The LA Kings finished a tough 0-3-0 at the Vegas Rookie Faceoff, but given a bit of a discrepancy in talent – Gabriel Vilardi, Rasmus Kupari and Cal Petersen did not participate, and the Kings were the only team without a first round draft pick at the showcase – there were still severable notable performances worth a few extra words. These players were chosen through what I was hearing from figures primarily inside but also outside of the organization over the last five days, as well as my own eye test. So, let’s talk Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Sheldon Rempal and Kale Clague.
The easiest to pick out among the Kings’ standouts, Anderson-Dolan was the Kings’ best player in their first game against Anaheim, scoring twice and adding an assist while showing his typically excellent motor. It was evident that Anderson-Dolan, who attended development camp and participated in the World Junior Summer Showcase, had gotten in plenty of work over the summer. He appeared faster than he did one season ago, which is in line with the strides he’s taken in all aspects of his game. The eye test was obvious, but in speaking with a number of figures both inside and outside the organization, several additional observations noted his improved ability to see the ice and move the puck in give-and-gos and his competitiveness to win pucks back. He was well-positioned on the penalty kill and profiles in a wide variety of situations at higher levels.
Prospects expert Corey Pronman included Anderson-Dolan as one of the 10 players (and two Kings) who caught the scouts’ eyes in Las Vegas:
Jaret Anderson-Dolan, C, Los Angeles: Anderson-Dolan was the best forward for the Kings. He plays a 200-foot game and had several scoring chances, including three points against Anaheim. He played versus the Hayton line against Arizona. His hockey IQ will allow him to play in all situations at the next level, but he doesn’t have high-end skill.
Rempal may have generated the most scoring chances for Los Angeles over the three-day tournament and was finally rewarded with a first period goal Tuesday that tied the game against Vegas. Shortly afterwards, he also had an angled break that he wasn’t able to lift past Jiri Patera on his backhand. But much of what he had showed late last season in practice and over the off-season, while he was training heavily at Toyota Spoets Center, were accentuated. He’s very crafty with the puck and showed an ability to rush the puck up-ice, relying on subtle movement in his hips and lower body to create space against defenders. This allows him to gain offensive zone entry, maintain possession of the puck for an extra beat, and stay low while using his speed. He’s a crafty player, and while he doesn’t possess an elite shot, improved his release and showed good competitiveness in driving to the net and forcing second chances.
Clague was drawing heavy notice for the 2017-18 season he put up in Brandon and Moose Jaw, and though he entered the tournament with high expectations, he largely surpassed them. That wasn’t to say that he was nearly flawless. There were some turnovers and the natural challenges of battling players a touch more experienced than in the WHL, and Mike Stothers noted that “there’s still a little bit of carefree in him, but we’ll take care of that.” But there’s so much to like in his game, which begins with exceptionally good skating that allows him to nimbly escape trouble. He showed excellent composure with the puck and moving the puck at a good pace in the tournament and would have had a goal to his name against Anaheim on Saturday – if not for the underside of that frustrating crossbar. He’s proud of the work he’s put in in his play away from the puck, but that natural escapability and ability to swiftly advance the puck – those are attributes Clague has in spades and aren’t as easy to teach. It may take some time for him to work some things out as he adjusts to the pro-style game, but so much of what I’d heard about Clague over the past year, including a good deal of what we saw the prospect tournament, should leave Kings fans very encouraged.
Kale Clague, D, Los Angeles: He’s simple and smart. He played often and in all situations for L.A. Defensively he was solid and made great exits. He had some power play time and looked good but not threatening.
-Lead photo via Joshua Lavallee/Icon Sportswire