Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Top Ten Prospects (Cont'd)

Up next, the top 5 Kings prospects in the system. We should point out that as a general rule we use Hockey's Future criteria in deciding what made a prospect. Of course there could be an exception in the future, but there aren't any at the moment. Now, on to the ratings:

5. Colten Teubert
(Defense) - Drafted 1st Round, 13th Overall - 2008
Colten Teubert is the perfect fit for this spot on the list. Is he going to be an offensive superstar? No chance. He's probably not going to win the Norris at any point (unless they start rewarding defensive defensemen the same as offensive defensemen, a point best saved for another day). He's 6'4", and uses his size to the best of his ability. He's a strong stay-at-home defensemen with a solid positional game. By all accounts Teubert is a huge competitor, with a bit of an edge to his game. Critics have even gone so far as to say the emotion he plays with could be a detriment. While I wouldn't go so far as to dismiss that point of view, if he harnesses that heart, he could be precisely the heart-and-soul, shutdown defensemen that any Stanley Cup team needs.

4. Vyacheslav Voinov (Defense) - Drafted 2nd Round, 32nd Overall - 2008
Vyacheslav Voinov could be a real gem in the making for the Kings. As a talented defensemen, he couples strong defensive skills with impressive explosive offensive abilities. With a solid, if unspectacular shot from the blue line, Voinov will only get better as he develops the confidence necessary to let it fly from the top of the offensive zone. As an 18 year old in the AHL (a rare occurance), he lead all Manchester Monarchs last year with 8G, 15A, 23P. Not a bad point total, and in all likelihood he will increase that total this year. Although he's not a huge player (6'0") he is strong positionally, and has the ability to play well under pressure, the kind of mindset necessary for a smaller player to thrive in the NHL. Voinov would be a legitimate contender for some real playing time in the NHL this season, except that he's a bit behind on the depth chart. With Hickey, Doughty, Drewiske and Johnson all ahead of him, the Kings are pretty well stacked with young defensemen. Not a bad place to be, but it may slow Voinov's ascendence to the big league. Still, at only 19 years old, he's got plenty of time.

3. Brayden Schenn (Center) - Drafted 1st Round, 5th Overall - 2009
Obviously hasn't been a lot of development in Schenn's play since he was drafted, but the future upside for Schenn is impressive. I'll say now that I would be very surprised if Schenn makes the team this season, although that's hardly an indictment of his talent. Lombardi has repeatedly spoken about his emphasis on players paying their dues, and the importance of playing in critical games at any level of hockey. His Junior team, the Brandon Wheat Kings will host the 2010 Memorial Cup tournament, and thus get an automatic bid. With the Wheat Kings as a legitimate contender for the title, Schenn will no question be one of the keys to their success. It's safe to say that if Schenn does not pan out to be a top 6 forward, the Kings (and I) will be disappointed. With his brother already playing for the Maple Leafs, he certainly knows what will be expected of him, which may give him a leg up in the long run. As a strong, physical forward, he may take somewhat more time to develop then an otherwise skilled forward. Some have compared Schenn to a young Pat Verbeek or Brendan Shanahan. Since Verbeek ended up with 522 goals and 1,063 points, and Shanahan topped out at 656 goals and 1,354 points, certainly either result would be... acceptable.

2. Jonathan Bernier (Goalie) - Drafted 1st Round, 11th Overall - 2006
Goalies take a long time to get to the NHL. It is exceedingly rare that a goalie would make the NHL in the first couple seasons after being drafted. In that regard, the fact that Bernier won the starting job in the 2007-2008 season can be considered somewhat shocking. However Bernier plays an impressive positional game, as a combination stand-up/butterfly keeper with impressive reflexes. Unfortunately, the 2007-2008 season is one Kings fans may like to forget, and after being completely abandoned in net for a few games, Bernier was sent back to Juniors for some less traumatizing playing time. Nonetheless he seemed poised for a significant push in the next couple years. Lombardi has made it clear that he prefers his goalies to play at least two seasons in the AHL before making the jump to the NHL, and this preference, combined with extraordinarily strong play from Jonathan Quick saw Bernier passed over when the Kings called up a goalie last season. As we know, Quick played very well, and enters this years training camp with the edge in the starting goalie competition. Two things are clear, Bernier still has sky-high potential, and he has a very real opportunity to beat out Quick and/or Ersberg for a role with the Kings this season.

1. Thomas Hickey (Defense) - Drafted 1st Round, 4th Overall - 2007
Perhaps the strongest statement about the Kings prospects is the fact that they have three solid future starters in the top 5 prospects. This is on top of recently "graduated" prospects, Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson and Davis Drewiske. With the possible exception of Drew Doughty, Hickey may have the highest potential. First things first, he is an AMAZING skater. At only 5'11", it's perhaps no surprise that he's refined his skating ability, but the sheer grace of his stride as well as impressive on-ice vision make him a force to be reckoned with. When Hickey was picked out of the blue at #4 in 2007, Lombardi had more than his share of nay-sayers. Going off the board so dramatically was a risky manuever to be sure. However in this case, the gamble looks like it may be paying off. After moving to the AHL at the completion of his junior season, Hickey rattled off seven points, in seven games. Impressive numbers for any rookie, let alone a defenseman. It's also worth noting Hickey's leadership capabilities. Serving as capitan on the 2009 WJC Canada team that won the gold. The development of Hickey's skills is something to watch closely in the very near future.

So that's it. Got any opinions? Thoughts? It looks to me that the Kings have one of the strongest prospect groups in the NHL, do you agree? Who's your favorite prospect? The best? Leave your comments below and let's have a discussion!

Hickey's strong suit is his skating ability, a skill that has enabled him to excel in the WHL at a young age. Another product of the successful Hockey Canada programs, Hickey exudes confidence on and off the ice. He plays bigger than his 5'11, 185-pound frame might suggest. A well-spoken player with great on-ice vision. Uses his skating ability to move the puck out of the zone and pressure the opposition's forwards up-ice. Might develop into a future powerplay quarterback.

No comments: