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2015 Top 25 Under 25, #20: Kevin Gravel

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The big defenseman earned his first NHL contract this year.

Close enough to taste it.
Close enough to taste it.
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

After four years at St. Cloud State University, Kevin Gravel agreed to a one-year "prove-it" contract with the Kings in 2014, despite technically being a free agent.

Rank Player DOB Nationality Draft Year/Position Current League 2014 Rank
20 Kevin Gravel 3/06/1992 USA 2010/148th overall (5th) AHL (Ontario) 16

So you're probably wondering why Gravel slipped in this year's ranks. The truth is, I don't know. As Eric noted, their pool of prospects is considerably thin so after the first few, it feels kind of like a wash. At 23 years old, Gravel is probably reaching his ceiling as a prospect. That's not to say that he has peaked -- far from it -- but he's likely not going to be much better than a third pairing defenseman in the NHL.

To be fair, defensemen take a notoriously long time to develop. For example, Alec Martinez (drafted a month before his 20th birthday) didn't make his NHL debut until he was 23-years-old, in which he played four games and was sent back to the AHL. He started the following season in Manchester and eventually played 60 games for LA that same year. So it's entirely possible that Gravel could make his NHL debut soon, especially given the lack of defensive depth on their roster -- even with the recent signing of Christian Ehrhoff. Honestly, though, only Derek Forbort is ahead of Gravel on the development chart at this point (at least in terms of being NHL ready).

He had a tough start to his rookie season, needing to establish his game as Head Coach Mike Stothers rotated his seven healthy defensemen in and out of the lineup to evenly distribute ice time. By the middle of the season, he had established himself as a solid third pairing defenseman, playing regular minutes opposite of fellow giant, Derek Forbort.

Gravel has been compared many times to Rob Scuderi and Mayor's Manor believes these comparisons are "likely still valid." The 6'4 Michigan native earned praise from scouts at having shown "significant improvement" in Manchester. Gravel also impressed Mayor's Manor AHL correspondent Andy Tonge with his ability to use his long reach to his advantage and play positionally sound in his own zone.

Known for being more of a defensive defenseman, the former Huskies captain chipped in with six goals, 15 points and 23 penalty minutes for Manchester in 58 games before tallying five assists in 19 playoff games during the team's run to the Calder Cup. He also improved offensively in his last year at college, scoring 10 goals compared to the one goal in each of his previous three years. He'll never be an offensive dynamo like, say, Jake Muzzin, but this likely suggests that he's at least willing to take a shot. For what it's worth, Scuderi has scored a total of eight goals in 720 regular season games.

Depending on how things play out at training camp, Gravel will likely next in line for an NHL call up behind one of Jamie McBain, Jeff Schultz or Forbort. It seems like a long shot at this point, but patience has suited the big rearguard thus far in his career, and that that won't change now.