Progress Report on Los Angeles Kings' Top 5 Prospects
While players like Andrei Loktionov and Thomas Hickey have moved on to other clubs, a number of early draft picks from recent years with little to no NHL experience remain.
One player who will no longer be regarded as a prospect is Tyler Toffoli. The 21-year-old appears poised to take on a full-time role in the NHL after playing in 12 playoff games for the Kings in 2013. Also, this report doesn’t include any of LA’s 2013 draft picks, such as Valentin Zykov, who just joined the club.
With that said, here’s a progress report on the Kings’ top prospects.
Stats courtesy of HockeyDB.
Contract information courtesy of CapGeek.
5. Martin Jones, Goaltender
First, it’s important to note that Martin Jones is a restricted free agent at this time.
However, we will assume for now that the 23-year-old will be back in Manchester next season. He has played 136 AHL games for the Monarchs over the past three years and should still be No. 3 on L.A.’s depth chart, just ahead of Jean-Francois Berube.
Although he’s been inconsistent at times, Jones always battles hard, regardless of how poorly the team in front of him is playing. He has maintained a save percentage above .918 and a goals-against average well below 2.60 during his AHL career.
The best-case scenario for Jones is that he will end up being a solid backup for the Kings in the coming years. The worst-case scenario is he won’t ever see NHL action with the club. Considering he went undrafted, that wouldn’t be all that bad of a result for the Kings, who took a chance on the young netminder back in 2008.
4. Nicolas Deslauriers, Defense
Nicolas Deslauriers was drafted in the third round, 84th overall, by the Kings back in 2009.
After a relatively quiet rookie campaign with the Monarchs in 2011-12, Deslauriers did show signs of improvement in his second season.
The 22-year-old finished second among the team’s blueliners in scoring with four goals and 19 assists for 23 points. And although they were swept in four games, he did top the team’s scoring list in the playoffs with two goals and two assists.
Deslauriers has a good mix of skill and size. He is a strong skater and has great puck-handling skills, but he has been known to be a little too aggressive offensively. At 6’1”, 214 pounds, he has the frame of an NHL defenseman but still has a lot of work to do before he can make the jump to the Kings.
3. Linden Vey, Center/Right Wing
Linden Vey has a history of putting up big numbers. The question is: Will he be successful at the NHL level?
In 2010-11 Vey led not only the WHL, but also the entire CHL in scoring. He registered 46 goals and 70 assists for 116 points in 69 games. Next season he moved up to the AHL and slowly became accustomed to playing the game at a higher level.
This past season he made great improvements to his game and finished fifth overall in AHL scoring with 67 points.
The 22-year-old has a good shot, solid speed and the ability to make consistent tape-to-tape passes. However, he needs to continue to work to get stronger in order to meet the physical demands of the NHL.
2. Derek Forbort, Defense
Unlike most of the Kings’ prospects, Derek Forbort has not played Canadian junior hockey and has just six games' worth of AHL experience under his belt.
The 21-year-old spent three seasons at the University of North Dakota, and prior to that, he was part of the U.S. National Development Program. He joined the Monarchs for the end of the 2013 season after signing a three-year entry-level contract with the Kings.
Forbort has never made a dramatic leap forward in his development during a short period of time. Instead, he has steadily improved from one year to the next.
He stands 6’5” and weighs about 200 pounds. He doesn't have strong offensive skills but does have the potential to be a great shutdown defenseman for the Kings in the future.
Forbort was selected 15th overall by L.A., back when they hosted the draft in 2010.
1. Tanner Pearson, Left Wing
Given Tyler Toffoli’s likely move up to the NHL, Tanner Pearson is now L.A.’s top prospect overall.
After two seasons with the Barrie Colts of the OHL, Pearson seamlessly made the transition to the AHL, suiting up for the Manchester Monarchs in 2012-13. Despite missing 12 games, Pearson finished fourth on the team in scoring with 19 goals and 28 assists for 47 points.
A 30th overall pick by the Kings in the 2012 NHL entry draft, Pearson has good offensive skills and has quickly evolved into a solid two-way player as well. The 6’0”, 193-pound winger has great hockey sense, which may allow him to develop into a notable playmaker at the NHL level.
Pearson’s lone NHL appearance came in Game 3 of LA’s second-round series vs. the San Jose Sharks this year. He will turn 21 years old on August 10 and should see more NHL action in the upcoming season.
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