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.