Kings Top 20 prospects

By David A. Rainer

1. (1) Denis Grebeshkov, D

Denis Grebeshkov again sits firmly atop the Los Angeles Kings Top 20 Prospects list. After completing a solid first year with Manchester in 2003-04, including a short stint with the Kings, Grebeshkov returns to Manchester to continue his steady development. Although still with areas of his game in need of improvement, Grebeshkov shows flashes of the stellar puck-moving defenseman he was drafted to be.

Now in his second year with Manchester and finally playing at full strength, he has benefited from a team packed with forwards that can put the puck in the net and a power play that is as potent as any. Through the first 29 games of the season, Grebeshkov is tied for fourth among scoring for defensemen, including first in the league for assists by defensemen. His ability to move the puck up the ice at even-strength and distribute from the blueline on the power play have pushed him to the forefront in offensive categories. But it is also his ability to shutdown the opposition that has garnered him playing time on the penalty kill and post an impressive +12.

2. (2) Dustin Brown, RW

Having spent all of the 2003-04 season with Los Angeles, Dustin Brown remains one of the brightest spots at forward for the Kings. Although injuries plagued his season, Brown came away from the season with a renewed sense of the hard work and dedication it takes to not only make it to the NHL, but to also compete and excel. Brown came into the 2004 Kings Prospect Camp more physical and carried that momentum into the 2004-05 season.

Brown has jumped out to an excellent beginning in his first AHL season as a member of the Monarchs’ top scoring line. An aggressive scorer from the right side, Brown continues to retain the second spot in this list. Brown is one of a handful of Kings prospects that are expected to have a spot on the Los Angeles roster once the work stoppage is over.

3. (NR) Tim Gleason, D

After being added back to the prospect pool when Hockey’s Future adjusted its prospect criteria, Gleason re-enters the Top 20 list higher than ever before. He has moved into the third spot after an impressive rookie campaign with the depleted Los Angles Kings and a very solid start to the 2004-05 AHL season.

A stable and often physical defenseman with good ability to move the puck up ice in the right situations, Gleason adds to a core of young blueliners for the Kings that drops off substantially after the top four. Gleason began the 2003-04 season on the NHL roster straight out of training camp, largely due to injuries sustained to veteran mainstays. However, Gleason never looked out of place and performed remarkably well considering the jump from major juniors. He has continued his solid play with the AHL affiliate Monarchs in 2004-05. The offensive numbers have not quite come around to what many feel Gleason is capable of, but he is still a very young player on a team that derives the bulk of their offense from their explosive top two forward lines.

4. (NR) Michael Cammalleri, C

The second of two prospects to re-enter the Top 20 list after the adjustment in Hockey’s Future’s criteria, Mike Cammalleri retains his top five status. Cammalleri completed an impressive 2003-04 season where he filled in admirably for injured Kings in Los Angeles in route to nine goals and 15 points in 31 games. But his season did not end there as he also posted nearly a point per game average in 41 games with Manchester.

Even more impressive is that Cammalleri is surpassing last year’s totals with a tremendous beginning to the 2004-05 season. Through the first 29 games of the season, he leads all AHL players in goals (22), points (44), points per game (1.57) and power play goals (11) while also being tied for second in game winning goals (4). In plain words, Cammalleri has been the premier scoring forward in the AHL this season to date. If he manages to keep the pace up for the rest of the season, Cammalleri just might challenge Brown and Grebeshkov for the top spot on next year’s list.

5. (3) Lauri Tukonen, RW

Tukonen slips down a couple of spots on the list only because of the additions of Gleason and Cammalleri. Tukonen continues his steady development in the top league in Finland. While he has not yet put up top scoring numbers, he is still a very young 18-year-old forward playing with others often ten years older and more experienced.

However, the improvement is clear. Even if only looking at statistical progress, Tukonen has already scored more points this season than last in ten fewer games. Beyond the numbers, he has also shown the speed and physical play that warranted using a high draft pick on the talented Finn. Tukonen has also been named to Finland’s U20 World Junior Championship team.

6. (4) Petr Kanko, RW

Spending his first full season in Manchester, Kanko is learning to round out the rough edges to his game. As the most fiery and intense of the Kings prospects, Kanko is the perfect candidate to replace the fan favorite Ian Laperriere on the Los Angeles roster in the near future.

