December 31-in-31: Los Angeles Kings

Dave Hall

2020-12-14

After a few years of being woefully uncompetitive and restocking the cupboards with prospects, the Kings’ team is poised to turn the corner this upcoming season. There should be plenty of opportunities for young players to make jumps to the NHL stage or at least into professional hockey. Although development and training camps may be on hold for the time being, we can still take a look at what this season will mean for some of the prospects and take a deep dive into the organization’s prospect pool. 

Graduating Players

With many young players set to make an impression and eager to begin their professional hockey careers, many players have moved up the organizational ranks and taken the next step. 

Graduating to NHL

Mikey Anderson – Spent most of last season in the AHL with the Ontario Reign before being recalled by the Kings near the end of the season. He made his NHL debut and appeared in six games for the Kings, notching his first career NHL goal in the process. With the departure of Derek Forbort and Ben Hutton, Anderson is penciled into the team’s top-six group of defenders.

Carl GrundstromThe Swede was up and down between the AHL and the NHL throughout last season, appearing in 40 and 13 games respectively. He was able to contribute four assists at the NHL level during his stint with the Kings. The now 23-year-old forward was re-signed to a two-year extension over the offseason worth $1.45 million. Grundstrom has now had stints with the big club over the last two seasons and is one of the most NHL ready forwards in the Kings system. He will be a favorite to make the Kings 23-man roster out of training camp.

Kale Clague – The left-shot defenseman took great strides in his development over the last season, earning himself a four-game recall late in the year with the Kings. He was given more opportunity with the Reign last season, playing top-minutes and special teams. The 2020 AHL All-Star has shown the organization what he is capable of and the vacancies on the Kings blue line make him poised to make the jump to a full-time role in the 2020-2021 campaign. He is shaping up to become an important piece of the future of the Kings defense core.

On the Cusp

Jaret Anderson-Dolan The former Spokane Chief completed his first year in the AHL totaling 28 points in 53 games. There will be a battle for roster spots in training camp for bottom-six roles on the team and Anderson-DOlan will be given the opportunity to make the Kings roster this season. With the team trying to turn the corner in their rebuild, they are more likely to give bottom-six roles to their younger group to see what they have in their system and gain valuable NHL experience.

Alex Turcotte – Although there is a logjam at the center ice position in the Kings depth chart, Turcotte may be one of the best prospects the organization has at that position. He is not likely to be moved to another position to be able to fit into the Kings lineup and may have to get some seasoning in the AHL in a top-six role to begin his pro career. His high-end skillset and upside will make him one of the first recalls from the minors should he not make the team. With the likes of Blake Lizotte and Lias Andersson occupying the third and fourth line center spots, Turcotte will likely only see NHL time if there are injuries at the center ice position.

Samuel Fagemo – The Kings do not have much depth on the right-wing position and Fagemo is one who can provide a serious offensive spark at that position. He can play both wing spots and will be one of the players competing to grab a roster spot at the Kings training camp. With the aging, Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter listed as two of the right-wingers on the team’s roster, Fagemo should have a clear path to playing time if the team decides to move these veterans. Fagemo could also push Martin Frk from his spot on the team’s second line if he can impress at camp.

Graduating from Junior/NCAA to the Pro’s

Aiden Dudas and Akil Thomas Both Thomas and Dudas are coming off great seasons for their respective teams in the OHL, as well as a gold medal run at the World Juniors with Team Canada. Both players, although undersized, put up production at over a point-per-game pace last season. Both players have also completed four seasons in Junior and have signed their entry-level contracts, putting them on track to begin their pro career together likely in the AHL this season.

Tyler MaddenTyler Madden, who was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks last season for Tyler Toffoli, has also signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Kings back in March of 2020. The Northeastern University product put up 37 points in 27 games in the NCAA last year and was a Hobey Baker Award Nominee.  He is poised to join both Dudas and Thomas in the pros to begin solidifying their spot as the next wave of potential NHLers.

All three players have been loaned to Eisbaren Berlin of the DEL to continue to train in a professional setting and grow their chemistry together for both the upcoming season and beyond. The players will return from their stint once training camps open up back in North America. Madden, however, was released from his loan stint after suffering a hand injury but should be back to full health by the time training camps startup.  

Risers

Quinton Byfield There isn’t much to say here except that the Kings could potentially have a franchise-changing center on their hands, who will be ready to make an impact at the NHL level in the immediate future. He will play a key role for Team Canada in the 2021 World Junior Championships and from there the Kings will decide whether he will see the rest of the year out in Junior or burn a year of his entry-level deal and begin his pro career. The center position is crowded for the Kings, so unless spots open up at the trade deadline he will likely return to the Sudbury Wolves for the remainder of the 2020-2021 season before becoming full-time in 2021-2022.

