The LA Kings don't tend to draft a lot of high-end offensive prospects. Their system towards to lean more towards grinders and puck rakers versus fast, skilled guys, which has worked out okay for the last couple of years. Arizona, in the midst of a rebuild, has compiled an impressive collection of talented young skaters who will be seeing NHL ice likely within the next few years.
In the second game of the rookie showdown, once again, the Kings' prospects struggled to keep up against the Coyotes' better, swifter rookies. Despite the absence of fledgling NHLers Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, the Kings struggled in general against the likes of Dylan Strome and other excellent standouts on the Arizona roster.
Adrian Kempe, who had a decent game the day before, seemed lost and confused at times during the game. He had difficulty getting or hanging on to the puck and ended up chasing a lot.
Top LA prospect Valentin Zykov had a very bad game, taking three penalties (one in each period) and just flying all over the place. He seemed to struggle in the previous evening's game towards the end, but couldn't get it together at all in the following afternoon's game. Two of his penalties came in the offensive zone after he'd turned the puck over.
Zykov's antics were a bit symptomatic of the Kings in general yesterday afternoon: terrible team discipline.
Ryan Horvat boarded a guy in the offensive zone while on the penalty and received a five-minute major for his troubles; camp invitee Samuel Laberge seemed to enjoy his time in the box, as he was whistled for two infractions. The penalty party didn't end with them as a few others, including Kurtis MacDermid, also visited Dave Joseph in the announcer's box next to the home team's punitive holding cell.
The PK overall was excellent. Despite playing nearly the entire second period down a man, the goaltending was strong and only allowed one goal on a prolonged 5v4 (it was 5v3 but the first penalty had just expired when Strome scored). It was a bit of a shaky goal as camp tryout Jack Flinn couldn't get back to cover the post in time, but considering how much was spent killing penalties, it's hard to fault him too much (also, for the record, said goal actually happened in the third period -- sorry for the confusion).
Overall, Flinn was great. He allowed one other goal during 3-on-3 OT, but it was a rather pretty goal and not much he could do about it.
Alec Dillon, on the other hand, seemed to have trouble tracking pucks and getting set. He was a bit scrambly in the first period, making several desperation saves, though it didn't feel like he was in control. The first goal was a 2-on-1, in which Dillon made a strange read. He may have been trying to see around the defenseman who was defending the puck carrier as he was cheating to his left and reacted too late to the pass.
The second goal was from Brendan Perlini, who showed why he's one of the top prospects in the game. He slipped behind the Kings' defense (not hard to do in this series) and deked the goalie. I think a better goalie would've been able to stop it, but maybe I'm not giving Perlini enough credit who, honestly, made a fantastic move.
Camp invitee Ty Comrie got the Kings on the board 20 seconds later when he deflected Nick Ebert's point shot. It was a great lacrosse goal as Comrie's stick was parallel to the ice (though well below the cross-bar) and it seemed (in real time, probably would look different on a replay) that he just sort of volleyed it past the goalie.
Kevin Raine had a chance to pull the Kings even in the early goings of the second period when he had a yawning cage to work with but just shanked it past the outside post.
That was probably LA's best chance as they surrendered multiple odd-man rushes to the Coyotes. Of course, as I mentioned before, they spent most of the rest of that period on a continuous penalty kill, so it was a little difficult to really generate much offense.
The third period looked like it was going to be better and they had a couple of decent chances, but Arizona's goalie stood tall. They took three more penalties (one of which led to an extended 5v3 before the Coyotes finally scored on the 5v4 to lead 3-1) for a total of eight minor penalties and mostly looked tired.
The 3-on-3 OT was slightly less bananas than yesterday, but it was still fun to watch. The Kings came oh-so-close but unfortunately, couldn't capitalize and the Coyotes did. LA was outscored 3-0 in 10 minutes of 3v3 OT.
Despite their penalties, both MacDermid and Justin Auger looked a little better than they did the day before, which isn't saying much. Auger still has a tendency to play small and hunched over and not use his 6'7 frame to his advantage, but that's something for his coaches to work on in Ontario.
Sadly, some of the tryout guys looked better than LA's drafted prospects, but it's hard to read much into two games (even AHL-Reign head coach Mike Stothers said so!)
Two years ago (the year between championships), the Kings' prospects were skating circles around Ducks ' future stars in the likes of Emerson Etem and Devante Smith-Pelley. So what happened?
Well, when you trade away your first round pick and/or pick late in every round, you don't generally end up with the best kids at the draft. Of course, you already knew that.
Most of the guys who participated in this rookie tournament (on both teams) probably won't make the NHL. That's life. There isn't much to be concerned about in the showing of LA's kids. Progress and development are achieved over months and years, not in four days of camp and two games. And to be fair, only two of LA's "best" prospects participated in this game - Kempe and Zykov. Michael Mersch, Jordan Weal, Nic Dowd, Nick Shore, and Derek Forbort are all eyeing jumps to the big club and thus will be part of regular training camp with the established NHLers.
The depth is a little thinner than it was two years ago, but that's okay. As contenders, they don't really need too many high end players who are possibly future superstars. They already have Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Jeff Carter and a whole host of other guys who can help LA win a Cup now. Is the future scary? Absolutely. Should we worry about that? Eh, maybe in a couple of years.