forcing management to take notice of his playing ability.

10. (11) Jeff Zatkoff, G 7.0C
6’3", 170 lbs
Acquired: 3rd round (74th overall), 2006
b. June 8, 1987

A premier college goaltender in his time with Miami University, Zatkoff has become slightly mired in the Kings goaltending shuffle, stuck behind Quick and Bernier. In the 16 games Zatkoff has been able to play this year in the AHL, he’s been solid, with a .922 save percentage, 2.71 GAA and an above-.500 record to his name.

The lanky, athletic goaltender has never really been given the opportunity to really take the reins with the Monarchs. With Bernier primed to ascend to the NHL, Zatkoff could seize the starter’s spot and make himself a relevant piece of the Kings future in goal, but should he falter, the Kings have other options chomping at the bit. Zatkoff has the talent to be an NHL goaltender, but he still has a lot to prove in minor-pro hockey first.

11. (12) Alec Martinez, D 6.5.C
6’1", 208 lbs
Acquired: 4th round (95th overall), 2007
b. July 26, 1987

Martinez has quietly continued to refine his all-around game and has come into his own as a dependable defenseman for the Monarchs. Though he’s not the bruising type, Martinez plays a subtly effective, intelligent defensive game with an active stick, good body positioning, and quick reactions. This season, he’s been a valuable contributor for Manchester, especially in providing a calming presence on the back end with his preventative play. In his four games with the Kings this year, Martinez made some crafty plays on defense, but he was easily overpowered along the boards by bigger forwards. Though he’ll need to bulk up further to defend NHL-sized players, Martinez has the potential to carve out a niche for himself as a well-rounded depth defenseman in the NHL.

12. (14) Nicolas Deslauriers, D 7.0D
6’0", 198 lbs
Acquired: 3rd round (84th overall), 2009
b. February 22, 1991

Although he still has plenty of kinks to work out in his game, Deslauriers’ skating ability in particular makes him a very intriguing prospect. Due to the departures of some key defensive veterans on his junior team, Deslauriers entered the year with an increased role within his grasp, and has not shied away from the challenge. His offensive output with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies this year has been impressive, as he’s put up eight goals and 32 assists, good for second among defensemen on the team and 12th in the league. However, his 70 penalty minutes are a concern, considering that only one was a fighting major. He’s still very much a project pick, but his continued progression is encouraging, and his natural talent and athletic ability are undeniable.

13. (10) Kyle Clifford, LW 6.5C
6’1", 200 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round (35th overall), 2009
b. January 13, 1991

With his willingness to take the body and fondness of dropping the gloves, the brash Clifford has "fan favorite" written all over him. The progression of his offensive skills has upgraded his potential from pest/enforcer to legitimate all-around player. Clifford has recently illustrated a newfound knack for scoring goals, putting up 23 so far this year. Last season, Clifford scored 16 goals; two seasons ago, he posted only one goal in 66 games.

The rapid improvement in his ability to contribute offensively is a promising step in the right direction for Clifford. It’s hard to project his development, but it’s reasonable to expect that even if the grinding winger can’t get on the score sheet at the NHL level, he could still be a contributor in a tough-guy, energy role.

14. (16) Juraj Mikus, C 7.0D
6’1", 205 lbs
Acquired: Signed as a free agent, 2009
b. February 22, 1987

After putting together a stellar year for Skalica of the top Slovakian professional men’s league last season playing alongside former Kings star Ziggy Palffy, Mikus was brought over to North American with the hopes that his experience dominating against older competition translate North American hockey success. This year, Mikus was originally of the mindset that if he didn’t make the Kings, he would play with Turku of the Finnish League, but despite being cut, he decided to ply his trade with the Monarchs to try and earn his way onto the Kings roster instead.

He’s shown flashes of potential, but his play overall has left much to be desired, with only 11 points in 41 games. Mikus needs to prove that he can bring the same high level of play night in and night out that he was capable of in Slovakia before he’ll get a crack at proving himself in the NHL.

15. (17) Garrett Roe, C 7.0D
5’8", 162 lbs
Acquired: 7th round (183rd overall), 2008
b. February 22, 1988

This year, Roe has maintained his role as a key offensive contributor for the Huskies, putting up 14 goals and 23 assists for 37 points in 33 games. He plays a bigger man’s game, driving to scoring areas without apprehension and using his shifty speed and deceptive stickhandling to dodge opponents despite the constant threat of body contact.

While he’s able to evade checks and put up numbers in college hockey, Roe will be hard pressed to dart around professional defensemen and put pucks in the net with the same ease. Roe will need to show that he’s able to anticipate opposing defenders in order to avoid getting crushed by huge hits and being taken out of the play. His leadership and offensive skills should be enough to get him a chance to prove himself at the AHL level, but it’s difficult to gauge where he’ll go from there.

