Prospect Ramblings: Injuries hurt, help young prospects (Oct. 15)

by Mark Allan on October 15, 2016

Former L.A. draft pick Jeff Zatkoff is the Kings' No. 1 goaltending option after an injury to workorse Jonathan Quick.

 

News about Jonathan Quick’s injury keeps worsening, which could potentially mean one of the Los Angeles Kings’ former prospects returns to the West Coast.

After Quick went down without getting through even one period of the season-opener, the Kings hoped he might be out for a period measured in weeks.

He’s now listed as week to week, and surgery is a real possibility. Increasingly, it seems L.A. will be without their outstanding workhorse netminder for a period measured in months.

Management and the coaching staff are talking cautiously and evasively yet bravely.

Although Quick was out for almost two months with a serious groin strain in the 2013-14 season, GM Dean Lombardi said this latest setback is not necessarily the groin, although it’s in the same area.

In any case, it seems to be serious and team officials are stressing that Quick, 30, in his prime and signed through 2023, will not be rushed back.

This is problematic because he led all NHL goaltenders in total minutes last season as he became a Vezina Trophy finalist.

The Kings responded to his absence by recalling Peter Budaj from the AHL to join former L.A. prospect Jeff Zatkoff. The 29-year-old Zatkoff played in just 35 games for Pittsburgh during the past three seasons.

Head coach Darryl Sutter spoke bravely about how the team is in good hands, but we’ll see how long his tone lasts if the Kings start to slide in the standings.

L.A. will likely gauge whether they were originally right to draft Zatkoff 74th overall in 2006.

If he’s not up to snuff as a No. 1 netminder for a team that plans to contend for the Stanley Cup, should the Kings not call Garth Snow?

The New York Islanders’ GM might even dial up Lombardi if he thinks he can ease the congestion in Long Island’s three's-company crease.

L.A. drafted J-F Berube 95th overall in 2009 and began to develop him before inexplicably waiving him. The Islanders, who pounced to claim Berube off the waiver wire, could return the well-regarded puck-stopper to the Kings for a price.

Although Berube’s cap hit is a mere $675,000 until he becomes an RFA in the off-season, the Kings might balk at pinning their playoff hopes on a goalie who’s played in just seven NHL games.

Thomas Greiss ($1.5 million) filled in capably for Jaroslav Halak when the Slovakian was hurt, and even protected the NYI crease in the playoffs last season.

With slightly more than $1.5 million in cap space to spare, the Kings could barely make that happen.

Halak’s cap hit is $4.5 million this season and next), so he and other current NHL starters are out of the Kings’ reach as a replacement.

Meanwhile, Lombardi will monitor possible acquisitions and Sutter will assess how well Zatkoff and Budaj are keeping L.A. in the hunt for a playoff berth.

 

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Not that Buffalo’s post-season hopes were as keen as L.A.’s, but a step forward the Sabres anticipated this season is taking a beating thanks to injuries.

A dreaded high-ankle sprain has sidelined No. 1 center Jack Eichel until early December in his sophomore campaign and linemate Evander Kane is out several weeks with three cracked ribs.

That could create opportunities for some of the up-and-coming team’s youngsters.

Sam Reinhart, who played RW and had some chemistry in his sophomore season with Eichel, centered the second line Thursday in a 4-1 loss to Montreal. Rookie RW Hudson Fasching got 10:28 of ice time, although veteran free-agent acquisition Kyle Okposo is close to returning from a bruised knee.

 Buffalo hasn’t yet called up anyone due to the pain suffered by LW Kane, but that could change.

 

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The NHL debut of RW Mikko Rantanen, much-anticipated in Colorado, is not happening today in the Avalanche’s season-opener against the visiting Dallas Stars.

 

This hat-trick performance indicates why the Colorado Avalanche are eager to get Mikko Rantanen into the NHL full-time:

 

 

The towering, talented Finn has been sent to the San Antonio Rampage for what amounts to a conditioning stint to recover game shape after an ankle injury kept him out of action for about a month.

Rantanen, who rampaged with San Antonio last season, was named the AHL rookie of the year after compiling 60 points in 52 AHL games as a teen against men. The 6-4 Rantanen was pointless in 10 NHL games, but the 10th-overall draft pick last year has nothing left to prove in the minors.

Assuming he recovers fully from the injury, and avoids others, Rantanen could challenge for his second straight rookie-of-the-year award. He’d better begin his season soon, though, because some guy named Matthews in Toronto is off to a pretty decent start.

 

Mark Allan