Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. As we go through the summer of 2023, each day our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you a look at one NHL team’s top prospects or other topical articles. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, Kyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! You can find all the articles here as well as our extensive NHL Draft preview. Today, we look at the 2023 Los Angeles Kings Top Prospects.
For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or 25 years old. However, these are not hard or fast rules; we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
2023 Los Angeles Kings Top Prospects
1.) Brandt Clarke
Clarke has great hands. He controls the puck while moving at top speed. Clarke is good at leading the rush through the neutral zone, creating odd-man opportunities. He can also move the puck with a solid first pass. Clarke is effective at gaining the zone, especially on the power play. The ability to enter the offensive zone cleanly and set things up is invaluable. Clarke has high-end vision and passing skills. He can feather the pass through a tight area. Clarke uses his mobility and quick hands to create passing lanes and set up teammates on the power play.
Clarke has an excellent wrist shot and a very good release. He shows good power and is deadly accurate. His release is quick and deceptive. He can do a quick toe-drag and get the puck off from a variety of angles, fooling goaltenders. The quick release also helps Clarke to use that shot effectively on the rush. In the zone, he also loves to sneak in from the point, letting his shot go from the top of the circles. He can use some work on his slapshot and one-timer though. As he adds muscle to his upper body, he can improve the power of his shot. In any event, Clarke has used his wrist shot far more than his slapper.
2.) Alex Turcotte
The fifth overall pick in 2019, the Kings are waiting for one of their top prospects to make the jump to the next level, especially after the Pierre-Luc Dubois trade sees Gabe Vilardi and Rasmus Kupari leave the team. This should open a spot for Turcotte to compete for. Turcotte is relentless in his play, forechecking hard and causing turnovers in the offensive zone. He is a real thorn in the side of opponents.
He also has plenty of skill, with his ability to control the puck and make plays while skating at top speed a real asset to his game. Turcotte could use some improvement making quick moves and changing the angles to open up passing lanes and find open teammates. He is a smart player who reads the play well and keeps the puck moving effectively but often is forced into taking a safe pass instead of creating a great scoring chance.
3.) Martin Chromiak
Chromiak is a natural sniper. His wrist shot has a lightning-quick release. His ability to quickly toe-drag the puck or change the angle of his release freezes goaltenders and makes him difficult to stop. Chromiak’s wrist shot is also accurate and powerful. He also has an excellent snapshot and a very good one-timer. Chromiak has a real knack for finding the soft spots in the defence and getting open to take a pass from his teammates. He is not afraid to play in the dirty areas of the ice. With his quick hands and strong skating, he can also create his shot on the rush.
4.) Francesco Pinelli
Pinelli shows a good all-around offensive game. He can push the pace of play and create offensive chances. Pinelli is an excellent passer and has very good vision. He reads the play well and can move laterally to create a passing lane. Pinelli gets the puck to his teammates and puts them in positions to create scoring chances. He also moves well to open ice after passing the puck, looking for the give-and-go. Pinelli shows some good stickhandling skills and can carry the puck through the neutral zone as well as control play in the offensive boards in the cycle game. However, he sometimes needs to move the puck a little quicker. There are times he holds the puck too long and makes too many moves, skating into bad areas and losing the puck.
5.) Jordan Spence
In order for an undersized defenceman to succeed in the NHL, he will need to be an excellent skater. Spence certainly fits that bill. He has very good speed in both directions. His stride is close to looking like it came straight from the textbook and his acceleration is excellent. Spence also has very good edgework and agility.
Spence’s offensive game is based on his puck-moving ability. He has the puck control to skate the puck out of danger and past forecheckers. Once he sees an open man, he passes the puck up the ice. Spence is more likely to look for a short, safe, breakout pass than to look for the long bomb. He recognizes the importance of puck control. Spence also has poise and controls the play well at the opposing blue line. He uses his agility to open up passing and shooting lanes. Spence sees the ice well and can make quick passes to teammates, setting them up for scoring chances.
6.) Alex Laferriere
The next of the Kings prospects has a nose for the back of the net. Laferriere is a natural goal scorer and a pure sniper. His wristshot and snapshot are outstanding. The puck explodes off his stick with tremendous power. His shot is also accurate and he gets it off with a quick release. Laferriere’s shot is already NHL-calibre. He can create his own shot with soft hands paired with his skating ability. He also reads the play well, finding soft spots in the opposing defence and being set up to take a pass from a teammate. Laferriere also has a big slapshot and a very good one-timer. He can set up in the left circle in the offensive zone, getting that shot off from the “Ovechkin Spot”.
7.) Kenny Connors
Connors is a good skater and this allows him to play a 200-foot game. Offensively, he plays a very north-south style. He gets in quickly on the forecheck and creates pressure on defenders, forcing them into mistakes and creating offence. Connors also has a very good one-timer. He finds a way to get open without the puck. He is also willing to get to the front of the net, scoring on rebounds, passes from teammates and deflections. Connors is also an excellent defensive player. He supports the defence down low in the cycle game and also provides effective back pressure against the rush. He can be used in all situations, be it power-play, penalty kill, and at even strength.
8.) Samuel Fagemo
Fagemo loves to shoot the puck and will do so at any opportunity. He has a powerful wrist shot and a quick release. His accuracy is also decent. He has a knack for finding open space in the offensive end and putting his body in a position to take a pass from a teammate and immediately fire the puck on the net. Fagemo also has a very good one-timer. He is a good stick handler. Fagemo combines a number of quick moves with his speed and agility in order to get past defenders or simply to make a small move and create space to get his shot off.
9.) Jack D. Hughes
Hughes is an effective playmaker. He has very good vision and hockey IQ. Hughes is willing to be very creative with his passes, attempting to make passes through tight passing lanes, or a saucer pass over an opponent’s stick to get the puck to a teammate. This type of risky play can sometimes lead to turnovers, but also leads to creating a number of scoring chances as well. He does a good job of making give-and-go passes and working in the cycle game.
Hughes gets in quickly on the forecheck and forces opposing defenders to make mistakes. He will throw a hit to try and make a play. He is also willing to battle on the boards for loose pucks. However, Hughes’ lack of size and strength is still a limiting factor. He should be able to add muscle to his frame and this will improve this aspect of his game.
10.) Erik Portillo
The final of the Kings prospects lies in the crease. At six-foot-six Portillo is an extremely tall goalie. He takes advantage of his size by getting to the top of his crease and cutting down angles, giving shooters little to look at. His strong skating allows him to get back to the net and avoid being deked off the rush. Portillo does a good job of getting up and down. His long, quick legs take away the bottom of the net. However, he can sometimes have trouble with his five-hole. With his size, he can still take away the top of the net, even when on his knees. Portillo has a good glove and blocker as well. Like many young goalies, he needs to continue to work on his rebound control.
Kings Prospects Sleeper Pick: Aatu Jamsen
Jamsen has good size, but is a bit wiry. He needs to add muscle to his frame. His vision and strong passing skills help Jamsen to be an effective playmaker. He is also a good stickhandler and marries this with good skating ability to control the puck and make plays in one-on-one situations. Jamsen can make a quick deke and move laterally to open up a shooting or passing lane. A smart player, Jamsen makes good plays with the puck, setting up teammates for scoring chances and maintaining possession in the offensive zone.
Los Angeles Kings Prospects In the System
The Kings have graduated several players in recent years but still have one of the deeper groups in the NHL. Other players worth keeping an eye on include Akil Thomas, Samuel Helenius, Kirill Kirsanov, Helge Grans, Jakub Dvorak, Koehn Zimmer, and Kasper Simontaival.
Main Photo: Jason Mowry-USA TODAY Sports