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 debut at #8 is Daniel Brickley.
Age: 23 (March 30, 1995)
2017-18 Team: Minnesota State University-Mankato (NCAA), Los Angeles Kings
2017-18 Statistics: NCAA: 40 GP, 10 G, 25 A, 35 P; NHL: 1 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 P
Jewels Reader Ranking: 8
Jewels Staff Ranking: 8
Last Year’s Ranking: Not Ranked
Los Angeles Kings fans are pretty accustomed to unrestricted free agents bypassing the beach in favor of other teams. However, highly prized college graduate, who had never been drafted in the NHL, ultimately decided that lux and year-round sunshine were worthy of his time. In other words: Los Angeles won the big free agency signing of the spring. Being that he’s a defenseman, it makes sense that Los Angeles would be one of his top choices as they have one of the best defensive coaches in the game and perhaps one of the best defensive development systems. (Seriously, this is a team that made Kurtis MacDermid seem like a capable NHLer nearly watchable and was able to utilize Matt Greene in a meaningful role for quite a long time.)
A native of Salt Lake City, UT (insert Trevor Lewis connection here because obviously they knew each other, sure why not), Brickley attended Minnesota State University (Mankato), where he quickly racked up accolades: In 2015-16, he was on the WCHA All-Rookie Team; WCHA Defensive Player of the Year, WCHA First All-Star Team and (West) Second All-American Team; and finally, last season, he was on the WCHA Second All-Star Team. If you’re counting, that’s an all-star team selection all three years he was at Mankato. Even more impressive when you consider that there only six spots available for defensemen.
Throughout his three years at Minnesota State, Brickley was 12th among defensemen in points, racking up a grand total of 35, for 0.88 points per game, which is pretty darn good for a defenseman. Consider this: Only 10 other players scored more points than him during that time frame and only player last year actually managed 1.0 PPG, which was Josh Teves of Princeton University.
Apparently the Kings were so thoroughly impressed with Brickley, they skipped the AHL route and brought him straight to the NHL, practicing with the team for a couple of days before drawing into his first game on April 5. The young defeseman’s debut came as a surprise to his family, who relayed to Helene Elliott, that Daniel had already been told he wouldn’t play.
They were ecstatic to see Daniel, a college standout who signed with the Kings as a free agent last week, but Matt dared to hope for more. He turned to club president Luc Robitaille, who had joined the family in a suite, and asked if Daniel might play.
Robitaille said he thought so, because a few other players had the flu. “I said, ‘How many guys were dressed in the warmup?’” Robitaille said. Twenty, Matt replied. He counted. Not 21? No, Matt repeated, 20.
”I said, ‘Then he’d better be playing because I know we’re not hiding anyone in the locker room,’ “ Robitaille said. “The funny thing was, he was still nervous, and when the players stepped on the ice and when he saw 78 step on you should have seen them cheer. It was absolutely fantastic.”
Elliott notes that the 6’3 blue liner acquitted himself well in his first NHL game. He has some rough edges to refine, but that’s natural for any player and will be smoothed out by the coaches over time.
Whether or not Brickley will make the jump to the NHL full time remains to be seen. He only played in one rookie game, but showed great poise in what ended as a blowout game. Perhaps last year’s circumstances were a one-off and the team would rather see Brickley develop down in Ontario before exposing him to a harder world of the NHL. After all, their roster is nearly set with only two defense spots up for grabs. With training camps getting underway, it will be fun to keep on eye on the 23-year-old former Maverick.