With one of the league’s best prospect pools, the Los Angeles Kings have players playing in several different leagues across the world. One of those leagues, the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), hosts a few of the team’s hottest prospects. Recently I took a look at the Kings’ prospects currently playing in college, and today I’m going to discuss the team’s prospects who you should keep an eye on in the OHL.
Brandt Clarke- Barrie Colts
After being selected eighth overall by the Kings in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, Brandt Clarke returned to his OHL team, the Barrie Colts. His season debut was delayed because of mononucleosis, but he is healthy and playing again. He was pegged to be the league’s best defenseman by the OHL media, and has started off hot with three points in three games. He is an electrifying player from the backend, who is always looking to jump up into the play, acting as a fourth forward at times. Several scouts have compared him stylistically to Erik Karlsson, a fair comparison given their tendencies to join offensive rushes, but Clarke has some distinct differences to Karlsson, specifically his skating.
It is his skating where the Kings will hope to see the biggest improvement this summer, as he was impressive in many ways during the team’s development camp back in August, but his skating was an issue. He also ranked very low on the team’s test for acceleration and power. It’s easy to see why he struggles as well; he skates in a very upright position and generates very little power in his first few strides because of this. Fortunately, his top speed is fine and his edgework is phenomenal, but the lack of power in his stride will need work before making it to the NHL. I would imagine he spends a lot of the next 12-18 months working with a skating coach to fix these issues.
They’ll also be looking for him to show improvements in his defensive game, I think he’s better defensively than he gets credit for, but there’s still room for improvement. Improved skating will help this, as better acceleration and more power in his stride will help him keep pace with forwards attacking him. I would expect big development from him this year, as he returns to the OHL after playing overseas last season due to COVID. The little bit of Clarke I’ve watched live was very impressive, his ability on the puck is incredible, and he can control the pace of play when his team has possession. If he irons out his skating issues, I think he can be a true number one defensemen for the Kings, taking the mantle from Drew Doughty in the coming years. He should also play a big role for Team Canada at the upcoming World Junior Championships.
Francesco Pinelli- Kitchener Rangers
Many people were surprised to see Francesco Pinelli fall to the second round of the 2021 NHL draft, and the Kings were aggressive in their pursuit of Pinelli, moving up in the draft to select the young center. He participated in the team’s training camp in Sep., where his skill was evident, but it was clear he needs more development. After playing his hockey in Slovenia during the OHL’s shutdown, he has returned to the Kitchener Rangers, where he now serves as team captain. He’s gotten off to an excellent start, with six points through three games, as he looks to be one of the league’s dominant offensive players. Currently a center for the Rangers, I think he projects more as a winger for the Kings, mainly because of the logjam of centers in the organization.
Pinelli is a very creative player, who displays excellent stickhandling and vision. He has an accurate shot as well but currently lacks the power in his shot to threaten goalies at the NHL level, of course, adding muscle might help with this. He’s also very good at shielding the puck in the corners and along the boards. He plays a very aggressive game; he isn’t afraid to get physical and is very effective on the forecheck.
Defensively Pinelli is solid, using his aggressiveness and physicality allow him to keep opposition players away from the net, while his work ethic shines, as he is always supporting his defensemen down low. I don’t think he’ll be a shutdown forward, like how I project Alex Turcotte, but his defensive ability will make him a versatile and effective forward for all situations. I think he’ll become a reliable top-nine forward for the Kings, who will serve either as a play driver for the third line, or a forechecking complimentary forward on the top-six.
Martin Chromiak- Kinsgston Frontenacs
One of the big standouts from both Development Camp, and the Arizona Rookie Faceoff, was 2020 fifth-round pick Martin Chromiak. In fact, he was so impressive that the Kings signed him to his entry-level contract at the end of Sep. Like several OHL players, he went overseas during the league’s shutdown to play hockey, he went back home to Slovakia, before coming over and playing two games with the Ontario Reign. He has the potential to put up huge numbers this season playing alongside Shane Wright, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him eclipse the 100-point mark. He’s off to a great start as well, with six points through his first five games.
Chromiak found success during the Arizona Rookie showcase playing alongside Quinton Byfield and Arthur Kaliyev, and I think he can find a career in the NHL playing as a complementary forward. He doesn’t have the play driving or creativity to be the best player on a line, but his hard work, speed, and finishing make him a great compliment for star players. His acceleration needs work, but he has solid edgework and a great top speed. He isn’t a very physical player, but his speed and work ethic make him a solid forechecker. I think the role he’ll play this season for the Frontenacs, as a compliment to Wright, will be the same one he plays for the Kings. He might struggle to fit into a future Kings team that is filled with great prospects at forward, but he has impressed at every level, and can definitely force his way onto the roster in the future.
Some of The OHL’s Best
With Clarke, Pinelli, and Chromiak, the Kings have three of the OHL’s best players in their pipeline. I’m very confident that Clarke is a future star for the team but am still unsure where Pinelli and Chromiak fit in the future. I think they’re both fantastic prospects, but with so many high-quality forward prospects, some good players won’t make it in the organization. It’s far too early to say either player will bust or hit, but I can guarantee they will be near the top of the OHL scoring charts this season. By the end of this season, and even more so next, we’ll have a better idea of where the project within the organization.
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My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.