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2016 Top 25 Under 25, Part 3: Do You Prefer Size or Skating Ability?

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Our next five prospects each carry one or the other, and that's good.

drafted in '16, ranked higher than 16.
drafted in '16, ranked higher than 16.
Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images

15. Kurtis MacDermid

To put it mildly, it's a surprise to see MacDermid this high. Not because he hasn't earned it -- MacDermid made the top 20 on every single ballot -- but because MacDermid has never come close to making this countdown. Four years ago, he was undrafted, and played the majority of his games at the Junior B level. Three years ago, he had 110 penalty minutes... and nine points. Two years ago, he didn't make the top 25 of any of our voters. And even at this point last year, he had yet to play an AHL game. Now? He's a nasty 6'5" defenseman who was a top-four guy in Ontario for much of the year, and he's one of only eleven blueliners left at the Kings' camp. Sure, he got suspended for a dozen games last year, and sure, his offensive upside is very limited. But he's survived and thrived in a very crowded system. Good for him.

14. Austin Wagner

A fourth-round pick of the Kings in 2015, Wagner currently has one defining quality, but it is a special one. Wagner's speed is fantastic; in fact, Jon Rosen passes along management's belief that he's the fastest skater in the entire organization. If you're a 19-year-old player in the Kings' system, I'm not sure there's a better way to stand out than by being fast in an organization where fast players are at a premium. Helpfully, he's also 6'3" (albeit a skinny 6'3") and managed to jump from 39 points in 2014-15 to 62 points in 2015-16 with the Regina Pats of the WHL. Wagner has plenty of developing to do, and he'll be returning to the Pats this season to try and build on last year's success in preparation for a pro debut in 2017-18. Honestly, though, all I need to see is him skating down the wing a la Jeff Carter and I'll probably be sold on him.

13. Justin Auger

Like MacDermid, Auger's rise is surprising, although Auger at least found himself as an LA draftee. The Kings gambled on Auger in the fourth round of 2013 thanks to his 6'7" frame, even though the winger had just 33 points in his second year of draft eligibility and was didn't appear on the major scouting rankings. I guess we should learn to trust the Kings when they pick these guys, though. Auger made the Manchester Monarchs in 2014-15, which was a bit of a surprise. He never looked back, though, and his 19 goals last year with Ontario were only three shy of his career-best at any level. Auger is on a tier below guys like Mersch, Dowd, and Kempe, but when it's halfway through 2017-18 and LA needs to plug a forward into the lineup, Auger will be there. With a big body.

12. Kale Clague

LA's taken defensemen with their first pick, in the second round, in each of the last two years. Clague is the most recent, and of the two, he's the one who leans toward skating ability rather than size. Clague is only six feet tall, and that's if you're rounding up, but he apparently moves his body as well as he moves the puck. He got significant playing time on a Brandon Wheat Kings squad which won their first WHL title in two decades, he matched his season total of six goals in the playoffs alone, and he got to watch Ivan Provorov night in and night out. He was ranked in the top 50 of every scouting ranking leading up to the 2016 draft, and the Kings got him at #51. He's from Alberta, like Darryl Sutter. And his name is KALE! The Kings will bring him along slowly, but he certainly sounds like he could be a puck mover for the Kings for years to come. Immediate to-do list: recover over the next couple weeks from an injury he suffered in the preseason, then thrive as the assistant captain for the Wheat Kings this year.

11. Erik Cernak

And now, the other second round defenseman. Cernak fulfills the size part of the equation, which is good, because the 6'3" blueliner didn't have the flashiest debut season in the Ontario Hockey League last season. 15 points in 41 games would be a bit on the underwhelming side. However, coming over from Slovakia for the first time, a bit of growing pains might be expected. (He doesn't need the growing part though! Ha. Ha. Ha.) Cernak also battled a wrist injury, and was playing for a strong squad where his talents might not have gotten a chance to stand out. He has plenty of time to establish himself, but by all accounts he impressed in 16:26 of action against Arizona in the preseason, and he's getting a look with the Reign already. Good sign. It'll be interesting to see whether the organization decides Ontario, Canada, or Ontario, California, is better for Cernak's development.