Loktionov is a talented young playmaker, but the Kings have logjam at center. What happens now?
Igor Larionov, Andrei Loktionov's mentor and agent, has made it clear he wanted to find his protege a new team since September. Now John Hoven reports the trade request is official.
The first signs of trouble surfaced this fall, when Loktionov seemed to be on the verge of playing in the KHL instead of reporting to the Manchester Monarchs. After he supposedly agreed to terms with Severstal, the team-run LA Kings Insider blog said the Kings might suspend his contract if that were true.
Suddenly, the KHL team wouldn’t comment. Loktionov appeared in Manchester, right on time for camp. But Larionov made no secret of his plans going forward:
He doesn't believe Loktionov was used correctly in his time in LA. If a trade goes through, we could see if he is right.
Too many centers
Loktionov, a skilled playmaker with a smallish frame, is one of the Kings' top forward prospects. Hockey Prospectus recently ranked him in the top 50 players under 23. However, the Kings have Kopitar and Richards locked up long term, and re-upped Jarret Stoll for another three years this summer. Attempts to shift him over to wing have been unsuccessful, and the Kings don't want to use him in the bottom six (despite the way Pavel Datsyuk broke into the league, among others). They do not think there is a place for him.
Could he thrive on another team? I think so. Last year he had an unproductive stint with the Kings, getting 3 goals and 4 assists in 39 games; but as a playmaker, he is going to get most of his points from assists, and he didn't have linemates with much finish. Though most of the team struggled to score, Brad Richardson shot just 5.1% that year, and Trevor Lewis was even worse (2.9%). He could bounce back in a different situation. One of his greatest strengths is creativity; a shot at the second unit power play could also help.
His contract isn't up until the end of the year, but will the Kings keep him in Manchester? After not even getting a summons to this year's training camp, Loktionov looks dispirited out there on the ice. This is his fifth year in North America. He could have made much more money in Russia, but his dream is to play in the NHL. The Kings have slammed that door shut.
He's only 22 years old. I could see another team picking him up on the cheap and finding much better use for him.
Where do you think he ends up? What would you want to get?