Already with the reputation as one of the top pests in the AHL, Kanko is an aggressive motor that sometimes might allow his desire to disrupt the opposition get in the way of proper positioning while on the ice. Kanko participated in the 2004 Kings Prospect camp and the 2004 Pacific Division Rookie Tournament where he displayed his skills against some of the best prospects in the game. He has since taken that learning experience and carried it over into the 2004-05 season with Manchester where he is often matched up against the opposition’s top line.

7. (5) Jeff Tambellini, LW

Jeff Tambellini suffered through a tough 2003-04 season that included a wrist injury. Proving that the season was just a fluke, Tambellini has returned to top form for the University of Michigan. Beginning the season on the top scoring line, he now provides the scoring pop on the second line while displaying top skating ability.

Tambellini has contributed eight goals and 21 points through the first 18 games. In comparison, last season he did not reach 21 points until March 5th. He has already posted three, three-point games. His hat trick against the University of Miami and two-goal effort the following night earned him CCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors in early November.

8. (6) Richard Petiot, D

Petiot drops slightly in the rankings due to the addition of Gleason and Cammalleri back into the list. Now in his senior season with powerhouse Colorado College, Petiot’s season has been interrupted with two injuries forcing him to the sidelines on two separate occasions after tweaking his shoulder and tearing a groin muscle. He is due back sometime after the holiday tournaments and should not affect his bottom line.

After completing a solid junior season and competing at the Kings’ offseason prospect camp, Petiot came back to Colorado College bigger and more physical. At one point, he was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week. Petiot’s performance in the two game series that led to this honor exemplified the intangibles that his games brings to an organization – contributing 16 hits, with four blocked shots, 15 for 16 on the penalty kill, and just four turnovers. Solid and silent, Petiot remains in the top ten of Kings prospects.

9. (8) Konstantin Pushkarev, RW

Pushkarev made the jump from the Russian Super League to the WHL just before the beginning of the season. Not expected to see much playing time with Avangard, and faced with the possibility of another season toiling on their farm team, Pushkarev signed with Calgary of the Western Hockey League and immediately began to make his mark.

Matched on a line with Ryan Getzlaf (ANA) and Andrew Ladd (CAR) to start the season, Pushkarev registered three goals and three assists in his first five games. As the season wore on, his production declined, culminating in being caught with an illegal stick on two consecutive nights, perhaps in an effort to generate more offense.

Despite it all, the move to North America is a huge step for Pushkarev. Now playing closer to Los Angeles, it is easier for the organization to gauge his development and contribute additional training in the offseason.

10. (7) Greg Hogeboom, RW

The beginning of the 2004-05 season has been a rough one for Hogeboom. Playing time is sparse in a star-filled Manchester line-up and injuries have further limited his participation with the team. With only a single goal in twelve games, he has not had the season that had been hoped for him. It was well understood that Hogeboom required additional development before he would see playing time on any of the top lines and the set-backs of this season have further hampered his chances. After having a great prospect camp and being one of the standouts in the Pacific Division Rookie Tournament, Hogeboom was prepared to establish himself in Manchester. Squeezed to the bottom of the line-up with the return of Brown and Cammalleri due to the NHL work stoppage, Hogeboom will need to show tremendous progress in the second half of the season if he does not want to get lost amongst the depth of right wings in the Kings organization.

11. (NR) Yanick Lehoux, C

After several years of dropping in the rankings, Lehoux re-emerges on the list at the No. 11 spot. After signing with the Kings out of juniors and considered by many to be one of the Kings elite prospects, Lehoux was assigned to Manchester to hone his game. However, it would be in Manchester that he would remain while, in the same amount of time, 19 other prospects would see playing time in Los Angeles. The fact that Lehoux had been passed over so often spoke volumes about where he was in his development and what he was lacking in his game.

However, with a new day dawns a new beginning. Coming out faster and more aggressive in training camp, Lehoux has taken the AHL by storm in the 2004-05 season and appears to have turned the page. Even when he was struggling the past two seasons, no one doubted that he had the talent and sheer offensive potential to be an explosive hockey player. The question with Lehoux was when would he demonstrate this on a consistent basis.

Second in the AHL in scoring with 43 points in 29 games after leading for most of the early season and only recently giving way to teammate Mike Cammalleri, Lehoux is finally putting forth the effort on a nightly basis. He has been rewarded with more ice time and more skilled linemates, even seeing time on the power play as the fourth forward. If he continues to consistently put in the effort and gain the confidence of his coaches, Lehoux will soon find himself in Los Angeles.