16. (9) Trevor Lewis, C 7.0D
6’1, 192 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (17th overall), 2006
b. Jan. 8, 1987

Long term, Lewis could become a second line NHL forward, but the odds may be more likely that he becomes a third line forward who uses his speed on the forecheck but has the skill to contribute offensively and fill in on higher lines if needed. Even if regulated to third line duty, Lewis is talented enough to be one of the best third line forwards in all of the NHL. He played five games with Manchester and five games with LA this season, and has spent the rest of the time out with an upper-body injury.

17. (NR) Brandon Kozun, RW 7.0D
5’9", 164 lbs
Acquired: 6th round (179th overall), 2009
b. March 8, 1990

Unranked and undrafted in his first year of eligibility, Kozun’s 108-point performance in 72 games last season was still not enough to warrant the use of a draft choice until the Kings picked him 179th overall. Since then, Kozun has shown no signs of slowing down.

His 87 points in 55 games put him third in the WHL, and on pace to eclipse his impressive 2008-09 campaign. Kozun also suited up for Team Canada at the last World Junior Championships, where he put up seven points in six games despite being an underdog to make the team.

Kozun is extremely gifted offensively, but in order to make it to the NHL, Kozun will need to round out his game and show he’s capable of being a top player at the AHL level who can handle the rigors of the professional game.

18. (19) Dwight King, LW 6.0C
6’3", 220 lbs
Acquired: 4th round (109th overall), 2007
b. July 5th, 1989

Drafted as a power forward with developing offensive skills, King has made an impressive transition to professional hockey, being relied on for secondary scoring and playing a defensively responsible game for the Monarchs. His six goals and nine assists in 32 games are promising numbers for a rookie.

King’s size and strength combined with his grit and goal-scoring touch make him an appealing, versatile prospect. Although he’s not likely to develop into an NHL sniper, King has more sense around the net than your typical grinder. If he learns to better utilize his size, his ability to score garbage goals and physically impose himself on opposing players could make him a valuable contributor from the bottom lines.

19. (NR) Patrick Mullen, D 6.0C
6’0", 181 lbs
Acquired: Signed as free agent, 2009
b. May 6, 1986

Signed this summer without much fanfare, Mullen was brought in to provide some experienced depth for the Monarchs after a successful four-year career with Denver of the NCAA. Similar to current King Peter Harrold, Mullen is a utility player, capable of playing both defense and forward. He gives the Monarchs depth. His eight points in 35 games are modest totals, but he’s producing at about the pace expected of a player of his ilk.

Mullen doesn’t excel at any particular aspect of the game, but he also doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. Though he doesn’t have much high-end potential, if Mullen can continue to stand out with his versatility, he could fashion a role for himself as a valuable spare part for an NHL team someday.

20. (NR) Jake Muzzin, D 6.5C
6’2", 216 lbs
Acquired: Signed as free agent, 2009
b. February 21, 1989

The most recent of Dean Lombardi’s free-agent prospect signings, Muzzin is enjoying a breakout campaign for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL, already more than doubling his 29-point output from last season with 60 points in 56 games this year.

A big, mean-spirited defenseman with a complete game, Muzzin has become a key contributor to the Greyhounds offense this year to supplement his status as a rock on defense. Though he was not part of the Kings plans before this season, he looks to be a potentially valuable piece for the Monarchs next year, providing them with a bruiser on the back end, something they’ve been sorely lacking. His intensity combined with his offensive ability makes him an intriguing prospect, and helps him to stand out among the defensive prospects in the organization.

Missing the Cut

David Kolomatis, D 6.0C
5’11", 190 lbs
Acquired: 5th round (126th overall), 2009
February 25, 1989

A capable two-way defenseman with particularly strong offensive instincts, Kolomatis was picked late in the 2009 draft and signed to be a depth defenseman for the Monarchs after an impressive 18-goal, 46-point effort in 2008-09 with Owen Sound of the OHL.

Though he doesn’t have the same star power attached to his name as some of the other young prospects in Manchester, he’s been an important contributor this year nonetheless, especially in providing some much-needed offense from the blueline with 19 points in 55 games.

His versatility makes him a useful piece for the Monarchs. He’s a longshot to ever play in the NHL, and it’ll be especially difficult for him to do so with the Kings stacked blueline, but for now, he’s at least earned himself a good chunk of ice time at the AHL level.

Andrew Campbell, D 6.0C
6’4", 206 lbs
Acquired: 3rd round (74th overall), 2008
February 4, 1988

Widely considered to be a project pick at the time he was drafted, Campbell’s size and OHL production led the Kings to spend a third-round draft choice on him. Since making the jump to the professional ranks, however, Campbell has had difficulty adjusting to the speed and intensity of play. Though he’s capable of using his body well and stick-checking effectively with a long reach, he’s too often caught out of position and doesn’t have the confidence required to distinguish himself among his peers. Though his athleticism and size are indicative of some untapped potential, Campbell is a long shot to make it any higher than the level he’s currently at, and really needs to put it together soon if he wants to stay in the Kings plans.