by Corey Pronman
The New Jersey Devils acquired Andrei Loktionov from the Los Angeles Kings for a fifth round draft pick in a perfect example of a buy low deal from the Devils perspective.
Loktionov is a player who I’ve been very high on for a while. In fact, I ranked him as a high as the 10th best drafted prospect in hockey in 2011, which obviously in hindsight, was overly aggressive.
Still Loktionov is a very toolsy forward who just last year I heard from a NHL source who had seen him many times in Manchester (LAK’s AHL team) describe him glowingly, saying “the sky is the limit” while praising his speed, skill and vision. Two seasons ago I heard mostly universal praise for Loktionov from those who scouted him. He’s a high-end skater and puck possession talent who can play decent defense and is a natural center.
For whatever reason it just hasn’t worked out in Los Angeles and Loktionov’s play has not been up to par with the optimism some in the industry, including myself had him for several years ago. ESPN’s Craig Custance reported there was not much interest for the player and that the Kings and Loktionov’s party had differing takes on his value.
While he does have some defensive ability, as a small skilled player Loktionov is going to sink or swim with his scoring touch and he’s shown he can’t be moved off center and retain effectiveness. The good news for the Devils is there is significant upside to this transaction, with little risk attached to it. If Loktionov can benefit from a change of scenery and a new opportunity, maybe the Devils could pull an NHL scoring forward out of him. If not, then at least the Devils tried, and Loktionov had another opportunity on a team not as stacked up front as the Kings.