The first homestand of the 2019-20 season hasn’t gone the way the Los Angeles Kings would have hoped. After back-to-back shutout losses, it prompted head coach Todd McLellan to make his first moves on the campaign.
The team recalled forward Nikolai Prokhorkin, as announced by general manager Rob Blake on Friday. Tobias Bjornfot and Carl Grundstrom were assigned to the American Hockey League’s Ontario Reign as the corresponding moves.
It’s been quite an up-and-down rollercoaster for Prokhorkin and the Kings. Let’s get to know, or refresh on, the fourth-round draft pick.
Prokhorkin Could Help Kings’ Offense
The 6-foot-2 Russian native was drafted 121st-overall by the franchise in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He signed a three-year entry-level contract in Sept. 2012 and was assigned to the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs after training camp.
Two months later, Prokhorkin terminated his contract to return to CSKA Moscow, his initial Kontinental Hockey League team. His best season with the club came in 2013-14. The forward recorded 37 points (19 goals, 18 assists) in 52 games.
Prokhorkin continued playing in his home country and won a gold medal in the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games with the Olympic Athletes from Russia. He registered a pair of goals in six games. After his KHL contract expired in late April, the free agent returned to the Kings on a one-year entry-level contract.
The 26-year-old has appeared in four games with the Reign this season and has recorded two points (both assists) and a plus-minus rating of zero. Before that, Prokhorkin saw career-high numbers during the 2018-19 season with KHL’s SKA Saint Petersburg. In 41 games, he tallied 41 points (20 goals and 21 assists) and a plus-27 rating – good for being one of five KHL players to average a point a game.
Now on the roster, Prokhorkin could help contribute to the Kings offense, especially up the middle. He’s a physical player, displays an impressive skill set and is known for his speed and aggression to the net. Prokhorkin’s notable net-front tendencies is something McLellan and the team could surely use moving forward.
Prokhorkin will also reunite with a former Olympic and SKA Saint Petersburg teammate in Ilya Kovalchuk. The pair won the Gagarin Cup (KHL Championship) in 2017. It’s possible the two forwards could rejuvenate their chemistry and appear on the same line.
Given he consistently produced at the KHL level, Prokhorkin has a good chance of reciprocating that at the NHL level.
Bjornfot and Grundstrom Sent Down
The only 2019 draftee to make the opening night roster was assigned to the Reign. Bjornfot, only appearing in three of the squad’s seven games, had a slow start to the 2019-20 season. The 18-year-old has yet to record a point and registered an underwhelming minus-4 rating.
His worst game was against the Vancouver Canucks, in which the team endured an 8-2 loss. The defenseman was minus-3 on the night in 21 shifts. As for Grundstrom, the forward recorded a lone assist and a minus-one rating against the Canucks — the only game he’s played in.
The Swedish natives now get the opportunity to fix the issues and playing alongside the other prospects should help. They joined an Ontario team that was third in the AHL Pacific Division Saturday.
In his Reign debut against the San Jose Barracuda, Bjornfot was named the No. 1 star of the game by scoring his first goal and adding an assist. Grundstrom also did well by scoring two goals in his return. The team went on to win 5-2 and improved to 3-1-1 on the season.
As for Prokhorkin, he practiced with the Kings Friday and was a healthy scratch against the Flames Saturday.
Sara Biela is a Los Angeles Kings contributor for The Hockey Writers. Biela graduated from San Jose State University in 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism. She covered SJSU Athletics and the San Jose Sharks through the college’s student-run sports-media publication, The Spear.