12. (9) Brian Boyle, C

With six points in the first 13 games, Boyle is on pace to eclipse his scoring totals from his tumultuous freshman season. Boyle has also seen plenty of playing time on Boston College’s second scoring line as he has taken on a larger role with the team. To date, the Eagles have played a light schedule and Boyle has had plenty of time to get accustomed to a larger role. But as the college hockey season approaches midseason, it will be how Boyle performs down the stretch that he will be remembered for.

13. (10) Brady Murray, C

A knee injury caused Murray to miss eight games of action in November. He has still managed to post 11 points in 14 games with North Dakota, but still far from the totals he managed when playing on a line with Zach Parise during the 2003-04 season. Given the benefit of the doubt, Murray drops three spots in these rankings, but two spots were the result of the addition of Gleason and Cammalleri.

14. (13) Noah Clarke, LW

Clarke has picked up right where he left of from last season where he was named an All-Star in his first full year with Manchester. He is currently on a pace to pass last year’s total in points. The difference – he is now being overshadowed by Manchester’s high powered top lines that are anchored by Lehoux, Cammalleri, and Brown. His 23 points in 30 games is impressive enough, but he is also third on the team, and tied for eighth league wide, with a +15. Clarke does not have much left to prove in Manchester and is ready for a shot at the NHL roster. The only aspect that is holding Clarke back on these rankings is his limited offensive upside, but his remarkable speed might translate into a steady position on an energy line.

15. (12) Paul Baier, D

Paul Baier accomplished a rare feat this season for defensemen – he scored his first collegiate goal in his first collegiate game with Brown University. With four points already in his first ten games, Baier is showing the offensive potential he possesses. Taken in conjunction with his 6’4, 215 lbs frame, this young defenseman makes for a complete package. Baier is one of eight freshmen to play for Brown and has largely been matched up with Pete LeCain on their third defensive pairing.

16. (11) Jens Karlsson, LW

Karlsson began the 2004-05 season in the Swedish Elite League on the Frolunda roster. Credited with appearing in 18 games, he did not see more than five minutes of ice time in many of those games. With the addition of many NHL players to the league during the work stoppage, what little playing time that Karlsson had earned quickly was reduced to nothing. He again found playing time when transferred to Rogle of the 2nd League. With two goals and seven assists in ten games, Karlsson again proves that the lower leagues are still no match for him. However, his lack of goal scoring remains a concern, as he was billed as a scorer when drafted. At some point in the near future, the organization may need to bring him to North America to evaluate what Karlsson can do in a more physical league.

17. (18) Martin Guerin, RW

A foot injury kept him out of four games, but at the time of the injury, Guerin was near the top of NCAA scorers with ten points in six games. Despite the injury and the graduation of the three highest scorers for the University of Miami in 2003-04, Guerin has still managed to scorer at a higher pace (.93 points per game) this year than last (.81). He has scored 13 points in 14 games while skating on the top line, including a two-goal performance against Boston University to begin the season.

18. (19) Adam Hauser, G

Adam Hauser is proving that last year was no fluke. As one half of the goaltending tandem that has shutdown the opposition to the tune of 2.00 goals against per game with Manchester, Hauser has shown flashes of brilliance with four shutouts in the ten games he’s appeared in. He places fourth in the AHL in goals-against average (1.86) and second in save percentage (.940). Some question remains whether the goaltenders or the stellar defensive corps are responsible for the low number of goals against, most likely it is a mixture of both, but either way the future is bright for Hauser as he is preparing himself for a possible back-up role to Mathieu Garon in Los Angeles.

19. (16) Ryan Munce, G

Firmly established as the anchor in goal for Sarnia, Munce has had bad fortune. Having appeared in 29 of their 35 games, Munce has struggled to an 8-15-4 record due largely to a lack of help from his teammates. Sarnia has scored the second fewest goals in the OHL and Munce has faced the second highest shots per game average in the OHL as both the offense and the defense has been lacking. Despite it all, he still has the 10th best save percentage (.916) and 11th best goals against average (2.65) in the OHL. But with the lack of top end goalie talent in the OHL, Munce is merely a big fish in a small pond.

20. (15) Matt Zaba, G

In his second season with Colorado College, and poised to take over the starting role in 2005-06, Matt Zaba continues to post respectable numbers. With a 2.58 goals against average and a .907 save percentage, his numbers are slightly off from last season. However, of the 19 goals given up so far this season, six of them came in one game against the University of Denver. If the game against Denver is removed from the stat sheet, Zaba has a stellar 2.04 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. A steady and consistent goaltender, Zaba holds on to the final spot on the list.

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.