Los Angeles Kings: 5 Kids Looking to Make an Impact
For a long time now, the talk around the Kings organization has been the youth. It's been about the rich pipeline and the embarrassment of wealth in prospects and picks. It's been about Canadian Major Junior standouts and World Junior Championship competitors.
But for the Kings, the real future is right now.
Poised on what could be one of the biggest seasons for the team in recent memory, they turn to a lineup full of grizzled vets like Rob Scuderi and Willie Mitchell to lead the way. But for the Kings to earn their place among the leagues elite, they will have to get contributions from a youthful group quickly coming of age.
Voynov, the former second-round pick in the 2008 NHL entry draft, is coming off an All-Star AHL season. The 21-year-old defenseman was a key fixture for the Manchester Monarchs blue line last year where he racked up 51 points in 76 games, and five points in seven playoff games.
The offensive-minded Voynov has been patient, playing almost three full seasons with the Kings' minor league affiliate. His patience, however, may be on the brink of paying off with a big slot left open on the Kings back line.
Whether his stay will be short or long with the Kings this season, one thing is for certain: If he wants to make an impact at the NHL, there is no better time then right now.
Alec Martinez was a big surprise two seasons ago when he made the Kings' opening night roster. His stay, however, was as short as they come, registering only four games over the entire 09-10 season. Martinez built on a strong year in the minors and after a call-up in November of last season, he was a mainstay.
At 24, Martinez is by no means a "kid" but he has just 64 NHL games under his belt.
The Kings will be looking for Martinez to log more ice time this year, contribute more on the offensive side of the puck and also command the blue line as a part of the second power-play unit.
Few players on the Kings roster last season played with as much fire as the 20-year-old Kyle Clifford. What he lacked in NHL experience, he made up for with grit and tenacity.
It was these qualities that got the 2009 second-round pick a full-time job as the Kings' middleweight.
Clifford now has a full year of NHL play on his résumé, as well as a playoff series where he had five points in six games. The only place he can go from here is up.
The fearless left winger will have to play with as much fire in his belly and chip in a few more goals from the third line if he wants to make a big mark this season.
Loktionov has had a run of bad luck the last two seasons with the Kings but has still remained a prominent mark on the prospect map.
With two seasons cut short due to nagging shoulder injuries, a healthy Loktionov will look to break in at center, on arguably one of the deepest teams at center in the league.
It could be of help to Andrei if he could make a switch to wing, something he was rather ineffective at last season during his stay.
Either way, Loktionov will have to make the most of his chances this year. They will be brief. But with Jarret Stoll coming up for contract next season, the 21-year-old Russian may be having a year-long tryout. He can only help his chances with solid outings.
It's been a long road to the NHL for the 24-year-old Salt Lake City native. But the former 17th overall pick paid his dues with four seasons in the AHL, and finally earned a full NHL season in 2010-2011.
Lewis has always been a less-than-flashy, defensively responsible center. And with the Kings' Michal Handzus making his way to San Jose in the offseason, the focus will now shift to young Trevor Lewis to pick up the slack on the bottom six and the penalty kill.
Lewis, a former captain of the Monarchs, showed he is capable of stepping up when the team needs him, playing some of his best hockey of the season during the playoffs and with an injured Anze Kopitar in the press box.
The team will need him this year, all season.