Originally published by NHLRumors.com
The Kings are about to turn the corner and come out of the rebuild phase and enter the competitive phase as they work towards returning to a Stanley Cup contending franchise.
If it has not happened already, the team is about to flip the switch. The current roster still has some veterans but is built around a young core loaded with under 25-year-old players such as Mikey Anderson, Tobias Bjornfot, Carl Grundstrom, Gabriel Vilardi, Arthur Kaliyev, and Rasmus Kupari.
The Kings have been patient in the rebuild process allowing the team to be a lottery team for the past three drafts. In addition to drafting high, the Kings have a proven track record of talent identification as their scouts are able to identify NHL players in late rounds such as Matt Roy (7th round in 2015), Mikey Anderson (4th round in 2017), and Domini Kubalik (7th round in 2013).
Los Angeles are also is a strong developing team. They allow young players to play out junior or NCAA careers and then see further development in their AHL affiliate in Ontario. The combination of quality and quantity of draft picks, excellent scouting and player development and some prospect additions via trade, have the Kings in a very good position to return to not only a Stanley Cup contending team, but they may in time be good enough to resurrect the dynasty chatter.
Quinton Byfield, C – Ontario Reign (AHL)
Drafted: 2020 round one, second overall by LA Kings
The Kings’ crown jewel prospect is no doubt Quinton Byfield. The big center has all the tools and potential to become the teams franchise number one center. He has drawn comparisons to teammate Anze Kopitar and to Evgeni Malkin. High praise to be sure, but not unwarranted.
Byfield has it all; he is a monster at 6-4 and 216 pounds, he is an excellent skater, has silky smooth hands, plays a two-way game and he can score. His development since his draft has been a rollercoaster ride. The pandemic locked out the OHL forcing him into the AHL as an 18-year-old. Perhaps he would have been better suited to dominating in Sudbury, but he acquitted himself very well in Ontario posting 20 points in 32 games. He also was a player for Canada at the WJC where he had seven points in seven games adding a Silver Medal to his Gold Medal from the previous year.
While still eligible to play in the OHL, and eligible to return for a third tour of duty with Canada at the WJC as he is only 19 years old, he is yet to play a game as he has been on the IR all season with an ankle fracture. Byfield should be healthy and ready for the WJC, and the Kings may release him to play in the tournament rather than in the AHL to get him ready for the NHL, where he will likely play for the balance of the season. This will be a critical year of development for Byfield as he continues to work towards realizing his tremendous potential and upside as a dominant number one center in the NHL.
Brandt Clarke, D – Barrie Colts (OHL)
Drafted: 2021 round one, eighth overall by LA Kings
The Kings believe they have their succession plan for Drew Doughty as the team’s number one defenseman. Clarke is an impactful player that drives the play and has exceptional hockey sense and vision. He excels at distributing the puck, transitioning to offence and is capable of logging big minutes and running a power play.
Scouts concern with Clarke is his skating. While he has good mobility and range, his stride needs to be refined. Clarke spent his D+1 season as an OHL refugee in Slovakia on loan to HC Nove Zamky rather than in the AHL, and with Team Canada at the U18 where he was a key player in their Gold Medal win.
Now back in the OHL wearing the captain’s “C” with the Barrie Colts, he has been a dominant player with 23 points through his first 18 games to lead the league in defense scoring. A surprise snub from the Canada WJC roster, Canada may live to regret the decision not to include Clarke on their preliminary roster.
Alex Turcotte, C – Ontario Reign (AHL)
Drafted: 2019 round one, fifth overall by LA Kings
The Kings committed quite a bit of draft stock in Turcotte while passing on other options that were available such as Moritz Seider, Dylan Cozens, Trevor Zegras, and Spencer Knight to name a few. In hindsight that may have been a mistake, but that is not to say the Kings did not get a quality player in Turcotte.
