In a report published Wednesday by the CBC, NHL teams learned this week that AHL players on two-way NHL contracts will be allowed to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics.
In a memo sent to the 31 NHL teams this week, the league outlined AHL players can be loaned to national teams for the 2018 Olympic Games. But these players only can be made available between Feb. 5-26, 2018. The Winter Olympics men’s hockey tournament begins on Feb. 9 and concludes with the gold-medal final on Feb. 25.
This turn of events may not have much of an impact on Canada’s roster. Hockey Canada is close to finalizing a series of exhibition games in Russia next month with a roster comprised of Canadian professionals playing in Europe.
As Wharnsby notes in the article, those exhibition games will give an early leg up on competition to national team prospects currently playing in Europe, where preseason training is already underway. It is probably a wise move to hold off on purchasing your Kevin Gravel Team Canada jersey.
Four Pacific Division teams are taking part in a prospect tournament that will feature a format somewhat similar to the prospect tournaments held in Traverse City, Mich., London, Ont., and Penticton, B.C. The Kings are not among the teams scheduled to participate and will instead host the Vegas Golden Knights for a pair of rookie games at Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 12, and 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 13.
But between September 9-12 at Solar 4 America Ice at San Jose, the Sharks’ practice facility, San Jose, Arizona, Anaheim and Colorado will gather for a four-team prospect round robin tournament in which each team will play three games.
It will be interesting to see if the Kings ultimately join such tournaments in the future. Los Angeles previously participated in the Pacific Division Shootout, a four-team rookie tournament held between 2003 and 2006. That 2006 tournament featured a variety of names one would expect, such as Anze Kopitar, Trevor Lewis, Jonathan Bernier, Bud Holloway and, um, Yutaka Fukufuji.
The book-ending 2003 and 2006 tournaments were held in El Segundo, while the 2004 and 2005 events were held in Anaheim and San Jose. Though former GM Dave Taylor saw the value in the tournaments’ ability to evaluate its prospects in game settings, Dean Lombardi, who followed Taylor, preferred the two-off exhibitions against teams in Los Angeles’ immediate geographical proximity. This was due, in part, to the team’s belief that development would be better facilitated through their own practices and development days rather than a number of games in a short amount of time. With new executives atop hockey operations, it will be interesting to see if that evolves at all in future years; the structure for this year’s tournament was being laid before the Kings had made changes atop their organization.
From a September, 2002 LA Times article reporting that the former tournament was being planned:
“I would be interested as long as it would be done the right way,” King Coach Andy Murray said. “We have a pretty good rookie camp here in July that has created a lot interest…. I would rather have the kids around [veterans] for 10 days like we do. I think the way we do it is pretty good, but if they have a little tournament, say at the end of the first week of camp, that would be fine. Some of these rookie things can get to be pretty goofy.”
Today’s game between the Ducks and Kings will be played without fighting.
“That’s the only way you can play that kind of a game,” Andy Murray said. “Otherwise these kids are going to pound on each other. We want to see who can play the game. There’s no sense in them fighting. We know who’s tough.”
Still, tough guys Kip Brennan (Kings) and Cam Severson (Ducks) will play, even if on-ice shenanigans are not allowed.
“Guys will do anything to make a hockey team,” Bryan Murray said. “If we let them fight, then guys are going to go out and do that to try to catch management’s eye.”
Those who’ve watched these rookie games understand that they tend to get quite testy, and that players will do what is necessary to make sure they’re noticed, as referenced above. That’s a fancy way of saying, “they fight a lot.”
Speaking of prospects, here’s a ranking of the 31 prospect pools. The Kings are right where they should be, but this is not a very good list. In fairness, these lists are extremely difficult to put together if you’re not a nationally credited, plugged in writer who communicates regularly with scouts, agents and reporters. But, like, Cal Petersen isn’t even included in Los Angeles’ notable prospects, Jordan Weal is listed as having a “sensational” season even though he is 25 and will no longer technically be a rookie this year, whereas San Jose forward Kevin Labanc, who recently scored eight goals in his 21-year-old season, is not listed. Troy Terry, who had seven points in the WJC and was well above a point-per-game pace in his sophomore season at Denver, is not listed under Anaheim’s top guys. It’s easy to pick apart outliers in lists like these, but it shouldn’t be as easy to do so within 15 seconds of glancing at it.
Anyway, while we’re here, Brett Slawson’s view of the Kings:
Top Prospects: Spencer Watson, Nikolai Prokhorkin, Michael Amadio, Alexander Dergachyov, Jacob Friend, Jacob Moverare, Adrian Kempe, Kale Clague, Gabriel Vilardi, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Markus Phillips
On the Rise: Spencer Watson – 2016-17 OHL: 41GP – 28G, 53Pts
Despite capturing two Stanley Cups within the past decade, the Los Angeles Kings are a franchise with a very uncertain future. Having missed the playoffs on two occasions over the past three seasons, the Kings are, unfortunately, transitioning from a legitimate contender to a mediocre pretender before our very eyes.
Further, the team underwent a great deal of upheaval following their elimination from contention, as both Darryl Sutter and Dean Lombardi were fired and replaced by John Stevens and Rob Blake. Although the team’s main core continues to perform well, Los Angeles has been plagued by a lack of scoring from their young players and especially those drafted in recent years.
In fact, dating back to the 2012 NHL Draft, only Tanner Pearson has developed into a reliable scorer at hockey’s highest level for the Kings, as many other promising players – Brayden Schenn, Jordan Weal, and Valentin Zykov, in particular – have either been traded or have failed to progress as individuals on the ice. Fortunately, Los Angeles fared extremely well in the 2017 NHL Draft, as the club was able to nab lethal young talent in the forms of Gabriel Vilardi, Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Markus Phillips.
Yet, despite the addition of these excellent prospects, the Kings could possess an incredible steal in Spencer Watson. A seventh-round choice in 2014, Watson enjoyed yet another fantastic OHL campaign in 2016-17 and, having concluded his major junior career, is ready for professional hockey. With innate scoring abilities, Watson could be an excellent solution to a persistent problem in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, as expected, Jacob Moverare was named to Sweden’s U-20 World Junior summer development camp roster.
Meanwhile, an off-season Kings update was written at NHL.com by former Times scribe Lisa Dillman.
A non-hockey offering:
Guys, what's your most-used-in-real-life Simpsons quote? Mine is either "he can talk -I CAN SIIIIIIING" or "Lisa, I'd like to buy your rock"
— Natasha Hodgson (@NatashaHodgson) July 14, 2017
That’s a great question, and it’s impossible to pick just one. (My daughter has a Pray for Mojo onesie.) (Thank you, Lefty.)
Apart from “pray for Mojo,” I find these Simpsons lines highly entrenched in my own vernacular and those of my friends and coworkers:
“I like the way Snrub thinks!”
“Increase my killing power, eh?”
“Here’s your turtle back, alive and well.”
“I’m so hungry I could eat at Arby’s!”
“It’s a perfectly cromulent word.”
This was not a scientific study. Meanwhile, the Simpsons’ writers room is beyond these green doors and stuccoed walls.
Great conversations with Lisa on Ice writer Mike Scully and producer Richard Chung as part of a special Simpsons-related #KingsWeekly that relates back to the AHL's Springfield Kings and several excellent Pete Demers stories! Fun episode put together by @jackawilson airs a week from Thursday, after Kings-Sabres.