General manager Dean Lombardi and the rest of the Los Angeles Kings' management and scouting staff deserve a ton of credit. Not only are the Kings a Stanley Cup contender once again, the team's affiliates are having great campaigns as well.
The Manchester Monarchs sit second overall in the AHL, while the Ontario Reign find themselves at the top of the ECHL's standings.
Early-round draft picks like Tyler Toffoli are important, but those late-round selections that go unrecognized early in their careers can also be key—just ask the Detroit Red Wings.
With that said, here are the Kings' most underrated prospects.
Stats courtesy of HockeyDB.com.
Team: Manchester Monarchs
Drafted: Third round, 82nd overall in 2012
Born in Denver, Nick Shore spent three years playing for his hometown University of Denver Pioneers before suiting up for the Monarchs this season.
Shore is a gifted two-way player with great hockey sense and never gives up on a play. The only question is his size. At 6'0", 195 pounds, Shore is similar to Linden Vey in many ways, but he doesn't garner nearly as much attention.
He's currently tied for sixth on the Monarchs with 18 points and has a solid plus-nine rating. For Shore to compete with Vey for a spot on L.A. in the future, he must continue to improve his skating and show he can compete with bigger, tougher players.
Team: CSKA Moscow
Drafted: Fourth round, 121st overall in 2012
The Kings' weakness—if you can call it that—is on the left side, where they lack sufficient depth. Hence, the acquisition of Matt Frattin in the Jonathan Bernier trade.
Nikolai Prokhorkin certainly doesn't offer an immediate solution, but he could provide some depth down the road. The 6'1", 195-pound winger is having a major impact in the KHL this season and leads his team in scoring with 18 goals and 17 assists for 35 points.
With great hands and good vision, Prokhorkin has a lot to offer on the offensive end, but he must continue to work to improve his play in the defensive zone. That said, the Kings' biggest concern is likely his long-term status and whether he will choose to stay in the KHL.
Team: University of Minnesota
Drafted: Fourth round, 188th overall in 2013
After a couple of years with the U.S. National Development Team, Hudson Fasching is now playing a key role with the Golden Gophers. In 21 games, he's racked up six goals and 11 assists for 17 points, which has him ranked fourth on the team in scoring.
Fasching is a strong power forward who uses his 6'2", 213-pound frame to go hard to the net and mix it up in the corners.
However, at 18 years old, Fasching still has a lot of work to do before he can make the jump to the professional ranks. Improving his skating and finding a consistent touch on each shift are musts.
Team: St. Cloud State
Drafted: Fifth round, 148th overall in 2010
The 6'4", 200-pound defenseman may not be ready for the NHL anytime soon, but he's certainly got potential. Mark Yannetti, the co-director of amateur scouting for the Kings, compared Kevin Gravel to Rob Scuderi when speaking with John Hoven for an LAKings.com special report:
When you talk about sandpaper and grit, I don’t see [Gravel] having Scuds’ sandpaper or grit yet. Scuds didn't have that at Boston College though, and he didn't have that in the minors, or his first three years in Pittsburgh. Scuderi in L.A., was not the Scuderi early on in his career, but something changed. He was never soft, but something changed in him.
Gravel is in his fourth season at St. Cloud State and has registered two goals and nine assists for 11 points in 20 games. He should move up to the AHL next year, and when players like Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene decide to call it quits, he may get his first NHL opportunity.
For now, he must continue to fine-tune his defensive-zone skills both at even strength and on the penalty kill.
Team: Manchester Monarchs
Drafted: Fourth round, 95th overall in 2010
Jonathan Quick's injury and the Ben Scrivens trade opened the door for Jean-Francois Berube in Manchester this season.
His numbers aren't nearly as good as Martin Jones', but he's been solid and has a lot more experience than Patrik Bartosak. Berube is 15-12-2 with a .910 save percentage, 2.55 goals-against average and one shutout.
That said, even if Berube were to stand on his head for a few weeks, he isn't likely to get a call-up unless Quick or Jones is injured.