The old adage in all parts of life is “quality over quantity”. Given the significant investments in their recent cup runs where they traded away numerous high picks and quality prospects, the Kings prospect pool may be a little bare. However, the Kings have still managed to draft quality prospects in recent years, with four poised to be impact players in the near future.
Let’s take a look at the Kings’ top four prospects:
The Kings scored big when Vilardi fell to them in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Originally projected to be a top-ten pick in the draft, Vilardi fell to the Kings at pick number eleven, making the decision of whom to take an easy one. Vilardi quickly becomes the Kings’ top prospect in a fairly shallow prospect pool.
Vilardi will bring something to the Kings that they have been searching for, goals. In 111 OHL games, Vilardi has tallied 46 goals and 99 points. The 6’2″ center led the Windsor Spitfires in goals (29) and points (61) this past season while playing in 49 games. The 17-year-old also helped lead the Spitfires to a Memorial Cup Championship this past season, recording seven assists in just four games.
With elite puck skills and good possession numbers, as well as his strong two-way game, he should fit in perfectly to the Kings’ system. The Kings will hope that his offensive upside can be untapped with the recent addition of former NHLer Pierre Turgeon in an offensive coordinator role.
The Kings’ highest drafted player since Brayden Schenn in 2009 may be able to earn a nine-game tryout with the team to start the season. Vilardi should be ready to be an impact NHL player by the 2018-19 season.
Prior to the addition of Vilardi, Adrian Kempe was the unanimous top prospect in the Kings’ pool. Originally drafted 29th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Kempe is the only other first-round selection in the Kings’ prospect pool.
The 6’2″ winger from Sweden played for MODO Hockey of the Swedish Elite League before joining the then AHL affiliate Manchester Monarchs prior to the playoffs during the 2014-15 season. In 17 playoff games, Kempe scored eight goals and nine points, helping the Monarchs win the Calder Cup.
The following season the Monarchs moved to the ECHL, while the Ontario Reign became the Kings’ AHL affiliate team. Kempe played his first full regular season with the Reign in 2015-16, where he recorded 28 points in 55 games. This past season, Kempe played 46 games for the Reign before earning his first promotion to the Kings on February 15th. He finished the season with the Kings, playing in 25 games and recording six points.
With a good training camp, the power forward could earn a roster spot with the Kings for the 2017-18 season.
When you look at second-round picks who could have snuck into the first round of the draft, look no further than Kale Clague. The sixth overall pick by the Brandon Wheat Kings in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft has shown tremendous skill at the junior level so far, recording 96 points in 141 games.
The Kings selected Clague in the second round, 51st overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He had just completed his first full season with the Wheat Kings, where he recorded 43 points in 71 games. His offensive ability continues to improve as this past season he put up 40 points in just 48 games.
In his THW Prospect Profile, Clague was described as being a versatile offensive defenseman with good situational awareness and incredible composure. Clague will likely spend another season with the Wheat Kings as he continues to develop.
With some room to grow offensively, Clague has the potential to become a top pairing defenseman in the near future.
The fourth and final player to round out this list is recently drafted center Jaret Anderson-Dolan. This marks the second player to make this list that was drafted this year – a testament to the approach that new Kings management is taking.
Anderson-Dolan was projected by many mock drafts to be selected higher than his actual draft slot of 41st overall. He could become a steal at that spot for the Kings, just like Vilardi in the first round, if he develops well. The Kings will hope that hiring Anderson-Dolan’s WHL coach Don Nachbaur as an assistant will help with this development. Nachbaur played a big role in developing Anderson-Dolan’s defensive play the past three seasons.
Off the ice, Anderson-Dolan made headlines as he was raised by two mothers who played an integral role in his character development.
In two full seasons with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL, he has scored 53 goals and 102 points in 142 games. Anderson-Dolan is coming off a season that saw him record 76 points in 72 games, including 39 goals. His goal-scoring ability is exactly what the Kings are looking for as they continue to build a more offensive team.
Although the Kings do not have a deep pool of prospects, these top four are certainly quality prospects to have. With the way the Kings’ roster current sits, it’s likely that these four players make an impact sooner rather than later.
I currently intern with the London Knights Hockey Club in a marketing role as I complete the sports and recreation program at Lambton College. I previously interned with the Sarnia Sting Hockey Club in a communications role, where I wrote many pieces for the team website.