Known for his relentless motor and playmaking ability his development since his draft has been good, but not great. Playing one successful season in the NCAA at the University of Wisconsin posting 26 points in 29 and helped USA to a WJC Bronze Medal. Last year Turcotte turned pro and as part of a very young Ontario Reign team, he finished fourth in team scoring with 21 points in 32 games. Turcotte returned to the WJC with USA and played a key role in their Gold Medal win recording eight points in seven games. Turcotte continues his development in the AHL as a 20-year-old and while he is not regressing, he has not shown the offensive development that gives you warm fuzzy feelings about having drafted him 5th overall.
Arthur Kaliyev, RW/LW – LA Kings (NHL)
Drafted: 2019 round two, 33rd overall by LA Kings
Kaliyev is a proven goal scorer that has scored at every level he has played at. After lighting the lamp to the tune of 51 times in his draft year, he must have felt snubbed after passing through the first round at the NHL draft. The Kings quickly snagged him in the second round, and he is on rewarding him for that.
Kaliyev has good size and a lethal shot. He has an underrated hockey sense that becomes evident when he finds open or soft ice in the offensive zone where he finishes off plays with consistency. The questions around his game are what he does without the puck. He often finds the soft ice in the defensive zone, which is not good. His D+1 season saw slight improvement offensively in the OHL and he was a factor for Team USA winning WJC Gold.
Last year he was a rookie in the AHL and while he got off to a slow start with only 1 goal in his first 13 games, he finished strong with 14 goals and 31 points in 40 games. His strong offensive game, goal scoring and underrated playmaking ability have earned him a job with the Kings this year and he looks like he is there to stay with four goals and six points through the first 21 games.
Rasmus Kupari, C/RW – LA Kings (NHL)
Drafted: 2018 round one, 20th overall by LA Kings
Kupari may be one of the most underrated prospects in the NHL. While his offensive point totals are not eye-popping, they are good. His resume consists of a U-18 Silver and Gold Medals, a WJC Gold Medal, and a Liiga Championship. After an injury-plagued rookie season in the AHL that was cut short after suffering a torn ACL in the first WJC game, he returned last year to the AHL and produced 23 points in 32 games.
His play was rewarded with a recall to the NHL and in seven games with the Kings where he scored his first NHL goal. Kupari has broken onto the roster full time as a 21-year-old this season with four points in 20 games. Again, his point totals are not eye-popping, but his overall game has been very good.
He hounds the puck, uses his speed, and has been more physical as he has gained some strength since his draft. Kupari may never be a prolific offensive producer but as a jack of all trades and a master of none, he can be a very impactful middle-six player that the Coach can play throughout the roster and in multiple situations.
Francesco Pinelli, C – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Drafted: 2021 round two, 42nd overall by LA Kings
The pandemic made scouting difficult, and no prospect may have been hurt more by it than Pinelli. In his OHL rookie season, Pinelli had posted 18 goals and 41 points in 59 games before things shut down. He moved to Europe to find some ice time in his draft year and in Slovenia he scored 11 points in 13 games and then got in front of scouts at the U-18 with Canada where he scored four goals and 11 points in seven games for the eventual tournament Champions.
Despite being widely ranked in the scouting community as a first-round talent, he fell in his draft to the second round before the Kings called his name with pick 42. Pinelli has returned to the OHL as Captain of the Rangers.
The knock-on his game is his skating ability. His vision and hockey sense are more than capable of compensating for that at the OHL level, but he will need to improve if he is to be an NHL player. Skating can be coached and developed, but the skill and vision Pinelli has is naturally very hard to find.
Sean Durzi, D – Ontario Reign (AHL)
Drafted: 2018 round two, 52nd overall by Toronto Maple Leafs
Acquired from Toronto in the trade that sent Jake Muzzin to the Leafs, Durzi made his NHL debut recently against his old team and did so in glorious fashion recording his first career NHL goal and assist.
The once prolific offensive defenseman in the OHL made a smooth transition to the AHL after two 39 game seasons with the Reign where his offensive totals were 14 and 20 points. Durzi began the season in the AHL and after scoring 16 points in 13 games he forced his way onto the Kings roster. He now has four points in as many games and looks right at home running the power play. His play and the recent loss of Kale Clague to the waiver wire suggest he is on the team to stay.
