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. Appearing on our list at #13 is Jacob Moverare.
Age: 19 (August 31, 1998)
2017-18 Team: Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
2017-18 Statistics: 32 GP, 3 G, 18 A, 21 P
Jewels Reader Ranking: 18
Jewels Staff Ranking: 11
Last Year’s Ranking: 10
Jacob Moverare the second big, stay-at-home, European defender on our list. At 6’3, 198 pounds, he is similar in stature to Alex Lintuniemi but the lacks the same raw tools as his Finnish counterpart.
Instead, the Swede likely slots slightly ahead of Lintuniemi in our countdown thanks to his advanced hockey IQ. Ryan Cowley of Cali Sports News interviewed his OHL head coach (and former Kings’ development coach) James Richmond about Moverare’s progress.
“Well, Mo sees the game better than any other D I see,” Richmond said. “He’s probably the best defensive defenseman in the league. He breaks up plays and he’s a quick-transition player, but he works on it every morning.”
Wearing the “A” for the Steelheads this past season, Moverare skated on the top pair and found himself on the ice in most critical situations. The 19 year-old saw an increase in his production, averaging 0.66 points per game, up from 0.51 points game the previous year. He was also a key cog for the silver-winning Swedish squad in last year’s World Juniors.
A knee injury ended his season after only 32 games, adding some doubt about his prospects for the 2018-19 season. While he should be healthy enough for training camp, missing that assessment time in the second half of last season might land him back in the OHL for his over-age season rather than beginning his pro career.
His skating has long been a point of concern, particularly due to his lack of offensive skills. Richmond was known for his ability to help speed-challenged prospects in the Kings’ system and is working extensively with Moverare.
“He’s coming in every morning for extra work on his skating with me, and I’m teaching him things I taught as the Kings’ skating coach for the last four years,” Richmond continued. “And we’ve been working on that. So, he’s really coming along.”
If that skating does come along, he could find himself in the conversation as a bottom-pairing guy. His road to the NHL only looks longer than it did at this time last year, as the Kings’ defensive pipeline just gets more and more crowded. As Eric pointed out in his assessment of Moverare last year:
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.
With Daniel Brickley and Oscar Fantenberg now on board, it is only going to get tougher for Moverare to stand out. With his advanced hockey IQ, it is possible his best route to progressing his game could be to send him to Manchester where he will be challenged, rather than sending him back to play against teenagers again. If he impresses in training camp, he could even force the issue on an already-crowded blueline in Ontario with the Reign.
Beginning his three-year entry-level deal this year, the Kings are taking the long view with Moverare. While his likely ceiling is depth defenseman, adding another faction to his game at the pro level could put the Kings’ staff on notice. Whether that comes from an increase in his physicality as he matures or he makes strides with his skating, his advanced positioning and on-ice decision making make him a defender worth tracking.