Our annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown has officially entered the top ten! 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. Week four of the countdown gets us all the way to #10: Jacob Moverare.
2016-17 Team: Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
2016-17 Statistics: 63 GP, 2 G, 30 A, 32 P
Current NHL Projection (via NHLe): 82 GP, 1 G, 12 A, 13 P
Jewels Reader Ranking: 14
Jewels Staff Ranking: 10
Up to this point in the countdown, we’ve encountered three 18-year-olds and a 19-year-old. They’re recent draft picks who are very raw, and though they have high hopes, it’s really difficult to know what they’ll turn into. We have four more teenagers remaining in the Top 25 Under 25, and three of them are very much unlike the first four: highly-touted, highly-drafted players who are strongly expected to be crucial pieces down the road. The last one is Jacob Moverare, and he lies somewhere in the middle.
Why’s he in the less-certain barrel with Rymsha, Villalta, Anderson, and Phillips? He was drafted in the fourth round in 2016, well after the blue-chip blueliners were off the board. He didn’t put up eye-popping numbers playing in Sweden before being picked by the Kings, and he was outscored by two other defensemen in his first — and only — OHL season. A third defenseman on his team, Vili Saarijarvi, was a third-rounder the previous season and scored at nearly a point-a-game in half a season. And Saarijarvi’s Finnish... so much for being the star European import on your squad. Moverare has yet to be “the guy” on his team, and he hasn’t had enough time to really set himself apart.
However, many of those negatives are based on perception rather than reality. Thus far, the judgments of the Kings and of other “hockey people” have favored Moverare in a way that few fourth-rounders have experienced. Just ask Mark Yannetti, Kings Director of Amateur Scouting (via Mayor’s Manor):
Moverare, in my opinion and our staff’s opinion, had the highest hockey IQ of defensemen in the Draft. Not of Europeans, in terms of all defensemen, we think he had the highest hockey IQ, period.
That kind of opinion gets you a three-year entry-level contract three weeks after being drafted, even if 111 players were picked ahead of you. More recently, Kings Director of European Scouting Christian Ruuttu has opined (via LA Kings Insider) that Moverare’s ability “nowadays comes naturally,” a nod to a player who isn’t electrifying but is smooth and able to adjust to what’s happening on the ice. Moverare was regularly used on both the penalty kill and the power play last year, and Mississauga finished in the top half of the OHL in both PP% and PK%. He’s the kind of player who would pair really nicely with a defenseman who is explosive and offensively gifted. Don’t take my word for it, though; take the word of Swedish coach Tomas Monten, who paired him up with Rasmus Dahlin at the 2017 World Junior Summer Showcase. That’s the Rasmus Dahlin who is expected to go #1 in next year’s draft.
Moverare’s distant hurdle is that he, like the vast majority of the defensemen in the Kings organization, shoots left. So if Moverare is competing with guys like Kale Clague for a LHD spot, and if fellow left-shooters Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, Derek Forbort, and Kevin Gravel stand in his way, he’ll have to stand out somehow. Then again, Clague played on the right at the WJC this year, and Martinez has played on the right for the Kings, both because other left-handed D forced the issue and made themselves indispensable. Perhaps Moverare can do the same, not by lighting up the scoreboard while on the ice, but by handling a second-pairing or third-pairing role so well that LA is afraid not to have him on the ice.
Moverare’s immediate hurdle is that he doesn’t skate all that well and that he doesn’t score many goals. Both of those shortcomings were noted by Chris Dilks (SBN College Hockey) in his draft evaluation last year, and though his point total jumped this year, it came from the assist column. Will a boost in ice time help him out this year? He and Vegas second-rounder Nicolas Hague should be Mississauga’s most-used blueliners, and Moverare responds with some offensive improvements, he’ll be in great position to make an impact for the Kings down the road.