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September 24, 2013
Top 10 Prospects 2013
Los Angeles Kings

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

Los Angeles Kings Top 10 Prospects

1. Tyler Toffoli, Right Wing
2. Valentin Zykov, Right Wing
3. Tanner Pearson, Left Wing
4. Linden Vey, Center
5. Nick Shore, Center
6. Derek Forbort, Defense
7. Nicolas Deslauriers, Defense
8. Hudson Fasching, Right Wing
9. Michael Mersch, Left Wing
10. Kevin Gravel, Defense

Organizational Ranking: 27th

System Overview

The Kings' system has two decent anchors in Tyler Toffoli and Valentin Zykov, particularly augmented by Toffoli's great year. Their next two prospects (Pearson and Vey) are also notably above average. After those four, Los Angeles's system has depth, but the rest of their players tend to either have question marks or be "low ceiling/high probability" type prospects. There is skill in this system, as players like Jordan Weal and Brandon Kozun did not make L.A.'s top 15, but like some of their other skilled players, they carry notable uncertainty.

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1. Tyler Toffoli, Right Wing
2011-12 Ranking: 1st
Date of birth: 04/24/1993
Age: 21
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 194
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 58 GP, 28 G, 51 P (Manchester, AHL)
Acquired: Second round, 47th overall in 2010 by Los Angeles

Year in Review: Toffoli was an AHL All Star, and he was named top rookie in that league. He played 12 games with the Kings in the playoffs, where he notched six points.

The Good: Toffoli is a very gifted player, and despite below-average speed, he can create offense in almost every way. He has very good hockey sense, as he is always around the play, can make great passes, and just understands where he has to be and what plays to make to create chances. He thinks quickly, has above-average to plus hands, and can be dangerous in tight. Toffoli's best skill is his shot, and he projects to be a true-talent finisher who regularly amasses good shooting numbers.

The Bad: Toffoli's skating has been his issue, and while he has improved notably in that area, he is still a tad below average. Toffoli could still improve his defense, as well as get a little stronger.

Projection: He could be a great second line winger, as well as a top power play option.

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2. Valentin Zykov, Right Wing
2011-12 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 05/15/1995
Age: 18
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 209
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 67 GP, 40 G, 75 P (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL)
Acquired: Second round, 37th overall in 2013 by Los Angeles

Year in Review: Zykov had a fantastic first year in North America, where he led QMJHL rookies in scoring and was named the CHL Rookie of the Year.

The Good: Zykov is a very skilled power forward. He is unusually developed physically for a player his age, and he uses his frame well. Zykov wins a lot of battles, drives the net, and will hustle for pucks. He can also lay out some highlight reel hits. His hands are above average to plus, and he has good coordination in tight, as well as the creativity to make a lot happen with space. He sees the ice well and makes good decisions. Zykov also has a quality shot.

The Bad: Zykov's skating is his one area of concern, and while he flashes decent speed, he could still work on his first few steps.

Projection: He could be a good second line winger.

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3. Tanner Pearson, Left Wing
2011-12 Ranking: 5th
Date of birth: 08/10/1991
Age: 21
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 205
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 64 GP, 19 G, 47 P (Manchester, AHL)
Acquired: First round, 30th overall in 2012 by Los Angeles

Year in Review: Pearson had a solid rookie year in the AHL, where he played on Manchester's top line and contributed well.

The Good: Pearson is a skilled player with two-way projection. His hockey sense is very good. Pearson has high-end vision, with great flashes in that area. He displays above-average creativity with the puck, and he positions himself fine off the puck in both zones. He is a strong winger who protects the puck well, and he has already shown the ability to win battles at the pro level. Pearson works hard and drives the net.

The Bad: Pearson's skating is his biggest hole, as he is a below-average player in that area, with scouts noting he is sluggish off the mark. When he gets to a gliding speed, he is okay, but that area does need some work.

Projection: He could be a second line winger.

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4. Linden Vey, Center
2011-12 Ranking: 7th
Date of birth: 07/17/1991
Age: 22
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 200
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 74 GP, 22 G, 67 P (Manchester, AHL)
Acquired: Fourth round, 96th overall in 2009 by Los Angeles

Year in Review: Vey had a very good second AHL season, where he centered Manchester's top line and ranked fifth in the AHL in scoring.

