Prospect Ramblings: Making It Reign

Dave Hall

2021-03-23

Welcome back to Tuesday’s Prospect Ramblings.

With an abundance of rookie skaters, the AHL is at an all-time high with regards to its entertainment value. Of course, we had the San Diego Gulls, who brought us a bundle of exciting pieces in Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale, and goaltender Lukas Dostal. Even the Chicago Wolves had their own crop, with a combination of Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators youngsters, highlighted by Seth Jarvis and Phillip Tomasino. However, none hold a candle to what has been going on in Ontario, California, this year.

For starters.

Over the weekend, the LA Kings affiliates made a little bit of history. At least, in recent memory. Just days after signing with the AHL club on a tryout basis, former NHL’er Devante Smith-Pelly was sent out to skate alongside youngsters, Akil Thomas and Quinton Byfield. Why was this significant?

The year that they are referring to was 1948-49, where three players by the name of Herb Carnegie, Ozzie Carnegie, and Manny McIntyre all skated together on the same forward line.

Not only is this significant and fantastic to see, but the trio (Byfield, Thomas, and Smith-Pelly) also put an exclamation on the night with a tremendous performance. They combined for six points, with Akil Thomas lighting the lamp three times, tallying his first-career (pro) hat-trick. Byfield extended his hot streak with a goal and assist, putting him up to four goals and two helpers over his last five games. As for Smith-Pelly, this marked his first point in North America since the 2018-19 campaign, as he had spent all of last year suiting up for Kunlun Red Star of the KHL.

Prior to the above-mentioned game, Thomas and Byfield had already been skating together and have both enjoyed strong rookie campaigns simultaneously. Well, at least statically speaking. Thomas currently finds himself on a four-game point streak, with six goals and 11 points on the year. While Byfield, who has been scrutinized by some as “not ready” for pro hockey, sits third in rookie scoring with 13 (5G + 8A).

Of course, as nice as it is to see the points pouring in, the pair also sit among the bottom three league-wide in plus/minus – Byfield leading the way with a troubling minus-15. The Ontario Reign currently find themselves dead last within the Pacific Division, and you can bet that dressing a young, very inexperienced team is directly correlated to this. At the time of this column, they only have four players in the “plus department”. Not great.

Yet, even with the 6-11-2 record and minus-13 goal differential, they are still, by far, one of the most entertaining clubs to keep tabs on, NHL included. Why is that? Well, not only is their prospect pool the undisputed top dog with regards to potential, but they are also living up to that monstrous expectation.

At the moment, they have four players in the top seven in rookie scoring, with a few of those being:

Arthur Kaliyev – currently leading the Reign with 14 points, with his totals evenly split with seven goals and seven assists. He is a proven trigger man and is clearly holding true to that trait as he progresses into the pro-level. He has even received a taste at the highest level, scoring his first NHL goal in his first and only game with the Kings.