With one of the best prospect pools in the NHL, it has been a joy to watch the Los Angeles Kings‘ prospects develop with the Ontario Reign over the last two seasons. Last season, they were a young team who were brilliant in spurts but were too inconsistent to make noise in the American Hockey League (AHL). This season, after the addition of a few names, notably reigning league MVP T.J. Tynan, the Reign are one of the best teams in the league. At the core of their success have been Kings’ prospects, many of whom have played a huge role on the team. With that in mind, I wanted to highlight the success of these prospects. I won’t be including players currently with the Kings, so despite having incredible seasons with the Reign, Gabe Vilardi and Jordan Spence won’t be included in this piece.
Some people were surprised to see Jaret Anderson-Dolan start the season in the AHL. He played in 34 games for the Kings last season and looked like he had earned a roster spot. However, after his offense fell off completely towards the end of the season and Blake Lizotte had a strong training camp, the team decided to let him start the season in the AHL, hoping he would rediscover his offense. He has certainly reignited it in the AHL, scoring 24 goals and 47 points in 53 games this season. Had he not missed roughly 10 games while up with the Kings, he would have likely scored 30 goals this year, as he has been a consistent source of goals all season. He’s spent time at both center and wing, thriving at both positions.
Third on the team in points, well behind Tynan and Martin Frk, Anderson-Dolan has been one of the best players on the Reign all season. Frankly, he has surprised me with his offensive explosion in the AHL this season. As a prolific player in junior, I had questions about whether his goal-scoring would translate to the professional level. He doesn’t blow you away with amazing puck skills or an overpowering shot, but he’s a great skater, has excellent hockey IQ, a motor that won’t stop, and is very strong on his skates. Despite being just 5-foot-11, he wins a lot of battles in front of the net and along the boards which facilitates his goal scoring. A lot of his goals come from within a few feet of the net, as he never shies away from a dirty goal.
His future with the Kings is an interesting one, as he’ll be a player ready for the NHL next season, but there isn’t a roster spot for him. I would expect some player movement on the Kings’ roster this summer and Anderson-Dolan could be a benefactor or a victim of this. Regardless of what happens, he has been extremely impressive with the Reign this season and has made a good case to be a part of this group going forward. His ceiling is still a middle-six forward who can provide goals and play against the other team’s top line, but that’s the kind of player you need to win championships.
Death, taxes, and Samuel Fagemo scoring a ton of goals; I think that’s how the saying goes, or at least it should. At the time of writing, no player who started the AHL season under the age of 22-years-old has scored more goals than Fagemo’s 27, with Jakob Pelletier and Pavel Dorofeyev having an equal amount. After playing all of last season with the Reign and struggling to find consistency in his first year in North America, Fagemo has found his feet and looks like the elite sniper he was drafted to become. He’s on pace for 29 goals, and like Anderson-Dolan, would have broken the 30-goal mark for sure had it not been for a stint with the Kings.
Possessing excellent north-south speed and one of the most well-rounded shots in the King’s organization, Fagemo is a deadly shooter who can beat goaltenders in several ways. Despite zero points in his four games with the Kings this season, he looked solid during that period, being thrust into a top-line role. With some defensive inconsistencies still a part of his game and the opportunity to add more muscle, I would expect him to spend another season in the AHL, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make the Kings’ roster out of camp. If he continues developing at this pace, there will be 30 teams who will regret passing on him during his first year of draft eligibility in 2018.
It’s been a tough season for Akil Thomas, who didn’t play in his first game until December after having surgery on both of his shoulders over the summer. He was second on the team in points last season, behind only Arthur Kaliyev, and had it not been for surgery, I think we could’ve seen a big season from the young forward. There was plenty of rust for him to knock off, grabbing just three points in his first 28 games. Having said that, he’s had 10 points in his last 11 games, which should be a sign of better things to come.
Thomas is a very interesting prospect, as he has all the tools to be a great player. He’s an excellent skater, has fantastic hands, great playmaking, good goalscoring instincts, and an elite motor. He also has the production to back up this toolset, as he was a superstar in juniors and had a very good rookie season in the AHL last year. However, he is still seen as a B-B+ prospect in most people’s eyes, falling to No. 51 in the 2018 Draft, one pick ahead of Sean Durzi. He’s also renowned for being an excellent team guy and an extremely hard worker off the ice. This season was somewhat of a throwaway for him after his injuries, but I think we’ll see a huge season from Thomas in 2022-23 for the Reign. I’m not sure where he fits into the Kings’ lineup long-term, but it’s hard to think he won’t find a way to make an impact.
