2017 Los Angeles Kings Top 25 Under 25, #19: Chaz Reddekopp

LA’s had some luck with late-round picks, but Reddekopp is trying to become the first seventh-round defenseman to crack the Kings in this millennium. (Eventually.)

Our annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown is rolling right along! The rankings were determined by a combination of reader voting and our staff’s own voting. We then combined the reader rankings (50%) and the staff rankings (50%) to determine the top 25. To be eligible for the countdown, a player must be 24 or younger on October 5, 2017, when the 2017-18 NHL season begins.

We’re taking a look at the best and the brightest in the Los Angeles Kings organization in our fifth annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown. Coming in at #19: Chaz Reddekopp.

2016-17 Team: Victoria Royals (WHL); Ontario Reign (AHL)
2016-17 Statistics: 51 GP, 10 G, 33 A, 43 P (WHL); 3 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P (AHL)
Current NHL Projection (via NHLe): 82 GP, 5 G, 15 A, 20 P (based on WHL total)

Jewels Reader Ranking: 19
Jewels Staff Ranking: 20

The Kings don’t have as many prospects as they have in past seasons, but that doesn’t mean they are short in every area. In fact, when it comes to hungry young defensemen who are looking to break into the Ontario Reign’s lineup, they’re pretty well-stocked. Chaz Reddekopp isn’t a sure thing to play in the AHL or become a lineup fixture next season, but last season offers plenty of optimism for Reddekopp’s future.

Reddekopp was a seventh-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, along with defenseman Matt Roy, and both recently signed entry-level contracts with the Kings. Reddekopp wasn’t markedly different from most of the late-round defensemen the Kings have taken chances on further down the board; he was big (6’3” or 6’4” depending on where you look, 220 lbs) and raw, and he was a value pick after being ranked #89 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. While Kevin Gravel and Paul LaDue have reached LA after being taken in the draft’s bottom half, though, recent seventh-rounders Nick Ebert and Jacob Middleton are out of LA. Reddekopp had the odds stacked against him.

He still does, in fact; no seventh-rounder from the 2012 NHL Draft has even hit the ten-game mark in the NHL at this point, and no seventh-round or later blueliner has played for the Kings since Jan Nemechek on December 29, 1999. But Reddekopp has a contract, and that’s because he showed marked improvement in the two years since being drafted. Reddekopp was named assistant captain after being drafted, and though his penalty minutes were the only number that improved in 2015-16, his points per game doubled from 0.42 in 2015-16 to 0.84 in 2016-17. As per Brent McEwen, the Kings’ scout in Western Canada, the improvement was more than just scoring goals or by physically dominating younger players. Via Jon Rosen, here’s what McEwen attributed the point boost to:

When he got it, he knew what he wanted to do with it... Not just outlet plays, but he passes the puck hard up into the neutral zone and makes long, penetrative passes.

That kind of vision doesn’t always come naturally to a defenseman, much less one who already has NHL size as he looks to jump to the professional ranks. He also presumably got better at getting shots through as a result; in the below playoff game, his shots from the blue line set up two goals for Victoria.

Reddekopp is eligible to return to juniors as a 20-year-old, but he hasn’t appeared in a game for Victoria this season, and there’s a good chance he doesn’t. Zac Leslie, 2014 sixth-rounder, has taken a similar path and did play a full 20-year-old season in juniors before moving to Ontario, but the Reign had more sure-bet AHLers and fewer guys looking to make the move at that point. Reddekopp has the size and the toughness — he overcame a broken foot in mid-February to play in the WHL postseason — but can he keep up? We might find out sooner than expected.