Manchester has been a revolving door of Los Angeles Kings prospects through the midpoint of the 2005-06 season. Seventeen prospects have skated for the Monarchs, many merely stopping over on their way to Los Angeles or back to Reading of the ECHL. For the third straight season, injuries have devastated the NHL roster, forcing those prospects developing in Manchester up to Los Angeles and leaving Manchester with little continuity in their line-up.
Several prospects have managed to endure the cross-country flights and enjoy great starts to their season. Jeff Tambellini, with four NHL games under his belt, has scored 18 goals and 38 points in 34 games, good for second on the team in both categories, and was named to the AHL All-Star team. Noah Clarke, with five NHL games this season, continues his solid if unspectacular play for the Monarchs. Tied for second on the team with 20 assists, Clarke has been a rare mainstay in the line-up for Manchester.
Petr Kanko and Matt Ryan have been traveling between the two cities with regularity and neither has been able to get comfortable long enough in one city to hit their stride. While Kanko has scored his first career NHL goal, he is still a sporadic scorer in the AHL. Ryan brings good speed to the table, but that speed has not translated into production at either the AHL or the NHL level, where each made their debuts. Unlike Kanko or Ryan, Connor James came up from the ECHL where he starred during the 2004-05 season to play his way into an NHL contract. With 25 points in 37 games and showing brilliant speed, James was signed to a contract with Los Angeles and immediately found himself in the NHL for two games.
Denis Grebeshkov is the lone defenseman to have made the trip to skate in Los Angeles. Richard Petiot has received several call-ups in the last couple of months but is still waiting to enter his first NHL game. At a +11 from the blue line, Petiot has been consistently shutting down the opposition’s top scoring lines in Manchester. Grebeshkov, who has so far managed to stick in Los Angeles, played long enough in Manchester to be named to the AHL All-Star game after recording 16 assists in 28 games. Grebeshkov has also taken his rookie lumps in Los Angeles and has been forced into duty for seven games where he has tallied two assists. However, he is still learning how to overcome the largest obstacle to young players – consistency.
After failing to come to terms with Los Angeles on a new contract, AHL All-Star centerman Yanick Lehoux began the season in Switzerland. Not long after the season began, Lehoux agreed to a new contract with Los Angeles. But under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, in order for Los Angeles to assign him to Manchester, Lehoux had to first clear waivers. The Phoenix Coyotes soon claimed him off of waivers and gave Lehoux his NHL debut. But his stay with the Phoenix organization did not stay long as he was placed on waivers weeks after being claimed, where the Kings quickly snatched the young center up and assigned him to Manchester. After an incredible beginning to the 2004-05 season before succumbing to a season ending injury, another high-scoring season may have been expected of Lehoux. But his 12 points in 22 games is well off the pace set last season.
While Manchester has sent nearly all of their top players to Los Angeles, Lauri Tukonen was sent to Canada to play for Team Finland in the U20 World Juniors Championship. Tukonen’s seven assists and ten points, both tied for second in the tournament, helped his team to the bronze medal in the tournament. His 17 points in 27 games for Manchester is a respectable total for a 19-year-old rookie.
As Los Angeles called upon Manchester to provide injury relief, the ECHL has been called upon by Manchester fill the empty roster spots. Greg Hogeboom, Dany Roussin, Yutaka Fukufuji, Shay Stephenson and Barry Brust have all spent varying lengths of time in the ECHL and the AHL this season. Hogeboom’s 27 points in 19 games for Reading is essential in building his confidence after a lost season of injuries in 2004-05. But Hogeboom, Roussin and Stephenson have scored only 6 points in 37 AHL games between them. Fukufuji has lost his roster spot to Brust who, upon being called up, has taken the league by storm with two shutouts in 11 games and an impressive 2.22 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.
After all the flights in and out of Manchester, which prospects are left who have remained with the Monarchs for the entire season? Konstantin Pushkarev, Brad Fast and Joey Mormina. Pushkarev signed with Los Angeles after one season in the WHL and was immediately assigned to Manchester. Ten goals, four on the power play, and 18 points in 39 games is consistent with other 19-year-old rookies in the AHL. He continues to suffer from tunnel-vision and inconsistency but does possess some of the best raw skills on the team. Brad Fast and Joey Mormina provide depth on the blue line for the Monarchs and do not look likely to be called up to Los Angeles anytime soon. But with as much turnover as there has been in Manchester this season, sometimes it’s good to see an old reliable face.
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