Jordan Spence Two years removed from his QMJHL Rookie of the Year honors, Spence has continued to show drastic improvement to his game. He posted 52 points in 60 games last season and was off to another hot start this year with 16 points in 13 games for the Moncton Wildcats before the QMJHL announced a one month break. There is no doubt that the talent and upside are present and he has also taken on a leadership role on the Wildcats as an assistant captain. Spence will see out this year in Junior and represent Canada at the World Juniors alongside future teammate Quinton Byfield. Spence is one of the better offensive blue line prospects the team has who will be looking to make the jump to the pros next season.

Gabriel Vilardi Now a year removed from being on the fallers list in the exact same 31-in-31 report a year ago, Vilardi is back and ready to prove his worth. He made his return to the ice midway through last season, earning a recall to the NHL late in the year. In his ten games with the Kings, Vilardi registered seven points and played in a bottom-six role. Now 21-year-old, the 6-3 center will likely be an NHL regular and the team’s second-line center, bumping Blake Lizotte down the depth chart. He will likely see time on the special teams this season and if he can avoid further injury complications, has the chance to take a big leap forward in his development this season.

Fallers

Nikolai ProkhorkinAfter his much-anticipated return to the NHL last season, the Russian forward has opted to return to the KHL after seeing limited playing time with the Kings. He appeared in 43 games last season at the NHL level, tallying over 14 points after scoring a point-per-game in the KHL a year ago. He signed a two-year deal with Metallurg Magnitogorsk and it is unlikely we see Prokhorkin at the NHL level again.

Matt LuffAlthough the right-wing position does not have much depth in the Kings organization, Luff’s opportunity to be a regular NHL forward is beginning to dwindle. He is entering his fourth pro season with the team and has split time in the NHL and AHL the last two seasons. He has yet to assert himself into a full-time role and with some of the younger prospects being given an opportunity this year, he will find himself in a training camp battle to claim one of the few spots remaining on the 23-man roster.

Rasmus KupariThe Finnish center was one of the more highly anticipated prospects a year ago but his stock has fallen due to an ACL injury suffered during the 2020 World Junior Championships. Unfortunately, the time off has hindered his value, allowing other forwards to prove themselves as valuable assets. The team has also brought in more center prospects such as Turcotte and Byfield, which has bumped him further down the team’s depth chart. Kupari will have a lot of ground to make up once healthy and should return to his top-six role with the Reign where his production could increase playing with a much more talented group.

Prospect Depth Chart

Note: Prospects ranked using a combination of upside and arrival.

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Arthur Kaliyev Quinton Byfield Samuel Fagemo
Carl Grundstrom
Alex Turcotte Johan Sodergran
Martin Chromiak
Tyler Madden Alex Laferriere
Andre Lee Akil Thomas
Kasper Simontaival
Bulat Shaffigullin
Rasmus Kupari
Lias Andersson
Left Defense Right Defense
Tobias Bjornfot Jordan Spence
Cole Hults Helge Grans
Daniel Brickley Brock Faber
Markus Phillip Sean Durzi
Jacob Moverare
Kim Nousiainen
Goaltenders
Matthew Villalta
Lukas Parik
Juho Marrkanen

Top 20 Fantasy Prospects

Note: Prospects ranked and tiered using a combination of upside and NHL certainty.

1. Quinton Byfield

– – – – – – – – – –

2. Alex Turcotte
3. Arthur Kaliyev
4. Tobias Bjornfot

– – – – – – – – – –
5. Samuel Fagemo
6. Jordan Spence
7. Rasmus Kupari
8. Tyler Madden
9. Helge Grans
10. Akil Thomas

– – – – – – – – – –

11. Jaret Anderson-Dolan
12. Aiden Dudas
13. Martin Chromiak
14. Johan Sodergran
15. Matthew Villalta
16. Cole Hults
17. Brock Faber
18. Kasper Simontaival
19. Alex Laferriere
20. Kim Nousiainen

With recent news emerging of the return of the NHL season, training camps should be just around the corner and firing up in early January. This means that the prospects currently on loan across several European teams will be returning to prepare for camp. Although the AHL and some Junior leagues are still yet to begin their seasons, prospects who don’t crack the Kings roster will likely return to Europe on loan until the North American leagues get underway.

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Feel free to follow me at @JulianMongillo for more updates on LA Kings prospects and DobberProspects monthly QMJHL report.