In a season like this one for the Los Angeles Kings, it’s pretty easy to turn your attention towards prospects. And it’s the most magical time of year for it, with the annual World Junior Championships just around the corner.
The 2019 installment of World Juniors will be held between December 26 and January 5, with games being played in Vancouver and Victoria. Countries right now are naming their preliminary squads so that players can assemble for evaluation and selection camps.
Several high profile Kings prospects have been selected to represent their countries, making the tournament some pretty must-watch games for Kings fans.
Mikey Anderson: The University of Minnesota-Duluth defenseman will make his second appearance at World Juniors. He played in seven games in the previous tournament, registering one assist. He’s expected to take on more minutes for the US squad. He was a fourth round pick in 2017.
Rasmus Kupari: The Kings’ 2018 first round pick is expected to play a big role for Finland’s squad this year. Kupari has silver and gold medals from U18 World Juniors tournaments in the past; he also played on last year’s U20 squad, registering no points over five games. He’s looking to make a big impact this year.
Johan Sodergran: The big Swedish winger has put up 10 points over 20 games in the SHL this season. Selected in the sixth round in the 2018 draft, Sodergran has limited international experience prior to this and would most likely play a depth role in the tournament.
Gabe Vilardi: Vilardi’s appearance in this tournament was in doubt, but that’s because everyone thought he’d be up with the Kings and therefore not released to participate. His lengthy rehab from his back injury has changed this assumption, though. He’s looked fine through three games with the Ontario Reign, and now will presumably get the chance to finally represent Canada at World Juniors. He was selected by the Kings in the first round of the 2017 draft.
Markus Phillips: Phillips, a 2017 fourth round pick, could make his World Juniors debut this season. He flies under the radar of many Kings fans but has played for Hockey Canada before. The defenseman has nine points in 29 games for Owen Sound this year. He played on Canada’s U17/U18 squads in 2016-17.
Matt Villalta: The Sault Ste. Marie goaltender has had a weird season, missing several weeks of play after a freak accident during warmups, where his leg was cut by a linesman’s skate. In 19 games for the Greyhounds, he has 13 wins and should see a lot of play for Team Canada. The Kings drafted Villalta in the third round of the 2017 draft.
Jaret Anderson-Dolan: Anderson-Dolan is doubtful for both camp and the tournament, as he’s still recovering from surgery in November to repair a broken wrist. It’s a disappointment for sure for the young player who played well in his audition with the Kings at the beginning of the season. The Kings returned him to the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs ostensibly to continue to develop his game, but probably mostly to keep him out of the somewhat negative Kings environment. The hopes were that he’d be able to dominate in the WHL and participate in his first World Juniors tournament, but his injury has cast doubt on that.
The players are embarrassed, but will the losing cease? Doubtful. [Jewels from the Crown]
Chicago (-30 differential) has lost six in a row. The Kings (-28 ) dropped four of the their last five and remain in last place, 12 points out of a playoff spot.— lisa dillman (@reallisa) December 7, 2018
Yea, those coaching changes really worked in both places...
Post-game notes and quotes from Willie Desjardins, Anze Kopitar, and Drew Doughty. [Kings Insider]
Some unexpected players managed to finally beat Keith Kinkaid, but it still wasn’t enough. [Los Angeles Times]
Sheldon Rempal talks about his most recent stint in the NHL and integrating back into the Ontario Reign. [Reign Insider]
Gasper Kopitar, younger brother of Anze, announces his retirement from professional hockey.
The entire Monarchs organization would like to thank @GasperKopy13 for the past four seasons and wish him nothing but the best in retirement! With the Monarchs, Kopitar racked up 53 points (16g, 37a) in 106 career games. https://t.co/bYp4aDhuSJ#GraniteStateGrit pic.twitter.com/OiOXnvC1qC— Manchester Monarchs (@MonarchsHockey) December 5, 2018
Elsewhere in the World
Connor McDavid can’t possibly be human, right? [TSN]
Wisconsin Badger Annie Pankowski writes about being cut from the eventual gold medal-winning US women’s squad and finding her love for hockey again. [My Words]
What impact will climate change play on the future of hockey? [The Athletic]
With organizational depth meaning that players don’t have to be promoted to the NHL before they’re ready, the Winnipeg Jets are finally having success in using their AHL squad as a true place of development. [Arctic Ice Hockey]
Preliminary rounds of the Para Hockey Cup end today; the US sled hockey team takes on South Korea today and, having gone undefeated so far in the tournament, will face Canada in the championship. [USA Hockey]
Have teams learned their lessons about making deals around the expansion draft? What kind of team will Seattle end up with? [Washington Post]
Already looking ahead to the 2020 draft? Here’s a profile of Alexis Lafrenière, already expected to be the first overall pick. [The Athletic]
Change the playoffs format? It’s not as wild as you think. [ESPN]
Your Evening Entertainment
While I can’t wholeheartedly recommend watching a Minnesota Wild game, they do face off against the Edmonton Oilers tonight, and while I also can’t wholeheartedly recommend watching an Edmonton Oilers game, either, I do sure like to watch Connor McDavid play. So just pay attention to the McDavid bits — granted, that’s about 30 minutes of ice time, so that’s a lot of Wild/Oilers to watch — and then keep an eye on Twitter to see if Justin Williams does anything against the Ducks. Like, does he score a goal? Does he smile gently at anyone? Does he laugh in Ryan Getzlaf’s face for any reason? Does he look happy? Is he eating well? Does he need a sweater? Someone get me his address, I’ll send a care package.
Minnesota/Edmonton kicks off at 6:00 pm Pacific and can be streamed via the NHL’s streaming package. Carolina/Anaheim starts at 7:00 Pacific and for in-market SoCal viewers will air on Prime.