Our annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown has begun! 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 3, 2018, when the 2018-19 NHL season begins.
We’re taking a look at the best and the brightest in the Los Angeles Kings organization in our sixth annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown. Making his appearance on the list at #20 is Kurtis MacDermid.
Age: 24 (March 25, 1994)
2017-18 Team: Los Angeles Kings, Ontario Reign (AHL)
2017-18 Statistics: NHL: 34 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 P; AHL: 32 GP, 1 G, 5 A, 6 P (Playoffs: 4 GP, no points)
Jewels Reader Ranking: 13
Jewels Staff Ranking: Not Ranked
Last Year’s Ranking: 15
When these rankings come together, it’s always interesting to see how much our readers and our staff value past performance vs. future potential. There might not be a better example of how tough it can be to balance the two than this ranking. Despite playing 34 games at the NHL level, Kurtis MacDermid actually slipped in the Top 25 Under 25 rankings this year, and that was even as he was bolstered by a strong reader ranking. Who’s right? Who knows?
MacDermid received a lot of credit this season for exceeding expectations, almost immediately. With Kevin Gravel and Paul LaDue expected to lay their claims to a spot on the Kings’ blueline after decent debut seasons, MacDermid (along with Oscar Fantenberg) beat them out for a spot on the Opening Night roster. He hung on the roster for the first half of the season, scrapping and battling for ice time, and in the end, he mostly did what he was asked to do: prevent goals from scoring. The Kings allowed 2.1 goals per 60 minutes at even strength with MacDermid on the ice, and while slightly below average, that was better than the figures posted by both Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar! He also got his first NHL goal on Carey Price, a sentence that was a little more impressive in October but is still pretty good.
So the results were mostly acceptable. MacDermid really struggled to keep pace as the season went on, though, and the underlying numbers show it. MacDermid took minor penalties at more twice the rate of LA’s top five defensemen, and LA generated little offense while MacDermid was on the ice. Granted, for a rookie third pairing defenseman whose job is to be a shutdown guy, you can’t expect a whole lot of offense. But as LA attempted to find more offense from the back end, they decided that MacDermid was better suited in Ontario, and they were probably right. Dion Phaneuf’s acquisition ensured that Kurtis wouldn’t be back in LA, and LaDue eventually found his way back to the Kings. MacDermid’s first season ended up being a tale of “Hey, this league is really hard!”
It’s hard to see a scenario where MacDermid gets meaningful time for the Kings this season. Phaneuf is here to stay, Daniel Brickley was brought in as a college free agent, Paul LaDue is expected to push hard for a roster spot, and Oscar Fantenberg’s riding a strong first round performance into training camp. There’s still a place for guys like MacDermid on a lot of rosters, but as the Kings have looked to evolve recently, I’m not sure that place is here. Even worse, MacDermid is a left-shooting defenseman, and that is the most crowded spot coming into 2018-19.
MacDermid has an Ontario spot on lock, though, and LA might opt to use him as a short-term injury replacement if their blueline gets battered during the season. He received a two-year, two-way deal in the offseason, presumably as a reward for his efforts and for being — in the words of pretty much everyone — VERY coachable. Don’t overlook that if you want to project whether guys succeed in the Los Angeles Kings organization. (Also, I really want to make “Kurtis McDavid” a thing, so I’ll be rooting for him to bring some offense to the table.)
34 games on the NHL roster won’t happen again, but MacDermid’s already made it, and he’s certainly not gonna rest on his laurels. Maybe we’ll see him sooner than we think.