The Los Angeles Kings' Best Prospect at Each Position Entering 2013-14 Season
This year's team will be similar to the previous two, albeit without backup goalie Jonathan Bernier. This L.A. squad may also feature a few unfamiliar faces now and then, depending on injuries and the performance of fourth-line players.
The Kings have at least one notable prospect at each position, many of whom could make their NHL debuts this season. Of course, Tyler Toffoli isn't one of them, as he seems to have established himself as a regular in the Kings' lineup.
With that said, here is a look at the Kings' best prospect at each position.
Stats courtesy of HockeyDB.com.
Center: Linden Vey
Linden Vey was selected in the fourth round (96th overall) back in the 2009 NHL draft.
Since then, the Wakaw, Sask., native has developed into a skilled, determined hockey player. In his final WHL season with the Medicine Hat Tigers in 2010-11, Vey finished atop the CHL scoring list with 46 goals and 70 assists for 116 points in just 69 games.
He's spent the last two seasons playing for the Manchester Monarchs in the AHL and could be the team's top scorer in the upcoming season.
Vey is a solid skater with great hands, especially around the net. So what's holding the 22-year-old back? His size. At 6'0", 183 pounds, Vey must continue to bulk up and prepare for the more physical game that awaits in the NHL.
Left Wing: Tanner Pearson
Tanner Pearson, 21, currently ranks as the Kings' top prospect.
After being passed on in two drafts, the Kings selected him 30th overall in 2012. Pearson has yet to play in an NHL regular season game, but did suit up for the Kings in Game 3 of their second round showdown with the San Jose Sharks this year.
At 6'0", 193 pounds, Pearson should get a shot at cracking the team's lineup in training camp. But that won't be an easy task considering L.A.'s depth up front. Pearson may return to the AHL, where he would likely dominate alongside Linden Vey.
Pearson has a strong shot and incredible hockey sense, which should allow him to secure a spot in the NHL as a top-six forward, eventually.
Right Wing: Valentin Zykov
Valentin Zykov is the top prospect at right wing thanks to a combination of skill and the fact that the Kings are lacking top-end players at the position.
Zykov is just 18 years old and was the Kings' top pick in the 2013 draft, selected in the second round (37th overall). The Kings traded the 57th pick (second round), 88th (third round) and 96th (fourth round) to the Edmonton Oilers in order to obtain the 37th selection.
Zykov showed he was willing to play in North America when he joined the Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the QMJHL last season. Zykov had an impressive rookie campaign, notching 40 goals and 35 assists for 75 points in 67 games. And, he was named the CHL Rookie of the Year.
Zykov must continue to work on his skating, but with great hands and a quick release, it may only be a matter of time before he's calling L.A. home.
Defense: Derek Forbort
He may not be the most exciting or easily recognized L.A. prospect, but Derek Forbort has the potential to be a solid, stay-at-home defenseman in the NHL. He was drafted higher than any other player on this list, going 15th overall to the Kings in 2010.
The 21-year-old stands 6'5" and tips the scales at 200 pounds. He makes sound decisions in his own end, has excellent passing skills and has no problem playing physical anywhere on the ice.
Forbort spent three seasons playing for the University of North Dakota prior to signing a three-year entry-level contract with the Kings in April. He made his AHL debut this past season, appearing in six games and recording one assist. He will likely spend all of next season in Manchester.
Goalie: Martin Jones
Luckily for the Kings, goaltending isn't an issue, even with Jonathan Bernier having been traded to Toronto. Jonathan Quick is one of the world's best and Ben Scrivens proved to be a solid backup during his time with the Maple Leafs.
As of right now, Martin Jones gets the nod as L.A.'s top goaltending prospect. He has plenty of experience, having played in 136 games for the Monarchs over three seasons. He posted a winning record in each season and a save percentage of at least .919. Jones stands 6'4", has good positioning and solid rebound control.
The 23-year-old remains a restricted free agent at this time.
With that in mind, it's worth mentioning J.B. Berube. The 22-year-old has one-year remaining on his entry-level contract with the Kings and should see a lot of action in the AHL in 2013-14.