Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ranking the LA Kings top 10 prospects - who's #1 now?

By now you know, Brayden Schenn has been traded.

The most talked about Kings prospect in years, perhaps ever, is no longer part of the organization - having been shipped to Philadelphia for Mike Richards.

Essentially, the GM Dean Lombardi swapped Schenn for the guy many people hoped he would become, Richards - who already is himself!

You still with me?

His departure creates a need to reset the rankings. Sure, this naturally happens every year, with certain players moving up or down based upon their prior season. However, the Schenn trade had one of the largest impacts on the rankings, as he was ranked the #1 prospect in all of hockey on most lists - not the Kings #1 prospect, but the entire NHL.

Enough about Schenn though, that's last year's camp news.

In about an hour, nearly all of the top prospects who one day may call Los Angeles home will hit the ice to kick off this year's Rookie Camp.

With that, below is the debut of the MayorsManor prospect rankings.

Many of you just skipped ahead and aren't even reading this paragraph, but here goes anyway... Understand that people use different criteria when putting a list like this together - i.e. the player closest to making it to the NHL gets ranked first, the player with the most upside or even the player who fits the team's needs best.

The following rankings are based on if I was a GM. In my opinion, these are the players who I see as having the most overall value. A very simple, watered down explanation would be this - all things being equal, I would take a goaltender first if building a team. The only exception would be if there was a Crosby or Ovechkin-like talent available. Things become a little dicier from there because trying to compare the value of a defenseman over a forward is like comparing apples and apple juice. Your body needs both, but for different reasons.

After an initial run at it, I went back though and where needed, gave a slight bump to guys who were probably more NHL ready, thus they are further along in the development curve - so, their skill set is a little more 'real' as opposed to pure 'potential.'


1 - Martin Jones (G) - It's still hard to believe that the Kings were able to sign this guy as an unrestricted free agent. Talk to anybody who played junior hockey over the last four years in the WHL and Jones' name almost always comes up. To do what he did last year in Manchester, as a rookie, is beyond impressive. He very much looks like the real deal.

2- Jake Muzzin (D) - size, meanness, off-ice humor (OK fine, that's not important, but it's better than being vanilla) - the question here isn't IF he can play in the NHL, but WHEN - look for him to have a breakout year in Manchester, one where he becomes an on and off ice leader - could even wear a letter (he was formally the captain of the Soo Greyhounds, his junior team)

3 - Tyler Toffoli (RW) - perhaps the biggest debate on this list will be number three and four - at the end of the day, we're splitting hairs - both players are rock solid - the Kings are very high on this kid, with one highly respected member of the management team recently telling me 'his hands are just sick' when describing what makes him special - he's the reigning OHL goal scoring champion and has a shot (probably less than 50%, but it's still there) or making the Kings roster this season - I'll give him the slight edge over Kozun heading into camp

4 - Brandon Kozun (RW) - yes, he could in fact be ranked too low - yes, his size comes up all the time, but you can't avoid it when talking about the bigger, stronger NHL - small players have to be one of two types to be successful at the highest level, either like Mike Cammalleri (sniper) or Theo Fleury (agitator, hard to play against, pure nasty, etc.) - earlier this summer another player in the Kings organization described Kozun has having that fire inside of him - remember, if smaller players don't play with an edge, they'll lose out to similarly qualified skaters who have more size - Kozun plays with a confidence that borders on cocky at times - however, in my dozens of conversations with him I've never taken it that way - he just believes he is good enough to make the NHL right now - spend five minutes with him and he'll make a believer out of you too - this should be a very interesting camp battle with Toffoli

5 - Andrei Loktionov (C) - durability is the key here - like Thomas Hickey, he has yet to put all of his skills together - overall, time is still on his side, he's 22 years old - however, each season that slips by without him pushing the Kings hard for a roster spot equates to more grains of sand slipping through the proverbial hourglass - he also looks to be a center going forward, he and the coaching staff view the 'winger' experiment of last year as a failure

6 - Viatcheslav Voynov (D) - the offense is there, yet how tough is he? - without the meanness of Muzzin or polish and 'gamer' attitude of Alec Martinez, he's a step below those two - however, he is probably ready for the NHL at this point, there isn't much more to prove at Manchester - even though that is his likely home this season

