Over the past few seasons, the Kings have seen first-hand what happens when you have thin goalie depth. They’ve repeatedly had to go outside the organization to find backups and positional depth. Martin Jones was the last home-grown goaltending prospect the Kings have had make an impact at the NHL level. With the acquisition (and recent contract extension) of Jack Campbell, the signing of Cal Petersen, and the drafting of Matt Villalta, the Kings are back on their way to having a strong goalie pipeline.
They made one more addition to that web of potential future goalies today by signing Portland Winterhawks goalie Cole Kehler to an entry level contract. Kehler went undrafted throughout his juniors career and, as many goalies tend to be, seems to be a late bloomer. He’s had a bit of an up-and-down career in juniors -- in the 2015-16 season, Kehler was demoted to the BCHL, a level of junior hockey below the WHL. Portland traded a late draft pick for him and took him on as a project, and he quickly got his career back on track.
This week's #JanesSaves features multiple counts of leather larceny and a goal line save you won't want to miss! Watch ! pic.twitter.com/8rquHPN8DH— The WHL (@TheWHL) November 14, 2017
This year has been a breakthrough year for Kehler, particularly in the month of November, where he racked up ten wins and one loss, which came in the shoot-out. He’s been named goalie of the month in the WHL twice this season and is second only to Flyers prospect Carter Hart in goals against average (2.20) and save percentage (.931). His 100th career WHL game was a phenomenal win over the Everett Silvertips, where he stopped 43 stops on the way to a 3-1 win.
@pdxwinterhawks goaltender Cole Kehler was all smiles after winning last night vs the Silvertips pic.twitter.com/oETpfJGlav— Chris Mast (@MastImages) November 5, 2017
The Winterhawks currently lead their WHL division and have seven points and two games in hand over Everett, the number two team. The Manitoba native has previously taken part in the Winnipeg Jets’ development camp.
"It’s just really special" Altona, MB native Cole Kehler on his invitation to #NHLJets Development Camp.— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) June 27, 2017
Presented by @SportChek. pic.twitter.com/jPBxGMoMvl
November Summary for @pdxwinterhawks :— Andy Kemper (@AndyKemper) November 30, 2017
11-0-0-1 (4-0-0-0 home, 7-0-0-1 road)
52 goals for, 20 goals against
PP - 21 for 55 - 38.2%
PK - 48 of 54 - 88.9%
484 Shots For - 404 Shots Against
Cody Glass - 13-13-26
Henri Jokiharju - 2-18-20
Cole Kehler - 10-0-0-1, 1.54, .953
L.A. Kings sign WHL Portland goalie Cole Kehler. Undrafted, he's been one of hottest in league this season. In what looks to be a shallow draft for goalies, this could be a savvy move— Ryan Kennedy (@THNRyanKennedy) December 8, 2017
Cole Kehler's 43 save, shutout win against Spokane on Oct 10th comes in at #7 on @Sportsnet's Top 10 Goaltending Performances in the CHL so far this season. https://t.co/Fpv3DxPZY7— Evan Richardson (@Evan_Richardson) November 9, 2017
This isn’t the first time this season the Kings have dipped into undrafted WHLers to bolster their prospect pool. At the end of November, they signed overager Austin Strand of the Seattle Thunderbirds to an ELC. Strand’s had an outstanding season of his own, already nearly matching his career high in points in less than half the games. He’s got ten goals (a new career high) and 19 assists through 28 games and serves as an alternate captain for Seattle.
As a big guy who plays with a bit of an edge, he’s not afraid to drop the gloves, either. Strand, who participated in the Edmonton Oilers’ development camp, stands at 6’4” and, grit aside, is scouted as a good skater who’s a strong asset on the power play.