The Commonalities Between Kings’ Prospects

So he’s a Kings’ prospect, but he has Futa pick written all over him and that’s a big deal.

Michael Futa is the VP of Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel with the Los Angeles Kings and he’s a big part of the reason why the team has had so much success lately.

He drafted Spencer Watson at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft at No. 209 overall and yes, this isn’t a good projection of his future in the National Hockey League. However, it doesn’t come close to reflecting an accurate picture of his talent today, let alone the way it’s panning out. That’s just one of the things that Futa does with his picks, though. He finds the good ones before anyone even has them on the radar.

Watson is 5-foot-10, right-winger and weighs 170 pounds. Other than Jacob Middleton and Damir Sharipzyanov, all other Kings’ prospects currently playing in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) were drafted before him, yet he still ranks second for most goals per game, assists per game and points per game this season.

In fact, Watson’s leading the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in shots on goal and is tied for 12th in league scoring. For the week ending February 7, 2016, he was named the Pioneer Energy OHL Player of the Week and what’s even more impressive than that is, he’s doing all this as the lightest and shortest Kings’ prospect in the CHL right now.

Curious to get the inside scoop on Watson’s ability to perform so much better than a lot of his peers, I reached out to Paul McFarland, Head Coach of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs to find out more about the mysteries at play here.

To date, there’s a total of 11 LA Kings prospects currently playing in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) right now:

  1. Erik Cernak, Erie Otters, OHL
  2. Roland Mckeown, Kingston Frontenacs, OHL (traded to Carolina)
  3. Chaz Reddekopp, Victoria Royals, WHL
  4. Samir Sharipzyanov, Owen Sound Attack, OHL
  5. Jacob Middleton, Ottawa 67s, OHL
  6. Austin Wagner, Regina Pats, WHL
  7. Matthew Mistele, Sarnia Sting, OHL
  8. Jake Marchment, Erie Otters, OHL
  9. Mike Amadio, North Bay Battalion, OHL
  10. Matt Schmalz, Sudbury Wolves, OHL
  11. Spencer Watson, Kingston Frontenacs, OHL

So what’s contributing to his significant development this year? Does it have anything to do with the Kings? After all, it’s not like they’re developing him yet.

McFarland tells The Hockey Writers that Watson’s pretty hard on himself and this might be a contributing factor to his impressive growth.

Spencer wants to be an elite player,” says McFarland. “He works at his game every day and he expects a lot out of himself.

Since Watson was Drafted into the NHL, McFarland says there are two things he thinks Watson’s drastically improved upon.

First of all, he’s a lot stronger. He’s improved on every shift. Secondly, he’s a better checker. He’s more dangerous.

The Advent of Michael Dal Colle

Perhaps the Kings have a specific role in mind for Watson as he moves onward to being a future King. If this is the case, they would have given him specific directions this year, in terms of what he needs to focus on.

No one at the King’s organization has a say on who the Frontenacs do or do not decide to acquire, but that doesn’t mean they can’t see a good team player when he’s skating right in front of their faces. McFarland tells The Hockey Writers that,

in the last six weeks, him (Watson) and Michael Dal Colle have had a lot of chemistry.

Take a look:

McFarland and his management team traded for Michael Dal Colle on January 1, 2016. He was Drafted at No. 5 overall in 2014 as well, by the New York Islanders. He’s 6-foot-3 and weighs nearly 200 pounds, but this sort of build combined with profound talent is exactly the right match for Watson’s maturing game. They’re just good for each other… kind of like Dean Lombardi (Los Angeles King’s general manager) is good for Futa and vice versa. They compliment each other real good.

Now that he’s playing with Dal Colle, McFarland says he’s showing a lot of vision. Meaning, he’s seeing where the puck is going before it actually goes there. Furthermore,

his biggest asset is his ability to get the shot off quick,” McFarland says… and “his ability to get through players.

Looks Like a Kings’ Prospect

Watson’s 200-foot game is coming along rather well too. “It’s impressive to watch,” McFarland goes on.

He creates a lot of scoring chances. He’s very good on the walls and he blocks a lot of shots… he plays just as well without the puck as he does with it.

The Kings like to prospect guys who wear a letter on their jersey too. Watson is Frontenac’s Alternate Captain this year and it’s because “he works hard off the ice,” according to McFarland. At the beginning of the season this year,

he came on the ice in great shape. He’s not the loudest leader, but he sets a great example. He leads by example.

As mentioned earlier, Watson ranks second for most goals of all the Kings’ prospects currently in the CHL. Mike Amadio, drafted at No. 90 overall is the first ranker of these guys and Watson is similar to Amadio in this way. He has a nose for the net, as seen in Kingston’s fourth attempt at scoring in this shoot-out:

I think Spencer has done a great job,” McFarland tells The Hockey Writers. “He’s gotta be consistent and be at the top of his game every night and continue to get shots on net.

This has likely contributed to his improved precision at shooting the puck into the net.

The Role of Watson’s Size

Compared to a lot of the guys being Drafted into the NHL, Watson is a pretty small guy, especially in comparison to other LA Kings’ draft picks. Will his size play a factor on whether or not he’ll end up signing an NHL contract, though?

As a smaller player, you gotta compete that much harder and show that’s not a factor,” says McFarland.

It’s kind of easy to see what Watson’s weaknesses are, “Overall, strength.” says McFarland. “He needs to get it up to the same level as men. He’s playing against 200 to 215-pound defensemen.” That being said, “Spencer’s not afraid to go into the hard places,” and that says a lot about his character.

Let’s be Hypothetical for a Moment…

Let’s pretend that Watson wasn’t Drafted into the NHL and that he just became Draft eligible this upcoming June. Would he still go in at – or around, No. 209 overall?

That’s not for me to decide,” says McFarland. “Where you get drafted doesn’t matter. He was excited to be drafted by the LA Kings… LA is a team with a lot of success as of late, winning two Cups. For Spencer, it’s a great situation.

It’s a great situation indeed. Against all the odds, Watson is proving himself to be a highly skilled player in the OHL and that’s something to be proud of. He’s managed to catch the attention of the LA Kings and he continues to look impressive in every game he plays.