Saturday, 16 February 2008

Playoff Weekend

My entire weekend is being occupied by our league's playoff weekend. Ok, so we're not playing for the Stanley Cup, but it's still a point of pride. We played last night, and things will continue today. In that regard, I don't really have much to write about due to my already-hectic schedule. However, I did get a chance to watch the Kings beat the Flames last night in Los Angeles, and I have to say that I am impressed with the Kings' young players. We know about Cammalleri, Frolov, and Kopitar, but it appears that Dean Lombardi and Dave Taylor, the former Kings' GM, knew what they were doing in trading for, drafting, and signing some of these great young players.

First, the goal last night by Teddy Purcell was pretty nice. Purcell played for the Maine Black Bears in the NCAA. An interesting fact from his college days is that he lost six teeth when he was hit in the face by a skate. However, Teddy perservered and is now starring for the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL. He's been called up to the Kings a few times this season, collecting his first NHL point against Anaheim with an assist on a Derek Armstrong goal, and collected his first NHL goal against Miikka Kiprusoff last night. He was named the game's MVP during this year's AHL All-Star Game, so he appears to be on the way up. The 6'3" forward looks like he could be a major contributor for the Kings in upcoming seasons.

Brian Boyle also scored his fourth goal of the season last night. The 6'7" centreman was the Kings' second pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft at 26th overall. TSN projects him to be a third-line centreman, but he looks like he has so much more to offer. He skates well, he throws big hits, he's very effective in his own end, and he scores goals. The Boston College grad led his NCAA team in scoring in 2006-07 with 53 points, and he occasionally played defence for Boston College at times. Honestly, he appears he be the prototypical power forward, and looks like he could be a Cam Neely-type of player. Boyle has tremendous upside, and looks like he fits in the Kings lineup this season.

Jack Johnson, a blue-chip defenceman drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes, was acquired at the start of the 2006-07 season along with Oleg Tverdovsky for Tim Gleason and Eric Belanger. Johnson was a high-flying offensive defenceman the Michigan Wolverines before he made the jump to the NHL. Johnson was also known for some of the big hits he delivered. Johnson has a pile of NHL experience at this point, but it has become apparent that defencemen need additional time to round into form as an NHL player. Johnson has looked good this season as he has been mentored by Kings' defenceman Rob Blake, and he has certainly appeared more comfortable. He only has nine points thus far, but he appears very comfortable in his own end this season, and looks to be the replacement for the aging Blake for many years to come.

The last guy who never seems to get the credit he's due is winger Matt Moulson. The Cornell University player was a solid played in the NCAA, never scoring less than 23 points in a season. He works hard, and plays bigger than 6'1" frame looks. Drafted by Pittsburgh in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Moulson was signed by the Kings in September of 2006 and assigned to Manchester. In 77 games with the AHL's Monarchs last season, Moulson recorded 25 goals and 32 assists while posting an impressive +26 plus-minus rating. Defensively, Moulson is very sound, and he knows how to score. In 22 games with the Kings this season, Moulson has five goals and four assists, and should be considered for a full-time roster spot next season. Although he didn't play last night, my opinion is that he would be a benefit in the Kings' lineup rather than some of other players the Kings are using this season.

If this sounds familiar, the Kings appear to be building through youth, and remind me of the Pittsburgh Penguins in their strategy. The Kings drafted goalie Jonathan Bernier from the Lewiston Maineiacs last season, and he's honing his skills in the QMJHL again this season much like Marc-Andre Fleury did with the Penguins. They have solid, developing youngsters which contribute and should allow the Kings to build upon. While they may be last in the NHL this season, drafting one of Drew Doughty or Steven Stamkos will only help their cause in further seasons.

The Kings are a team with vast potential, and I'd say a last-place finish next season would be nearly impossible.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Marie said...

Hey Teebz, great write-up about the Kings! ;)

Just a couple of corrections (I think): Boyle was the Kings' second pick. Brown was the first pick (the Kings had two first-round picks that year). And Jack was acquired in a trade just before the start of the '06-'07 season.

Teebz said...

Good call on those, KMS. I missed Brown when I was scanning the list for Boyle. And the trade happened September 29, 2006.

I've made the adjustments. I was in a rush since I had to be at another playoff game. :o)

Connie said...

Hey Teebz, thanks for showing my boys the love they deserve!

The reason you didn't see Moulson was because he was sent back to Manchester because the Kings thought Thornton and Cammy were gonna be able to play. Instead Purcell was recalled in that situation. Purcell and Moulson have been the ones who have been recalled the most this season. I'm curious to see how many flyer miles those boys have logged so far.

Also, one guy that's not a "young" guy, but that has made QUITE a showing is Jeff Giuliano. He may not have impressive numbers, but he provides the spark that is needed in the lineup.

The Dark Ranger said...

The day my beloved Rangers lost to LA was a sad one -- these young kids beat down our young kids, and a couple of our 'then-lazy' veterans (i.e. Jagr).

I must agree they reminded me of a young Penguins squad building for the future. In fact, they look pretty good already.

...those damn Western conference teams!!?