The Good: Vey is a pretty solid all-around forward. He is a very smart hockey player with the offensive instincts to create. Vey sees the ice at a high level, and he can be pretty dangerous from the perimeter. He has quick hands and feet and can be tough to check. Vey has really improved his defensive play, and he shows pro-average ability in that department. He can play center or wing as well.

The Bad: Vey's physical game is not the best, and his listed height/weight may be slightly overstated. He can also try to do too much at times instead of just shooting the puck.

Projection: He could be a second line forward.

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5. Nick Shore, Center
2011-12 Ranking: 8th
Date of birth: 09/26/1992
Age: 20
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 195
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 39 GP, 14 G, 34 P (Denver, NCAA)
Acquired: Third round, 82nd overall in 2011 by Los Angeles

Year in Review: Shore had a quality junior season, where he led his team in scoring. He signed a pro deal with the Kings as well.

The Good: Shore is a very smart forward. His hockey sense is evident through his playmaking, as he regularly makes tough feeds and sets up scoring chances. Shore controls the puck well from the perimeter, and he has good enough puck skills to make checkers miss and create space for himself. He is creative, and he can be very dangerous on the power play. Shore is a committed defensive player who makes a lot of plays in his own end too.

The Bad: Shore's skating is not the best, as his speed is below average, and he will not blaze through on rushes. His physical game is just average as well.

Projection: He could be a second line center.

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6. Derek Forbort, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: 2nd
Date of birth: 03/04/1992
Age: 21
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 218
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 42 GP, 4 G, 17 P (North Dakota, NCAA)
Acquired: First round, 15th overall in 2010 by Los Angeles

Year in Review: Forbort's development stagnated on offense, although his defensive game improved as he logged tough minutes for UND.

The Good: Forbort is a big defenseman who is very mobile for his size. He can move in every direction well, has a good top gear, and has impressive agility. He has really progressed well in his own end, as he makes a lot of stops by closing his gaps and getting in lanes. Forbort is an effective penalty killer, and he makes quality defensive reads. He can make a fine outlet pass as well.

The Bad: In his draft year, Forbort was thought to have some budding offensive potential. Even with some flashes, that area of his game has not progressed. He likely will not feature on an NHL power play. He could still fill out his frame, and he is not the meanest guy, either.

Projection: He could be a number four defenseman who plays tough defensive minutes, but not a power play contributor.

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7. Nicolas Deslaurier, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: 12th
Date of birth: 02/22/1991
Age: 22
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 214
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 63 GP, 4 G, 23 P (Manchester, AHL)
Acquired: Third round, 84th overall in 2009 by Los Angeles

Year in Review: In his second AHL season, Deslauriers showed notable improvements in both ends.

The Good: Deslauriers is a very toolsy defenseman. He is an agile, mobile skater who can flash high-end speed and be dangerous off the rush. He has good puck skills, and he is a very effective puck mover with smooth distributions and the flashiness in his game to make difficult offensive plays. Deslauriers is a strong player, who even with average size, wins battles and lands some quality hits.

The Bad: While Deslauriers' defensive game has shown notable improvement, he can still be the victim of some poor reads in his own end. His biggest issue is his risk taking, as he tries to do too much, and he can be caught pinching or getting out of position.

Projection: He could be a fringe second/great third pairing defenseman.

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8. Hudson Fasching, Right Wing
2011-12 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 07/28/1995
Age: 18
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 213
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 65 GP, 11 G, 36 P (USA Under-18, USHL)
Acquired: Fourth round, 118th overall in 2013 by Los Angeles

Year in Review: Fasching had a bit of a disappointing season after coming into the year as a potential first round pick.

The Good: Fasching has intriguing physical tools: he is a strong forward with solid size, skill, and skating ability. He has good power in his stride, and moves pretty effortlessly around the ice. He has a quality power game, as he wins battles, and can drive the net pretty effectively. Fasching has good puck skills as well, and he can flash some impressive creativity and dangling skills. His defensive skills are decent.

