We’ve reached the final week of our Top 25 Under 25 countdown! 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. We’ve finally gotten to our first guy who played for the Kings last season, at #3: Jonny Brodzinski.
2016-17 Team: Ontario Reign (AHL); Los Angeles Kings (NHL)
2016-17 Statistics: 59 GP, 27 G, 22 A, 49 P (AHL); 6 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 P (NHL)
Current NHL Projection (via NHLe): 82 GP, 18 G, 14 A, 32 P (based on AHL stats)
Jewels Reader Ranking: 3
Jewels Staff Ranking: 3
Since most of 2016’s Top 10 players “aged out” of the rankings, it’s natural to see Jonny Brodzinski make a seven-spot leap from 10th to 3rd. With two full years of pro hockey under his belt, it's really exciting how his game has progressed. Last year, Brodzinski was one of Ontario’s brightest spots amid a tough season full of ups, downs, and injuries. His stellar play earned him a call-up with the big club for six games at season’s end. He didn’t score any goals, but did register two assists, two penalty minutes, and was a +2.
An interesting thing about the former Husky is that he's been knocked for lack of consistency in the past, despite scoring 21 goals all three seasons at St. Cloud State University. That’s probably because he struggled as a rookie with Ontario in 2015-16, failing to score a single goal for 17 straight games.
One positive he’s maintained over the course of his career is his low PIM, with the exception being his final year at St. Cloud State University where he managed an astounding 49 PIM. For a team like the Kings that struggles with discipline, a player like Brodzinski and his lack of penalties would be an incredibly positive thing. Known for a big shot, the center/winger really seemed to make himself at home in front of the net in the AHL.
Looking ahead, the Kings signed the 24-year-old Minnesota native to a new two-year contract in July after that strong six-game start. Though it’s hard to judge based on six games for an out-of-contention team, the Kings brass must have seen something they liked. While defenseman Kevin Gravel and most of Brodzinski’s regular AHL teammates stayed home, Brodzinski was selected to go to China with the rest of the regular NHLers. That seems like John Stevens and company probably were interested in gauging his skillset for the upcoming season.
It seems that Brodzinski continues to “make his case” as it were to John Stevens and Rob Blake that he should make the team out of camp. However, he is waiver exempt, meaning they would not have to risk losing him for nothing should they decide to return him to the Ontario Reign. With Jordan Nolan being placed on waivers, though, there is potentially an extra spot on the roster which wasn’t there last year. As of this morning, Michael Mersch won’t be taking it either, meaning the direct competition for Brodzinski continues to lessen.
But if he does make the NHL roster on opening night, he could be a very potent asset playing on Anze Kopitar's wing. (He’s been skating there at practice.) How long have fans grumbled about what could be if only Kopitar could play with a guy in his prime who can actually score? Someone with a diverse skillset such as Brodzinski may be just the ticket to reviving both the team's and Kopitar's rather anemic offense. Failing that, it might be interesting to see if Jeff Carter does well to shepherd this budding young star a la 2014.
In any case, Brodzinski’s future appears to be very bright.