Brock Farber, D – University of Minnesota (NCAA)
Drafted: 2020 round two, 45th overall by LA Kings
The only question with Farber is when he makes the NHL, will it be as a middle-six defender or simply as a defensive specialist? The smooth-skating Farber had a tremendous freshman season with the Golden Gophers in his home state. His offensive totals were not great with one goal and 12 points in 27 games, but they were not bad either.
His game is his defensive play. He smothers the opposition in the defensive zone, closes gaps, has an active and effective stick and a panic threshold that is cool as a cucumber.
Highlights of his freshman season include a Big Ten Championship and a Gold Medal at the WJC with Team USA and he had five points in seven games. As a sophomore his points through 17 games, his offensive points per game production is on pace with last year’s production. Farber could have his eye on turning pro at the end of the Gophers season and have a preview of some AHL action before playing full-time with the Reign next year.
Tyler Madden, C/W – Ontario Reign (AHL)
Drafted: 2018 round three, 68th overall by Vancouver Canucks
Tyler Madden has seen his stock rise and fall throughout his career. The third-round pick out of the USHL saw his stock rise after his freshman season at Northeastern with 12 goals and 28 points in 36 games. His role there increased as the season wore on and he showed the ability to make plays and score big goals. His play won him a role on Team USA at the 2019 WJC where he posted three goals in seven games, claiming the Silver Medal.
With his stock at an all-time high, the Canucks traded him to the Kings as a primary asset in the Tyler Toffoli trade. His sophomore season saw his production increase from .78 to 1.37 points per game. Then as a rookie in the AHL, he had a season to forget as he battled a broken finger, followed by a broken collar bone. He only managed to play 14 games and scored five points. Back to health, his development and resume and he has nine points in the first 16 games in the AHL.
Madden is a reliable two-way player, with speed and good vision. He has a soft pair of hands and can finish around the net. He has some legendary goal celebrations. His NHL future may be limited to a middle-six role and on the wing.
Akil Thomas, C/W – Ontario Reign (AHL)
Drafted: 2018 round two, 51st overall by LA Kings
A shoulder injury that required surgery has kept Tomas out of action this season. It is unfortunate since he has been trending up until that. In his final season in the OHL, he was moved to Peterborough where he was poised for a deep playoff run on a loaded Pete’s team until the pandemic ended that. He did win a WJC Gold Medal with Canada and although he was used sparingly, did manage to score the Golden goal for Canada.
Last year was his rookie season in the AHL and he managed to carry his offensive production to the Reign scoring 26 points in 40 games. Thomas got better as the year progressed and was given a bigger role and finished the year strong with 10 points in his last seven games.
Thomas is a skilled and competitive player. He is reliable defensively, is a good skater, and has good mobility. Given the Kings depth, he may need to evolve into a more complimentary third line player like Bo Horvat that can provide offensive support.
Martin Chromiak Has been named to Team Slovakia for the WJC and is having a monster season in the OHL with Shane Wright and the Kingston Frontenacs. He looks to have improved his skating, in particular his speed and strength.
Samuel Fagemo The Swedish goal scorer is compiling an impressive trophy cabinet which includes U-18 and WJC Bronze Medals, A CHL Championship, an SHL Championship, and he scored the most goals by a junior player in the SHL with 13. In his second season in the AHL, he continues to be productive but needs to show some increase in his production to warrant a look at the NHL.
Andre Lee is a sleeper prospect buried in the Kings depth, but don’t overlook the 6-5, 205-pound Swedish forward playing in his junior year with Umass-Lowell in the NCAA. He may not project to a first-line player in the NHL, but his size, skill, and skating ability could see him play a bottom-six role like Jordan Greenway.
Jordan Spence The offensive defenseman is playing in his rookie season in the AHL. With Durzi promoted to the NHL, and Clague claimed on waivers, the door is open for Spence to inherit the power play and post some numbers.
Helge Grans After a down year where he was snubbed for the Swedish WJC roster and only managed to post 12 points in 43 SHL games, the big defenseman is having a bounce back year as a rookie in the AHL. Grans has managed two goals and seven points in his first 14 games and is looking like a first-round talent drafted from the second round.