Rob Blake has been keeping busy this spring. The Los Angeles Kings’ general manager has been sizing up his current roster to decipher who needs to stay and who needs a change of scenery; he’s preparing for the NHL Draft in late June, as well as earmarking potential unrestricted free agency targets post-July 1. However, his most recent venture is the astute signings of young, low-risk, free agent talent to entry-level contracts.
Blake Doubling Down on Forwards
The team’s early playoff exit was a painful dose of reality for Kings fans. Although their roster looked formidable on paper, they relied too heavily on superstars Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick, and were exposed by the Vegas Golden Knights for lacking both speed and imagination on the offensive end as a result.
Blake is more than aware of this deficiency and, much like his signing of speedy winger Alex Iafallo last April, he recently decided to double his luck on two intriguing young forwards.
On Mar. 30, the Kings signed Rempal to a two-year entry-level contract. Standing at a slender five-foot-10, 154-pounds, the right-handed winger led his Clarkson University side in scoring with 46 points in 39 games during his 2017-2018 sophomore campaign. His efforts landed him as a nominee for the 2018 Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player.
Rempal’s most appealing attributes are his blazing speed and quick release. Despite being rather diminutive in stature, the 22-year-old forward has also shown a knack for getting down and dirty in front of the net, which has rendered its fair share of “ugly” goals. In addition, Rempal has also become well known for his lacrosse-style maneuvers behind the net:
— Cap Carey (@CapCareyWDT) November 19, 2016
Upon signing with the Kings, he spent time skating with the team in April which immediately burns the first year of his contract. The plan for the youngster appears to be a return to Clarkson University for his junior season and then determine if he has progressed enough to be NHL-ready.
On May 1, Morrison signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Kings. He, unlike Rempal, technically does not fall into the undrafted free agent category. The 21-year-old center was a fourth-round selection of the New York Rangers in the 2015 NHL Draft but was unable to come to terms on an entry-level contract and, as a result, became a free agent.
The six-foot, 170-pound centerman is honing his craft with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL, after being acquired from the Vancouver Giants earlier in the year. In 74 regular season games, Morrison notched an impressive 75 points. Not bad.
Ready to be flabbergasted? During the Hurricanes’ WHL Playoff run (that recently came to an end), Morrison tallied a remarkable 16 goals and 21 assists…in 16 games. Someone, please give this man a superhero cape! The WHL’s social page took note of Morrison’s superhuman run:
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 25, 2018
Curtis Joe of Elite Prospects had the following scouting report on Morrison in his draft year:
A clever, dexterous forward who plays with jump and jam. Possesses the speed and cunning to create separation, and has the individual skills and puckhandling ability to make the best use of any time and space earned. Works hard in the corners, but can get rubbed out when not careful. All-in-all, a speedy, skilled forward who can carry and direct plays with ease.
Much like Rempal, Morrison will need more seasoning before securing a spot with the Kings. With that in mind, his natural fit for next season will be in the AHL with the Reign.
Wanted: Needle Movers
Sure, Rempal may never make the top undrafted player of all-time list, and Morrison will be hard-pressed to surpass youngsters, Adrian Kempe and Gabriel Vilardi as a top-six Kings center of the future. The fact of the matter is that both are young, fast, skilled, enigmatic players that provide the team with the right kind of forward depth. This can only help move the needle towards returning the Kings to prominence and adapting to the ever-increasing pace of the NHL.
Keep it up, Mr. Blake.