The Youth Movement… Round 2

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Brayden Schenn #55 of the Los Angeles Kings skates prior to the game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Staples Center on September 15, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Jonathan Bernier #45 of the Los Angeles Kings plays against the Phoenix Coyotes at Staples Center on September 15, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Thomas Hickey #37 of the Los Angeles Kings plays against the Phoenix Coyotes at Staples Center on September 15, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The Kings defeated the Coyotes 4-3. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around what kind of a season I, and Kings fans in general, should be looking forward to. After analyzing the current roster, one statistic really stood out to me… Age. Currently, the average Kings player 26.24 years old and the team could be getting even younger. Many of the Kings top performers last season will enter this season no older than 25 years of age, including Anze Kopitar (22), Jack Johnson (23), Wayne Simmonds (21), goaltender Jonathan Quick (24), Norris candidate Drew Doughty (20), and team captain Dustin Brown (25). But with holes to fill on the blue line this off season, including the temporary vacancy left by injured alternate captain Matt Greene, is a second wave youth movement on the way?

Fifth overall pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and much anticipated center, 18 year old Brayden Schenn has played three full seasons with the WHL Brandon Wheat Kings and has increased his point total in each of the three seasons. Many are expecting Schenn to see some ice time on the Kings this year and I agree that we need to see what he can offer the big club, but GM Dean Lombardi usually likes to groom his young prospects for a few years and with a chance to play on world junior championship, don’t get used to seeing him up this year for long.

22 year old goaltender Jonathan Bernier lead the Manchester Monarchs to another successful season in the AHL and even saw playing time in the NHL. In 3 starts for the Kings, Bernier posted a 3-0 record with a stellar save percentage of 0.957, a goals against average of 1.30 and even chalked up a shut out against the Nashville Predators. The Kings drafted Berneir 11th overall in the 2006 Draft and gave him the start for their season opener in 2007-08 against the Ducks. He also won a gold medal for Canada at the world junior championship later that year. Look for Bernier to win the back up goaltender spot over Erik Ersberg and possibly even challenge for the top spot around mid-season.

21 year old Defenseman Thomas Hickey is also on the fast track to the NHL. The Kings selected Hickey with the forth overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft and is seeing increased ice time each year in the AHL. With great vision on the ice and excellent stick handling, his skills will undoubtedly make him a future team leader. A lack of depth on the blue line could mean some NHL experience for the young defenseman, but with only 19 games played for the Monarchs last year, look for Hickey to take on a larger leadership role with Manchester.

  • Eric Cooney

    I’ll be interested in the type of veteran, if any, that Lombardi brings in to help the defense. Not sure if Hickey is ready for a full-time gig in the NHL, especially after his shoulder injury last year, but I think he’ll be a solid maybe #3 or 4 NHLer when he’s got some experience under his belt. All I heard about the AHL playoffs last year was Bernier was dominant and Hickey absolutely controlled the power-play like he owned it. Muzzin is getting more and more buzz and I hear a lot about Johan Fransson too, but I’m unfamiliar with the guy. It also seems that Drewiske has to change some opinions before he gets another look.

    • Ruben Segura

      Well put Eric. I think Stoll, Williams, and some rumors even mention Simmonds, all as possible trade bait. I think they’ll ease in Hickey as we did with Bernier. With just over 12 million in cap space left, I think we have a lot of possibilities out there.

      • Gavin Humes

        Of course we won’t spend most of that $12 million, since we need it next off-season. If the Kings trade Simmonds for anything other than a blockbuster trade, I’ll be pissed. He’s a future heart and soul kind of player, and he’s got skill to boot! I see Hickey getting a handful (maybe as many as 20 games) this year, and the rest in Manchester. More if there are injuries on the blue line. If he stays healthy and impresses, he’s in the NHL for good in 2011-2012.

  • Dominick

    Johan Fransson is a year away according to hockeys future web site.It was last updated July 21rst 2010. Hickey is still a year away.I think the Kings see him as a potential future leader in LA and will take a good look at him before sending him to Manchester,regardless of the needs in LA, to be groomed(just like Bernier last year) into a top 4 defenseman.

    I like Muzzin,but think he lacks experience.Martinez(like Muzzin) has decent size, but looked like a deer caught in the headlights last year with the Kings.I wouldn’t be surprised to see him step it up and challenge for a few more games with the big dogs.Voinov I think skill wise can
    play, but lacks size wise.

    Another few points I’d like to add is that DL just signed Stevens to replace Hardy as defensive coordinater.We have(for all intents and pourposes) A sophmore #1 goalie, and a rookie back up.Starting out the season with a sophmore defenseman, and another 2 rookies on defense seems like a needless gamble.

    If we have to I think we could pull it off for a while, but it falls on Stevens and the coaching staff to make it work.

    • Ruben Segura

      I think Muzzin and Hickey both get some playing time this year so they can get a taste of the NHL, but they will spend most of the season in Manchester.

      I see Lombardi making a move to add a veteran defenseman into the lineup to fill the hole created by Sean O’Donnell leaving and Matt Greene being injured. Rumors have the Kings as players for Tomas Kaberle from the Maple Leafs. Kaberle is arguably one of the top 10 blue liners in the league so I’m nervous what we would have to give up.