The Bad: Fasching's consistency is his main area of concern, as he has lengthy stretches where he does not do a whole lot. His reads can also be off during games.

Projection: He could be a second line forward, but he has above-average risk on his projection.

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9. Michael Mersch, Left Wing
2011-12 Ranking: 15th
Date of birth: 10/02/1992
Age: 20
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 213
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 42 GP, 23 G, 36 P (Wisconsin, NCAA)
Acquired: Fourth round, 110th overall in 2011 by Los Angeles

Year in Review: Mersch notched a collegiate career high in points, as he led Wisconsin in both goals and total scoring.

The Good: Mersch brings a quality power game to the table, and he has really emerged in terms of the rest of his offensive game. His skating has continued to improve, to the point where he flashes true above-average ability. Mersch also showed a lot more creativity and puck skills last season, and he also controls the puck well down low. Despite his low assist numbers, he moves the puck around pretty well. He also is a quality finisher.

The Bad: Mersch lacks standout abilities, as he is just fine at everything. He does not have the all-around game to be a safe/average two-way player at the NHL level. He needs to develop further in another area to make the next jump as a prospect.

Projection: He could be a fringe second line winger, but if he does not score, he may not be an NHLer.

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10. Kevin Gravel, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: 13th
Date of birth: 03/06/1992
Age: 21
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 200
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 42 GP, 1 G, 12 P (St. Cloud State, NCAA)
Acquired: Fifth round, 148th overall in 2010 by Los Angeles

Year in Review: Gravel continued his upward trend in development. Once a fringe prospect, he now has a decent NHL chance.

The Good: Gravel is a big defenseman with intriguing tools. He skates well in all directions for his size, and he plays a tough brand of hockey. Gravel has really developed his all-around reads, as he makes a fair amount of defensive stops with his stick checks and gap control. He can flash some puck-moving skill in terms of his outlets. When he is on, he can be a tough-minutes player.

The Bad: Gravel is not the most skilled player in the world, and he will not play on a pro-level power play. He can still make the odd bad read as well, and those were the type of mistakes that used to haunt him in prior years.

Projection: He could be a quality third pairing defenseman.

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The Next Five

11. Nikolai Prokhorkin, Center: Prokhorkin's season was sent into disarray with contract issues and a lack of playing time. With a good rebound year and repetitions, he has the skill level to be a top prospect again.

12. Martin Jones, Goaltender: Jones is a decent all-around goaltender who has played very well in the AHL over the last few seasons. He could be an NHL backup as soon as this season.

13. Tomas Hyka, Right Wing: Hyka is small, but he is a very good skater who has the offensive instincts to create. His projection at even strength is a question mark.

14. Andy Andreoff, Center: Andreoff is a hard-working, physical, defensive forward who plays with pace. Offense is not a strength of his.

15. Colin Miller, Defense: Miller thinks the game well at both ends, and he is an above-average skater. His upside is limited, and he is not really physical.

The Sleeper: Maxim Kistyn, Right Wing

Kistyn signed a deal with the Kings after some time over in Russia. As a U20, he was touted, but he was not all that impressive overseas. He has good size, and a lot of skill. If he pans out, he could be a scoring forward. Several scouts have questioned if he has the hockey sense to do so, however.

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Los Angeles Kings Organizational Top 10

Players 22 or under as of 09/15/2013 or still considered a prospect as defined here.

1. Tyler Toffoli, Right Wing
2. Valentin Zykov, Right Wing
3. Tanner Pearson, Left Wing
4. Linden Vey, Center
5. Kyle Clifford, Left Wing
6. Nick Shore, Center
7. Derek Forbort, Defense
8. Nicolas Deslauriers, Defense
9. Hudson Fasching, Right Wing
10. Michael Mersch, Left Wing

Clifford has yet to establish himself into a role where he gets significant ice time. That is largely due to the Kings deep roster. Clifford has enough tools to be an average NHL player with all-around value if he pans out.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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Top 10 Prospects 2013 (09/23)
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Top 10 Prospects 2013 (09/23)
Next Column >>
Top 10 Prospects 2013 (09/25)
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Top 10 Prospects 2013 (09/25)

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