This season has been like every season since his draft for Alex Turcotte, unfortunate and plagued by injury. He started the season well with 10 points in his first 18 games before earning a call-up to the Kings, grabbing zero points in eight NHL games. After being reassigned to the Reign, he started to find his offense, scoring eight points in eight games, and more accurately eight points in seven games as he was injured in the first period of the eighth game. He has not seen the ice since that injury and there appears to be no return in sight. You have to feel bad for him considering his rotten luck with injuries, but it’s also starting to get frustrating for Kings fans. Of course, these injuries aren’t his fault, but three years since being drafted fifth overall, he is not having the impact most were hoping for.
Turcotte is still just 21-years-old, leaving plenty of time for him to fulfill his potential, but there are questions surrounding how long the Kings can wait for that to happen. They are turning the page on their rebuild and might be unwilling to wait another three seasons before he can contribute at the top of the lineup. He’s a player I have a lot of faith in to become a great player, as he has the skill, work ethic, and hockey IQ to be a good, top-six forward, I’m just not convinced it will be with the Kings. Several people think the team will look to make a splash this summer and Turcotte may be dealt in a hypothetical move. I would love for them to stick it out with him, as a future one-two punch up the middle with Quinton Byfield and Turcotte is a core that could win you Stanley Cups, but I’m not sure what his future is with the Kings. At this point, I’d expect him to start next season in the AHL, but he could surprise everyone and make the team out of camp as well.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Tyler Madden doesn’t get enough credit as a prospect in the Kings’ system. He was brought in as a part of the Tyler Tofolli trade in 2020 and is having a strong season with the Reign. I’ve talked a lot about players who have excellent motors in this article and perhaps none have a better one than Madden.
Son of former Selke Trophy winner John Madden, Tyler clearly picked some skills up from his dad. He has a similar work ethic and understanding of the defensive side of the game, with an added skill his father lacked. He’s an incredible skater and playmaker who possesses unique creativity with the puck. He’s got amazing hands, but has an unteachable flair as well, as he has a plethora of tricks in his bag when one-on-one with opposition goalies and defensemen.
Madden had 31 points in 48 games before an injury that has kept him out since early March. While these numbers aren’t incredible, they’re very good for a player who missed most of last season because of injury and is essentially in his rookie season. He was a late bloomer in junior and college, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the same in the NHL. He’s got a great toolset to become a reliable middle-six forward, who can serve higher in the lineup when needed. I’d expect him to start next season in the AHL, but I think he’ll get at least some NHL games next season too.
After starting the season with the expectation to not play in every game and slowly get used to North American hockey, Helge Grans was forced to take on a bigger role than many expected and he has stepped up to the challenge. So much of the hype around Kings’ defensive prospects this season has surrounded Spence and Durzi, rightfully so, but I keep encouraging people not to forget about Grans. The highest draft pick of the three and arguably the best toolset, Grans has so much potential. Still just 19-years-old, he is one of just two under-20 defensemen to have played more than 12 games in the AHL this season and has adjusted to North America very well.
An excellent skater with great size and puck skills, Grans’ biggest issue is his decision-making, both offensively and defensively. He too often picks the wrong pass or gets caught making the wrong read defensively, but when he gets it right, it’s amazing to watch. Another player who is currently out injured, he had stepped up in a big way after Spence was called up to the Kings, taking on several of his duties. Still, an extremely raw prospect, with at least one, if not two more years in the AHL needed before he makes the jump into the NHL, he could be the pick of the litter. At his ceiling, he is a dominant two-way defender who can eat up a lot of heavy minutes. If he reaches that ceiling, only Brandt Clarke has more potential on the Kings’ blue line.
Kings Prospects Excelling in Ontario
While too many of these prospects have suffered injuries, they have all impressed while healthy. The Kings are on their way to a playoff return, while the Reign have a real chance of making a Calder Cup run. I would expect all of these rookies to play a big part in a potential run if they’re healthy. The Kings are facing a logjam at several positions, meaning some of these players don’t have a future in the organization, but many of them do, and it will be a joy to watch them in a Kings’ uniform one day.
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.