Drafted in the second round (32nd overall) by the Los Angeles Kings in 2008, 21-year-old defenseman Viatcheslav Voynov has blossomed as a third-year pro in Manchester, posting his best offensive numbers yet with 13 goals and 33 assists for 46 points in 71 games. The native of Chelyabinsk, Russia, leads Manchester with a plus-19 rating, and he made his second straight AHL All-Star Classic appearance after recording a point in 10 of 12 games during the month of December.
As good a time as any to address the small-speedy-offensive-minded-defenseman-of-the-future issue. The Kings, right now, look like this on D:
Willie Mitchell - Drew Doughty
Rob Scuderi - Jack Johnson
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene
(Davis Drewiske, Peter Harrold)
- (As an aside: Martinez and Doughty are RFAs this summer. Harrold is a UFA. Willie Mitchell has another year on his contract. Scuderi and Drewiske have two more years. Greene has three.)
- Of the eight defensemen on the roster, half are not-big, offensive-minded, power-play types.
- The other four are stay-at-home guys.
- I'm just going to assume that four is the maximum number of small/speedy the roster can have at any one time.
- Voynov seems like he's ready or close to it. Thomas Hickey is having a very good year also, +12 plus/minus with about half Voynov's output. Martinez is having a great season in the NHL, no less.
- Nicolas Deslauriers is a year or three behind those guys, unless he's not; I assume he won't be NHL ready for a couple of years, but every time I see a bit of him I start to think maybe it will be sooner rather than later. I haven't seen a ton of him, but he looks Jack Johnson-ish to me: skilled, fast, mean.
- Nevertheless (and to avoid even more headaches) assume Deslauriers isn't part of the equation for another year or so. That means Doughty, Johnson, Martinez, Voynov and Hickey are five offensive-minded guys for four spots, and one of those spots is in the press box.
- Is Lombardi going to let Hickey or Voynov rot in the press box? No way.
- That's the advantage of having Drewiske under contract for another two years. It's easier to let him sit in the stands than it would be for a highly-touted whoever.
- So that means, really, Voynov and/or Hickey would have to beat out Martinez for a roster spot.
- Or else, they're going to spend another year in Manchester, and wait for someone to get hurt.
- Or else, Voynov will go back to Russia. I know there have been rumors, and I discount them -- really -- but it's only common sense that the kid isn't going to wait around forever. He's shown a lot of "good faith" by coming over and playing in the AHL for three years. Loktionov, who came over at the same time, made the Kings out of camp last year.
- Obviously, Martinez was promoted instead of Voynov, several times over the last two seasons. Voynov has undoubtedly noticed this. Maybe he's been doing a Bernier -- be the best in the AHL and force them to promote you. Like Bernier, he seems to have succeeded in that.
- My guess is Lombardi manages it this way: Voynov makes the team out of camp, as does Martinez. They give Voynov his cup of coffee and if he blows the roof off Staples he gets to stay. Otherwise, he returns to Manchester with a list of things to work on. Hickey spends the year in Manchester, but also gets his cup of coffee at some point when someone gets hurt.
- However, it seems pretty likely to me that all three of those players will be NHL players. And, with Doughty and Johnson already fixtures on the blueline, there won't be room for all of them. Who gets dealt, and when?
- I didn't even mention Jake Muzzin.
- p.s. I don't need an excuse to point out that Voynov won the fastest skater event at the AHL all-star game, and his time, 14.197 seconds, was better than Michael Grabner's 14.238, which won the NHL version of the event. And Grabner, in case you haven't noticed, is (um) fast.