Friday, September 11, 2009

Top Ten Prospects

In the excitement leading up to the start of the 2009-2010 Season, we'll take a look at the top ten prospects in the Los Angeles Kings system, to see what we've got to look forward to for the future. As always these are my opinions, and you're welcome and encourage to provide your own feedback in the comments section. We'll start with 6-10 and continue with the top 5 in the next post.

10. Justin Azevedo (Center) - Drafted 6th Round, 153rd Overall - 2008
Might as well start with a bang, this may be the biggest reach of the top ten. Azevedo was selected late in the 2008 draft in what appeared to be more of a flyer on behalf of the Los Angeles Kings management. In his draft year, he led the entire Ontario Hockey League with 124 points in only 67 games, and was named the CHL Player of the Year. He also won the Memorial Cup with the Kitchener Rangers. He's got all the skills to be a strong sniper in the NHL, the question is if he can put it all together. At only 5'7", he's even smaller than the already diminutive Michael Cammalleri, but if he can put his speed together with a deft scoring touch, he may be something special. While no question he'd be on the outside looking in at the pre-lockout NHL, there's a real chance that with some high-scoring years in the AHL, he could be ready to slot in a play the role of a Brian Gionta (5'7"). No question he's got an uphill battle, but he's got real potential.

9. Trevor Lewis (Center) - Drafted 1st Round, 17th Overall - 2006
As the second half of Dean Lombardi's first draft at the helm of the Los Angeles Kings (and major factor in the trade that took Pavol Demitra to Minnesota) there have been expectations on Lewis since the start. Although not the scoring force that some might have hoped, Lewis has a strong combination of speed, skill and toughness that make him a real threat to crack the lineup as soon as this season. Most likely Lewis is destined for a solid role as a third line center, though his upside may allow him to crack the second line on some teams.

8. Andrei Loktionov (Center) - Drafted 5th Round, 123rd Overall - 2008
Loktionov is the kind of player the Kings need to develop if they are going to have any chance of replicating the success the Red Wings have had in developing late picks into central figures on their Cup-winning squads. As another Kings prospect who has lifted the Memorial Cup, there's no question that he's coming up in a system that has taught him to expect success - an attitude that can't hurt in the Kings locker room. He does tend to have a bit of Frolov disease, in that he prefers to pass over shooting, but in general is a skillful playmaker who has the potential to be a strong second-line center in the future.

7. Ted Purcell (Right Wing) - Signed as Free Agent
Another example of the kind of player the Kings need to find success will. Signed out of the University of Maine, Purcell snuck up on most people, including the majority of GM's in the NHL. Having cracked the lineup last year on a semi-regular basis (40 GP, 16P) the 2009-2010 season is his opportunity to take the next step. At 24 years old, he's not as young as some of the others on this list, and progress should be expected. Purcell is a talented play-making winger, and has the ability to add serious scoring threat to a team that sometimes struggles to put the puck in the net. Although some have speculated that Purcell could play as high as the 1st line this year, more realistic projections have him lining up on the 2nd or even 3rd line in '09-'10. Purcell is precisely the kind of player that needs to step his game up if the Kings are going to take the next step.

6. Oscar Moller (Right Wing) - Drafted 2nd Round, 52nd Overall - 2007
Moller is another player that has a wide range of projections for where he might end up. As another smallish prospect (5'10") the Kings are very deep in the small, skilled player pool. The likelihood that all of them will make an impact with the Kings is... well... small. Moller made the team after an impressive (and surprising) camp last season, and despite suffering from a shoulder injury during the World Junior Championship, made a significant impact. As a player who needs to perform on the 1st or 2nd line, he will obviously be expected to increase his production from the 7G, 8A in 40 games last season. It's worth mentioning his time spent as Capitain of Team Sweden at the World Junior Championships, something that provides a not insignificant amount of leadership potential for the Kings.

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