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.
Jens Karlsson also had a solid series, showing that he is progressing better than many thought. Karlsson had developed the non-scoring part of his game first, mostly by having to play of the third and fourth lines. As Karlsson gets used to his body and the game it can create, his scoring should come around. Given time to develop, Jens could be a solid second or third line forward.
Kings’ prospects David Steckel and Tim Eriksson also played at the WJC’s.
Yannick Lehoux was cut from the WJC’s, but continues to make the Kings’ system top-heavy with scorers. Lehoux’s numbers are amazing- 39 goals in 39 games, along with 46 assists and 12 short-handed goals. Lehoux’s absence on Team Canada may speak to his need to develop a more complete game, but his potential is undeniable.
The Kings also have reason for optimism with Jaroslav Bednar. Since being sent to Manchester, Bednar appears to be learning the game. After 8 games with 1 point, he now has 17 in 25 games. Bednar also leads the team with a +13. Defensemen Joe Corvo, Richard Seeley and Joe Rullier are also developing in Manchester along with two potential tough guys, the recently recalled Kip Brennan and the huge Ryan Flinn. Flinn has already tussled with NHL enforcers Gino Odjick and Louis DeBrusk and is getting valuable experience.
Kip Brennan has already skated one game and while he is probably not quite ready, he appeared to get more comfortable as the game progressed. He also skated angry, which is something the Kings have lacked this season. As was evident when he bounced of Eric Cairns, Kip is probably about 20 pounds shy of NHL enforcer weight. This is a guy the Kings like and the taste of NHL experience he is currently absorbing can only help.
The Kings have also been able to dip into their farm system for players as needed. Brennan, Adam Mair and Andreas Lilja have all filled in capably when needed and that is something the Kings have lacked in recent years.
It would be hard to argue the fact that this is the best the Kings system has looked in some time and the Kings can expect more as the season progresses. The priority right now would have to be getting Frolov under contract. After that, finding out where their goaltending is moves to the forefront and that included where Alexey Volkov stands. Areas to watch include how Lehoux responds to his WJC snub, who emerges as the primary enforcer prospect in Manchester, and how Jens Karlsson continues to develop.
Right now, it’s good to be the Kings.