Chanelle Berlin of THXBUD graciously agreed to contribute a guest post to the series this year. If you're not following her or THXBUD on Twitter, then you are probably doing Kings twitter incorrectly, so fix that immediately then read her post about Alex Lintuniemi.
If you're looking for a defenseman that really shows the Kings thinking outside the box, you're not going to find that in Alex Lintuniemi. At 60th overall, Lintuniemi was the second defenseman the Kings chose in the 2014 draft. He's from Helsinki, Finland and listed at 6'3" and 231 pounds at 19 years old. Goodness gracious. That's exactly what the Kings love.
He's not a fast skater, but he uses his huge frame and physicality to win battles in his own end and can handle the puck, often praised for how well he passes.
That might contribute to why he has respectable offensive production. In his first season with the OHL's Ottawa 67s, Lintuniemi earned 27 points in 68 games. That production increased this year. Lintuniemi led all defenseman on the 67s with 36 points in 58 games, usually paired with fellow LA Kings prospect Jacob Middleton.
Michael Futa, Kings VP of Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel, says it was clear Lintuniemi had outgrown junior by the end of the season:
[Ottawa] had a really big turnaround to their season and he was a big part of that, getting huge minutes and playing in the power play, penalty kill and all different situations we'd wanted him in. At the end of the year, we just felt it was time.
Though described as a smart player, another criticism of Lintuniemi has been inconsistency. Teaching patience has been part of the Kings' focus in his development. He worked on it throughout the regular season and while playing for all of Finland's World Junior Championship games. Now Lintuniemi says that's probably what's changed most about his game in the last year: he's calmer. Going into next season, maintaining his fitness is his next focus. Kings scouts and coaches want to make sure they won't suddenly see Lintuniemi ragdolled around the ice by older, stronger pros.
But overall, the Kings already just seem to really like this guy. Darryl Sutter doesn't serenade every Kings player or prospect:
Things you don't hear every day... Darryl Sutter singing a few bars of "Happy Birthday," to prospect Alex Lintuniemi.— Rich Hammond (@Rich_Hammond) September 23, 2014
Though, to be fair, Lintuniemi is adorable as heck. Maybe Sutter just wanted to see his adorable smile:
Trading defensemen Colin Miller and Roland McKeown means Lintuniemi has an increased opportunity to shine in the organization. The Kings signed him to an entry-level contract just after the 2014-15 season ended, and he'll likely make the Ontario Reign team in the fall. Hopefully he does well enough that we'll all want to drive inland and sing to him from the stands