7 - Nic Deslauriers (D) - for more on my thoughts about this player, please see yesterday's article on the rookie camp roster breakdown - basically, he could be the cream of the entire d-man crop of prospects - he had a breakout year in the QMJHL, added weight, his poise is there and so on - he should be ranked much higher one year from today

8 - Derek Forbort (D) - the jury is still out here just a bit - he had somewhat of a disappointing freshman year at the University of North Dakota, offensively speaking - others some might argue the fact he was a starter was progress enough at the school, with such a deep roster - however, you hope to see a big step forward from first round draft picks - in his defense (no pun intended), he was sick with mono in the early part of the season and, admittedly, came back too soon because he wanted to play for Team USA at the World Junior tournament - a big sophomore year and/or an impressive run at the 2012 WJC could see his stock rise substantially

9 - Thomas Hickey (D) - his story has been well documented (drafted much higher than most scouts has him on the board, often injured, etc.) - the question marks continue and when he doesn't make the team out of camp this year (bank on it), that will only create more question marks around one of Lombardi's first big draft day moves as LA GM, way back in 2007

10 - Christopher Gibson (G) - the kid speaks three languages, and put up solid numbers on a poor team last year - even though it was somewhat surprising the Kings selected a goalie with their first pick at this year's draft, they seem to have a good one and somebody who could easily be in the top half of these rankings before long

Honorable Mention

Ray Kaunisto (LW) - if we were ranking guys based on their chirping ability, he'd be numbers one, two and three

Linden Vey (F) - doesn't get the publicity of Toffoli, yet don't forget this guy put up big numbers in the WHL last season

Andrew Campbell (D) - probably deserves to make the above list, just didn't have a place to slot him - quietly improving from what most reports say

Maxim Kitsyn (LW) - the x-factor in all of this - WJC play suggests he's a future power forward, fast and physical - he's back to KHL for the next two seasons, honoring his previous contract - that pretty much takes him out of the equation though for now - he's also probably the best left wing prospect the Kings have at the moment - that said, the Kings are hoping some other recent draft picks (i.e. Michaels Mersh and Schumacher) will give them some additional depth in coming years

JF Berube (G) - itching to get in the top 10 and if he ends up in Ontario (ECHL), as expected, we'll get a season-long look at what he can really do on the ice - right now, he's one of the top goalies in the QMJHL

That's all for now.

If you agree or disagree, you can comment below using the regular form or your facebook log in.

Look for plenty of notes and quotes over the coming days, live from Kings Rookie Camp in El Segundo, CA.

If you'd like to check out our full breakdown of all the players attending this year's camp, here are the links - forwards, defensemen and goaltenders - enjoy.

The Mayor


  1. typo: jake muzzin is a D, not a RW

  2. Jordan Weal? Really good year in juniors as well...why not on list?

  3. The list is different depending on what the person analyzing finds important. Pure talent, needs, or actual placement. For instance, with the depth on the parent club, I would not pick a goalie for top prospect. I would have a hard time disagreeing with your pick though. Your list is very close to mine in a lot of respects.

    Muzzin would be my over all #1 as far as being ready, but again would rank lower in actual placement because of how many defenseman he would have to hop scotch over to get regular time in the NHL out of camp. Voynov, and Deslauriers (from what I've heard) might be even more talented than Muzzin, so they would be on my list.

    Kozun, and Loktionov seem to have the best chance as far as the parent clubs needs, and I think will have the best chance to get a long look with the Kings this season. They have the best chance of possibly making a player like Parse expendable, but that's still a pretty long leap, and they would still need some luck for that to happen.

    I would put Weal in there ahead of Gibson, but I don't know enough about Gibson to consider myself accurate there. Actually I might be off everywhere,since I'm not an authority on any of these guys, but that's what I see from my perspective.

  4. I think Hickey and Voinov will both be on the opening night roster, especially if Doughty is not under contract by then. They will probably alternate playing on the second defensive unit game-to-game as Jack Johnson moves up to the top unit until Doughty maybe signs.