Which Prospects Should the Los Angeles Kings Look to Call Up or Send Down?
Two of the Los Angeles Kings' recent draft picks—Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson—are already having a major impact on the team, and they're both only 22 years old.
The Kings' prospect pool isn't as deep as that of most teams, but considering how low they've drafted in recent years, it's not bad. They have a number of potential NHL players—such as Derek Forbort and Valentin Zykov—who are just an injury or two away from making their debuts.
With the indefinite loss of Slava Voynov, there are questions about what the Kings' blue line will look like going forward.
The good news is it will include Jake Muzzin, who missed the first few games of the season with injury.
But what does the future hold for some other young defensemen? Find out as we examine L.A. prospects who could be making a move.
First it's important to acknowledge Brayden McNabb.
The Kings lost Willie Mitchell in free agency to the Florida Panthers, but before that they acquired McNabb from the Buffalo Sabres. He was selected in the third round, 66th overall in the 2009 NHL draft.
He played in just 37 NHL games before this season but has since appeared in all six games with L.A. and should go on to play the full season.
Barring a number of injuries or suspensions, McNabb is one of the very few players who will make the jump from the AHL to the NHL with the Kings this season and play a significant chunk of games.
In six games, he has registered no points, is averaging 17 minutes and 20 seconds of ice time, has 16 hits and seven blocked shots. Look for McNabb's role to grow as he continues to become accustomed to the Kings' system and his defensive partners.
Should injuries arise on the blue line, Derek Forbort would likely be at the top of the Kings' list of defensemen to call up.
Forbort played three seasons at the University of North Dakota before making the move to the AHL's Manchester Monarchs for the end of the 2012-13 season. The 15th overall pick in the 2010 draft, Forbort had a strong first full season in the AHL and would likely have appeared in a few NHL games at this point if he was on a different team.
Even with the Kings' depth on defense, Forbort is making a push. He stands 6'4", weighs 212 pounds and plays a similar style to that of veteran Willie Mitchell.
While he will likely be a third-pairing player for a few years, the 22-year-old has the potential to be a solid top-four blueliner for most of his career.
Jordan Weal was one of the standouts at L.A. training camp. As one of the final cuts, Weal appears to be one of the favorites to be called up should L.A. require additional forwards.
Weal was selected in the third round, 70th overall by the Kings in the 2010 draft. With a couple of years' worth of AHL experience, he will be looked upon as one of the go-to players this season in Manchester. He's off to a good start with one goal and two assists for three points in three games.
Weal is a dynamic forward with good vision, playmaking ability and an accurate shot. The one major criticism has been—and probably will continue to be—his size. He's 5'10" and weighs 179 pounds.
He has yet to play in an NHL game, but that could change this season.
The Kings' top prospect on the wing is Valentin Zykov of the QMJHL's Baie-Comeau Drakkar.
Zykov is the youngest of the group at 19 years old. He was selected in the second round, 37th overall in the 2013 draft. Zykov is a highly skilled forward with great hands, speed and a strong shot. He also showed his physical side during the 2013-14 season.
He's averaged over a point per game in his first two seasons in the QMJHL and has four goals and seven assists for 11 points in 10 games so far in 2014-15.
Zykov has the potential to add more secondary scoring power to the Kings in the coming years. However, he remains a long shot to be called up this season based on his lack of professional experience.