The Los Angeles Kings recently signed a quarterback. Wait, what? Among the Kings’ recent signings is defenseman Jordan Spence, who has the “quarterbacking” skills that are making inroads as a hot commodity in the NHL. Think Torey Krug. (from ‘Kings sign Arthur Kaliyev, Jordan Spence to entry-level contracts,’ Daily Bulletin, 06/03/2020)
On Wednesday, Spence’s Moncton Wildcats coach Darryl Boyce used “QB” as part of his overall assessment of Spence. Relax L.A. people of the sun. He isn’t going to be the next Jared Goff – or even Roman Gabriel who old-timers will recall wearing the horns on the helmet – but Boyce thinks there is a place for Spence in the NHL eventually.
“He has just the right amount of flash,” Boyce said about the 5-foot-10, 19-year-old Spence. “He’s not flashy to a point where it’s risky. With him, everything doesn’t need to be high-risk/reward. He’s a smooth skater and he makes things look easy.”
Boyce also gave his thoughts about the emerging role of defensemen in the “not your father’s” less physical NHL.
“I think it’s been changing for the last 10 years for sure,” he said. “I see that every organization does have a small, good puck-moving quarterback type of defenseman, like Krug (Boston Bruins, 5-foot-9) and Sami Vatanen (New Jersey Devils, 5-foot-10), and Jake Gardiner (Toronto Maple Leafs), who is 6-foot-1, but not a 100% bruising type. Things are becoming reversed. Instead of four bruisers, you’re looking at three to four pretty good offensive-minded guys and two or three rugged, stay-at-home guys.”
Spence Has Earned Respect as a Top QMJHL Blueliner
Ruggedness is not lacking with Spence, a first-team Quebec Major Junior Hockey League All-Star. He’s technically proficient at taking the proper angles and doing the dirty work inherent in the position, but Boyce thinks Spence could throw his weight around a bit more in some spots on the ice, like in front of the net.
“When he does hit, he knows the timing of when to do something out there,” the coach said. “He really hammered some guys since he was a 17-year-old rookie (in 2018-19). But he is still a little bit in his shell. One of my main jobs with Jordan is instilling more confidence about not giving others an inch out there. He’s the best defender in the league, people respect him out there. He needs to know he deserves that. And once he gets that, it will give him a little more of an edge.
He can be tougher. Fear lives on the ice. Let them know that you’re willing to do what it takes. Take a cross-check, give a cross-check. Keep going until someone calls your bluff. He’s a strong kid, always in the gym.”
Spence, a fourth-round draft pick (95th overall) by the Kings in 2019, was invited to Hockey Canada’s virtual summer development camp, July 27-31. (from ‘Jordan Spence earns invite to Hockey Canada virtual camp,’ Journal Pioneer, 06/16/2020) He is one of 10 defensemen and 41 players who will be participating. Before the 2019-20 season, he got his first experience at Los Angeles’ training camp.
“That was great to see him go to camp and come back after stepping on the ice with all the prospects in the organization in scrimmages and being confident in that group,” Boyce said. “To know he feels comfortable there. That’s going to feed the beast. Now he knows he can play there, that’s half the battle because if you don’t feel comfortable the uphill climb is going to be even greater.”
Improvement Is Spence’s Passion
Boyce described Spence as fun-loving and playfully called him a “goofy kid.”
“He makes you smile every time he goes to the rink” Boyce said. “One thing I’ll always remember about him was that he was always asking, ‘How do you think we played? How are we going? He always wanted to get your feedback.”
Not all prospects make the NHL, but Boyce sees Spence making it.
“Oh yes, I see him in the NHL,” he said. “Typically defensemen take a little bit longer to develop once they get to the pro level, but I see no issues with Jordan on why he can’t be an L.A. Kings player for a long time.”
There are 20 defensemen in the Kings organization, including seven on the big club’s roster and three others who had at least a cup of coffee in L.A. in 2019-20. It’s a young group, with Kurtis MacDermid (four seasons, 90 games), Matt Roy (three seasons, 95 games) and Sean Walker (two seasons, 109 games) as the longest-tenured veterans after superstar Drew Doughty (13 seasons, 919 games).
One thing Spence and others, like the recently signed Cole Hults from Penn State, have going for them is the knowledge that the Kings, during their rebuild, have shown a willingness to give the young pups a chance at a high level.
Spence has been consistent in his two years at Moncton (6 goals, 43 assists, plus-11 in 2018-19, and 9 goals, 43 assists, plus-49 in 2019-20) and when he adds that tiny bit of boss-man attitude in front of the net, he might be what the doctor ordered as the Kings enter a new decade of highly regarded prospects and reasons for optimism.