Listen up, everybody. We've reached a very interesting point in the Top 25. The countdown so far has consisted almost entirely of prospects who haven't had an extended chance to show what they're capable of. We've had NCAA standouts, intriguing junior players, and even a couple prospects who aren't in North America yet. Now, we're starting to get to some names that you'll recognize not just from a scouting report or a draft profile. Today, we have a player who's been doing his thing for the Monarchs for a while now.
Brandon Kozun is small (a generous 5'9" and 162 pounds). Let's just get that out of the way immediately, yeah?
Kozun also scores points, and does it pretty consistently.
Of course, AHL scoring doesn't transfer to the NHL quite as easily. Kozun is pegged to be perhaps a 30-point scorer in the NHL, purely using past scoring numbers and not taking things such as size, experience, ice time, or organization into account. So, having said that, let's take those into account, as we look at why Kozun hasn't gotten the chance to produce in LA.
The size issue is self-explanatory. The Kings currently have ONE player under 6 feet; that's 5'11" Mike Richards, who weighs 200 pounds and has proven that he doesn't need size to hit or play defense. Similarly, the lightest player in Los Angeles has 25 pounds on Brandon Kozun; that's Tyler Toffoli, who leapt ahead of Kozun on the scoresheet and into the Kings' lineup.
Experience? This plays as a positive and as a negative for the 23-year-old Kozun. On the one hand, he's spent three full seasons with the Manchester Monarchs, finishing sixth, second, and second on the team in scoring. With that much ice time in the Kings organization, he wouldn't be totally overwhelmed when called up to the big time. I'm thinking specifically of Dwight King, who looked awful in his first stint with LA, returned to Manchester, put up similar point totals to Kozun, and contributed in a big way when he came back up. However, the negative is the fact that Kozun has been in Manchester for three years, and entering a fourth, doesn't appear to have a real shot at the NHL roster. The 2010-11 Monarchs (where Kozun first broke into the NHL) featured over a dozen players who made the NHL, and half of those were in the Kings' lineup last season. Looking at the roster, you can see that Kozun is one of the only guys on that squad still plying his trade in Manchester.
Ice time? Well, Kozun is getting his in Manchester. However, he doesn't seem like a fit on an NHL checking line, so it's likely top-6 or bust, though Darryl Sutter might be able to get away with squeezing him on a bottom line and giving him "easy" ice time. Recall that Tyler Toffoli was the one AHL forward who got a call last season; even though he slotted in on lines 2-4, he was utilized primarily in the offensive zone. As Gann Matsuda mentioned in his in-depth Kozun feature, Kozun has finally picked up the defensive side of the game; that can only help his cause.
Finally, the organization. The crowded roster means that Kozun isn't going to find a spot this season unless there are injuries. Kozun only has one year left on a $550K deal, but he's a restricted free agent and the Kings certainly have room for a cheap 24-year-old who produces at the AHL level and could serve as an emergency call-up. If Kozun played for another team, he might have gotten a shot at the big time already; instead he's been passed up by guys like Linden Vey and Tanner Pearson. But as Matsuda's write-up indicated, Kozun has begun working a lot harder to become a complete player. With five forwards becoming free agents next summer, an impressive campaign might finally earn him a shot at the roster next fall.
To keep up with all of our Top 25 Under 25 coverage, check out our storystream.
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