A look at the Los Angeles Kings top 10 prospects heading into the 2015-16 season.
Kings GM Dean Lombardi has done a marvelous job building his team through drafting and developing and at the same time has helped push his team to Stanley Cup Championships by bolstering the roster with veterans acquired from trading picks and prospects. It is a delicate balance, and one which Lombardi has handled expertly. While the Kings remain a perennial Cup contender, their AHL affiliates the Manchester Monarchs (Now the Ontario Reign) are the defending AHL Champions after an impressive season. Despite not having a first round pick each season, and selecting late when they do, the Kings continue to find value in late rounds of the draft to keep the prospect pipeline flowing.
1. Adrian Kempe: Left Wing – 6’2” / 187 lbs
Drafted: 29th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by the Kings
Adrian will have to continue to work on his conditioning and strength to compete against bigger and more experienced players. He excels on the offensive side of the game and will have to earn the trust of his coaches and teammates in the defensive zone to become a complete, all-around player on both sides of the puck. – Daryl Evans NHL.com
2. Jordan Weal: Centre -5’10” / 179 lbs
Drafted: 70th overall in the third round of the 2010 draft by the Kings
He possesses tremendous vision and hands capable of dazzling a crowd. While he is primarily a playmaker, don’t discount Weal’s ability to bury the puck himself. Another underrated aspect of his game is how competitive he is. The former Regina Pat has an endless motor and a penchant to deliver in clutch moments. While he isn’t a top defensive player, Weal is very shifty defensively and can often be seen lifting sticks, stealing the puck, and creating offense the other way for his team. He utilizes great skating to create offense on the rush. – Mayors Manor
3. Valentin Zykov: Right Wing – 6’0” / 209 lbs
Drafted: 37th overall in the second round of the 2013 draft by the Kings
He’s a great teammate, and he takes it very seriously. Everything we do. Every rep in everything he does, he tries his hardest. He’s going to be fine. He’s a good player. His work ethic and his attention … he applies himself every time he’s on that ice and that’s going to take him a long way.” – Mike O’Connell NHL.com
4. Derek Forbort: Defence – 6’4” / 212 lbs
Drafted: 15th overall in the first round of the 2010 draft by the Kings.
His positioning is strong and his transition game is top-notch. Scouts will often comment that he plays long and they are consistently impressed with his poke check. Offensively, Forbort will likely max out as a 30-point defenseman during the prime of his NHL career. – Mayors Manor
5. Michael Mersch: Left Wing – 6’2” / 198 lbs
Drafted: 110th overall in the fourth round of the 2011 draft by the Kings.
Michael will have to continue to work at the pace he plays the game in order to succeed at the next level — the NHL. In tight areas he can improve on his foot speed in order to buy himself more time and space to attack and create. His continued focus on play without the puck will help him gain trust from the coaches and his teammates. – Daryl Evans NHL.com
6. Justin Auger: Right Wing – 6’7” / 229 lbs
Drafted: 103rd overall in the fourth round of the 2013 draft by the Kings.
Standing 6-foot-7, Auger uses every inch of his body to play a strong game. Though he isn’t the biggest hitter, no one can criticize him for not using his size. Auger dominates along the boards and in front of the net, and has shown he can finish at times. While his top-end skill is lacking, his overall package makes him a legitimate NHL prospect. – Mayors Manor
7. Alex Lintuniemi: Defence – 6’3” / 231 lbs
Drafted: 60th overall in the second round of the 2014 draft by the Kings.
After being drafted last year as an 18-year-old, Lintuniemi has been solid. His skating has improved quite a bit and he has started to distance himself from his peers (for example, he made the World Junior team as a younger player). The real test won’t come until he starts to get some of the pro grooming in a few years. However, early indications are he is solid positionally, has a somewhat physical edge, and possesses good transition game. Further, his offensive output is already well ahead of last year’s pace. – Mayors Manor
8. Jean-Francois Berube: Goalie – 6’1” / 177 lbs
Drafted: 95th overall in the fourth round of the 2009 draft by the Kings.
A fundamental goalie in the same vein as former King Jonathan Bernier, Berube has excellent positioning and techniques. His angles are top notch and he plays right at the top of his crease, ideal for a goalie of his nature. Berube is athletic and possesses a quick glove hand, which he flashes often, robbing players of sure-fire goals. – Mayors Manor
9. Erik Cernak: Defence – 6’3” / 203 lbs
Drafted: 43rd overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by the Kings.
Černák is a big defenseman with excellent reach and strength. Is brilliant defensively and in front of his own net. Can also play on the powerplay thanks to his hockey sense. Doesn’t take a lot of penalties for a physical player. However, he could improve his skating ability. – Elite Prospects
10. Alex Dergachyov: Centre – 6’4” / 200 lbs
Drafted: 74th overall in the third round of the 2015 draft by the Kings.
A huge unit at around six-foot-four and two hundred pounds, Dergachyov brings a high level of skill and intelligence to the table. Plays with a lot of grittiness and is able to create scoring chances through bullying his way to the net and then exhibiting his fine puckhandling skills. Possesses a set of soft hands and a keen awareness of teammates’ positions; although an intimidating sniper in nature, Dergachyov has proven himself to be a formidable and creative playmaker. All-in-all, a sizey power forward that has all of the technical skills to be successful in his role as a scorer, and versatile in the lineup as a gritty grinder – Elite Prospects
Honorable Mention: Michael Amadio, Andy Andreoff, Matt Mistele, Kevin Gravel, Joel Lowry, Spencer Watson, Nic Dowd
Recent Roster Graduates: Tanner Pearson, Nick Shore, Tyler Toffoli, Brayden McNabb
Players under 25 years old and with less than 25 career NHL games played qualify as a prospect for purpose of this list.
Written by Peter Harling, who can be found on twitter @pharling