The Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes hosted two rookie games on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California. Both rookie teams were made up of individuals that have been drafted by their teams and signed to entry-level contracts. These teams also include young players that were invited to camp on an amateur tryout by the Kings and the Coyotes.
Dropping Both Games at the Hands of the Coyotes’ Rookies
The Coyotes’ rookies won both games, outscoring the Kings’ rookies by four goals in both games. The first game ended in a score of 7-to-3, seeing seven different Coyotes players scoring, while the Coyotes also added two goals in the 3-on-3 overtime showcase. The second game had similar results, with the Coyotes defeating the Kings 5-1 with one goal being scored during the 3-on-3 overtime demonstration.
Top-ranked Kings’ prospect Adrian Kempe set up Valentin Zykov’s second period power-play goal in the first game on Tuesday, but was shut down offensively in the second game. His all-around game is solid as Kempe sees the ice very well, can be physical and has good puck skills when handling the puck. However, he did not have the puck a lot in the second game and the Coyotes’ defense was strong on the line that featured Kempe, Ryan Horvat, and Justin Auger.
The Kings most recent second-round draft pick Erik Cernak looked defensively sound with minimal mistakes. He has the size, speed and international experience to be playing at an AHL level, but his age was apparent in some of his decisions with and without the puck. Defenseman Kurtis MacDermid was definitely a physical presence on the ice standing at 6 feet 5 inches and was not afraid to get nasty and drop the gloves. However, MacDermid had three penalties in the two games and had trouble making crisp outlet passes.
The Kings rookies lost both games, but there were positives from the two games. Rookie camp tryout Ty Comrie scored a goal in the second game on Wednesday. Tryout invite Jack Flinn plays a conservative game while using his 6 feet 8 inch frame to his advantage, while making some great saves from close range in relief of Alec Dillon midway through the second period of Game 2. Other players like Nick Ebert, Austin Wagner and Johnny Brodzinski had good looks with Wagner and Brodzinski scoring in the first game, but it was not enough to beat the Coyotes prospects. The games revealed that while the Kings’ organization still has an extremely strong core at the NHL level, their prospect pool has diminished with the exception of a few standout players.
The Three Kings’ Players that Looked Steps Ahead Other Prospects
Spencer Watson: a seventh round draft selection at No. 209 overall by the Kings in 2014. Watson is a smaller forward at 5 feet 10 inches and 170 pounds, but the London, Ontario native moves quickly through the ice allowing him to find open space, find open teammates and create opportunities.
Watson did not register a goal in the two games played, but had his chances. For instance, he found himself with a breakaway chance in the third period of Tuesday’s game. Watson is known as being a goal scorer, but looked to be a very cerebral player that uses his stick work and skating to the best of his abilities.
Alex Lintuniemi: Of all the defensive prospects, Lintuniemi looked very stable on the back end in the second rookie game held on Wednesday. The 20-year-old defenseman played big, made great puck decisions defensively and had maturity to his game that was lacking by most of the other defensemen on the Kings that played Wednesday afternoon.
Lintuniemi will turn 20 on Sept. 23 and started last season with the Ottawa 67’s before playing a handful of games with the Manchester Monarchs in the AHL. The Finnish defenseman was ranked as one of the top-10 prospects in the Kings’ system by ESPN’s Corey Pronman, but given how he played on Wednesday, he is steps ahead the majority of defensemen in the Kings’ system.
Patrik Bartosak: When looking at LA Kings’ Insider Jon Rosen’s live blog of Tuesday’s game, Bartosak’s name is mentioned frequently. Bartosak entered the game having played 28 games with the Monarchs last season and playing the final three games in relief of J.F. Berube in the Calder Cup Finals, leading the Monarchs to the championship.
Bartosak, a fifth round draft pick of the Kings in 2013, has had success at an international level, winning a Czech U-18 and Czech U-20 championship, and was named the CHL Goaltender of the Year, while also winning the Calder Cup with Manchester last season. Bartosak looked to take this rookie game as an opportunity to continue the good habits that has gotten him this far in his career.
It is hard to think the majority of Kings’ prospects still have ways to go considering the Manchester Monarchs just won the Calder Cup Championship. However, the two groups of Kings’ rookies (some playing in both games) could not match up nor beat the Coyotes’ rookie teams. Given that these two rookie games were played against only one other teams’ rookies, patience will be a virtue while watching some of these young players work towards playing in the NHL for the Kings.