The Los Angeles Kings signed forward Brandon Prust to a professional tryout contract Friday, and now, all eyes are on him and his potential return to the NHL.
While Prust filled the role of an enforcer and solid bottom-six forward, the league began to change, and his physicality and tough-guy role were not enough to be effective at the NHL level. The role of the enforcer began to die, and he did not have the scoring ability or speed to truly impress, let alone keep his job.
Despite his lackluster totals, the Kings are in need of more grit and a change on their forward lines. With that being said, can Prust make a comeback and make a bigger impact this time around?
The Rise and Fall of Prust
Prust hasn’t played since the 2015-16 campaign when he was traded from Montreal to Vancouver prior to the start of the season. He was limited to just 35 games with Vancouver due to leg injuries, registering a lone goal, seven points, and 40 hits. Due to the veteran’s unimpressive scoring totals and performance, the Canucks waived him, and after he went unclaimed, they assigned him to their AHL affiliate in Utica.
He played nine games with the Comets, recording a goal and seven points before he returned back home to rehabilitate an ankle injury and prepare for the following season.
The Canucks elected not to re-sign Prust, and he became an unrestricted free agent. He finally signed a PTO with the Toronto Maple Leafs later in the offseason. Though he came to camp and had a decent performance, it was not enough to earn a roster spot, especially considering Toronto’s arsenal of younger players who had more to offer in the speed and scoring department.
“They weren’t really sure,” Prust told Sportsnet of the Leafs’ roster. “They didn’t have room. They kept a lot of rookies, but I think I made a good impression where they wanted me to stick around and see what happens. I was waiting for a couple months.”
After nothing formulated with the Maple Leafs, and without an NHL gig, Prust went overseas and headed to Germany to play with the Nuremberg Ice Tigers of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga. In 29 regular season games, the 33-year-old racked up three goals and eight points, as well as 67 penalty minutes. He also had two goals, six points, and 51 PIM in 11 playoff games with the Ice Tigers.
Looking at his game, Prust’s biggest issue is his lack of scoring prowess; though he can through hits and serve as a physical presence, he cannot thrive in any league if he can’t put up points. He also takes a lot of penalties, and while a lot of those penalties are due to fighting or standing up for his teammates, they can hurt his team in some scenarios, which in turn hurts his value as well.
Looking at the Kings’ roster and their trouble areas as they enter 2017-18, many are curious to see what the 6-foot, 195-pound winger can bring to the table.
Where Prust Fits Into Kings’ Puzzle
Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2014, the Kings have been on somewhat of a decline. They haven’t qualified for the playoffs in two of their last three seasons and finished fifth in the Pacific Division this past year. Regardless of their struggles, the Kings are strong in some areas, but overall, need more help on their forward lines. That’s where Prust comes into play.
The Kings finished sixth in the league in goals against, allowing an average of just 2.5 goals per game. They also had a number of players like Dustin Brown and Tanner Pearson who didn’t shy away from physicality and were solid on the backcheck. However, their lack of offense was concerning, and that is the biggest question mark heading into this season.
Los Angeles’s 2.4 goals for per game was the sixth-worst in the league, and their scoring troubles can be attributed to the performance of their forwards. While Jeff Carter led the team with 66 points this past season, he was just one of four forwards even hit the 40-point mark this year. Not only that, but the Kings also lacked in the goal-scoring department, with Carter and Tanner Pearson being the only forwards to surpass 20 goals. Anze Kopitar was also the only Los Angeles forward to hit 40 assists.
Heading into this offseason, the Kings lost a number of forwards to free agency, including Jarome Iginla, Teddy Purcell, Devin Setoguchi and Joel Lowry. Still, Los Angeles has been relatively quiet this offseason, and their biggest transaction has been signing veteran Michael Cammalleri.
Considering their lack of moves, the Kings will likely rely on their big-name players to bounce back and for their younger players to step up and fill the void. But in addition to that, they will likely be looking at their veteran additions in Cammalleri and Prust to come in and add offense and chemistry to their struggling arsenal.
There is a lot that Prust can bring to the table with his physicality and fighting ability, but the Kings will need more from him. They need goal scoring and someone who can ignite offense, and that is where he will have to improve heading into this year. This means that he will have to take better care of the puck and be able to bring it up the ice and start the rush. Also, Prust will have to take more shots and make smart plays, while avoiding the penalty box.
Overall, the Kings need more offense, and improving in that area will definitely help the team rebound this coming year. However, if Prust wants to be a part of the team’s comeback, he will have to embark on his own by adding more of an offensive edge to his game and proving that he still has a lot to offer at the NHL level.