Good Morning, Insiders!
Starting off the day by sharing a bit of Scott Wheeler’s evaluation of the Kings prospect pool, which ranked them as the NHL’s second-best pool behind only the Buffalo Sabres. With The Athletic’s work being subscription-based, I won’t include every note from Wheeler’s report, but it’s still something that is important to share the results of.
“The Kings built a formidable prospect pool in a short amount of time, which resulted in a group that, for a couple of years, was adding without subtracting. Now prospects are starting to become players and the addition (which still included four high picks and a true star prospect from the 2021 draft class) isn’t outpacing the subtraction at quite the same rate.”
First thing that jumped out at me was actually the players NOT included. For the definition of a prospect used in his evaluation, players such as Arthur Kaliyev, Rasmus Kupari and Sean Durzi were not included and neither were Tobias Bjornfot and Mikey Anderson, who are now in their second seasons as NHL regulars. Among that group of five, only Durzi is older than 22, meaning that while they are not “prospects” anymore by this definition, they are still a part of the young wave of talent the Kings are ushering into the NHL level.
The criteria Wheeler used is as follows –
1. Under 23 years old. We know that by the time a player turns 23, he is largely done the steep upward progression we see in prospects and will begin to plateau.
2. Not a full-time NHL player. This is the arbitrary section of the criteria. Here, I trust my judgment for whether or not a rostered NHL player is still likely to bounce between levels more than I trust any predetermined games played cutoff. Preference for inclusion as an NHL prospect is more likely to be given to teenagers than 22-year-olds.
3. Either signed to an NHL contract or selected in the entry draft, without the expiration of either of those rights. Players who are signed to AHL contracts were not considered.
Players like Durzi and Jacob Moverare were eliminated by number 1, while others like Anderson, Bjornfot, Kaliyev and Kupari were knocked out by number 2.
Forward Quinton Byfield was Wheeler’s top-ranked prospect, to no surprise, with the hope internally that his development and progression into a full-time NHL player will eliminate his place on this list next season. Coming in second is the reigning OHL Defenseman of the Month, Brandt Clarke, LA’s first-round selection in 2021. Alex Turcotte rounds out the Top 3 and begins a group of six players that Wheeler has listed in the organization’s “third tier”, following Byfield and Clarke in tiers of their own.
Part of me says that it would be a good thing to see the organization lower on this list next season. Seeing players continue to graduate from lists like this to full-time NHL players is a terrific thing and if all goes according to play, Byfield won’t meet the criteria for selection by the time this list comes out in 12 months. On the other hand though, Mark Yannetti has done some excellent work with continuing to stock the draft pool deeper and deeper throughout the organization. It’s not just the top-end guys who profile as future NHL contributors, and that could only increase with another shot at the draft this coming summer.
Overall, Wheeler gives scouting reports on 20 Kings prospects – 14 forwards and six defensemen, in an in-depth writeup on the LA prospect pool. A couple of small excerpts below, but the full article is available to read HERE.
On Byfield – “There aren’t many 6-foot-4, 220-pound players who can skate and make plays like he can. Byfield’s blend of athleticism, speed, power, and finesse is just so rare.”
On Clarke – “All of his little quirks make him the weird, fascinating, gifted player that he is. And I expect his intricacies will make him a special player at the next level, just like they have at every level below it.”
On Samuel Fagemo – “His release is ridiculous, deceiving goalies inside the offensive zone. He’s got an incredible feel for the puck when it’s on his stick, which helps him pull dekes through feet and under sticks on attacking lines.”
On Jordan Spence – “When I think about the ways the game is trending and specifically the way modern defencemen should now play, Spence is one of the first young players that comes to mind.”
On Samuel Helenius – “He’s also a coach’s favourite who is by all accounts a good teammate, a leader, and someone coaches feel they can trust him to win battles and play reliably defensively.”
Read Wheeler’s full evaluations HERE, including full writeups on the players above, as well as Turcotte, Gabe Vilardi, Brock Faber, Tyler Madden, Akil Thomas and more. Man……Kings have a lot of young prospects, don’t they?
Coming up later on today, Insiders, is an All-Star Break reset here on LAKI. We’ll take a look at the Kings to date by position, a look at what’s gone well in the first half, what needs to happen in the second half and an overall outlook on where the team stands through the break. The Kings are set to return to practice tomorrow morning in El Segundo to kick off the “second half” of the season. Big things ahead, with the team smack dab in the middle of the playoff hunt.
For a look at the first half of the Ontario Reign’s 2021-22 season, written by our Ontario contributor Jared Shafran, click HERE. The Reign return to action for practice today, followed by their first game of the second half of the season tomorrow evening in Stockton.