On Monday, the Los Angeles Kings announced a trade, sending Jake Muzzin to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 2019 first round draft pick and two prospects: forward Carl Grundstrom, currently playing in the AHL, and defenseman Sean Durzi. We’ll spend some time looking at each of the prospects to better understand where they fit into the Kings’ system.
First up? Sean Durzi.
Dean Lombardi, with his love of big, gritty players, may be gone now, but there are some parts of Lombardi’s legacy that will remain when you think about the kinds of players that the team targets. The Kings have been a team long known for collecting players with something to prove, and Durzi falls into that category.
Durzi was passed over in the NHL draft in 2017, and while some players have a hard time bouncing back from that, Durzi used it as motivation to improve his game, becoming more of an impact player for the Owen Sound Attack. He has a reputation as being a player who wants to improve his game, with Dale DeGray, the general manager of the Owen Sound Attack, telling The Athletic that Durzi was “willing to listen and work at what it was going to take to make him a better player.” Durzi’s efforts paid off and he was rewarded with a second-round selection in the 2018 NHL Draft, going to his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs.
Durzi’s game is reminiscent of Sean Walker’s, in that they are both physically defensemen who use their skating and puck-handling skills to get out of situations, whereas other larger, stronger players would use their physicality to make plays. Like many players coming out of major junior, Durzi will need to round out his all-around game by focusing on protecting his end of the ice.
The biggest impact Durzi will have for the Kings is in his ability to move the puck up the ice. The days of physical, stay-at-home defensemen are waning (sorry, anyone following the Matt Greene model of defense) and having the ability to make smart break-out plays is key in today’s NHL.
His skating has been perceived as an issue, particularly in his explosiveness, but he gets generally good marks for his speed. The Kings have been able to help lots of prospects improve their mediocre skating, so this shouldn’t be as much of a concern for the organization. He has dealt with some injury issues, including consecutive seasons with ankle injuries (surgery to remove an extra bone in his ankle, as well as a high-ankle sprain), and a left shoulder injury that kept him out for November and the beginning of December, but has bounced back each time in his performance.
What People Are Saying
Sean’s a really a gifted, offensively minded defencemen. The things he does with the puck are pretty special and he has worked really hard to get to this point. I know coming in at 16 and 17, we came in together, and he has worked harder than probably anyone I’ve ever seen. He’s earned everything he has got and he deserves to be recognized as a top defenceman in the league.
Durzi is a very smart defenseman who moves the puck at a pro pace and displays very good vision. He’s also a good puck handler who can show the occasional flash of top-level offensive skill. He’s a decent skater who has shown some improvement, but he still lacks explosiveness, particularly for a smaller guy. Despite that and a mediocre physical game, he still defends OK due to his intelligence.
George Burnett, Guelph Storm General Manager and Head Coach:
Sean is an outstanding defenseman that is able to make players around him better. We are excited to see his speed, skill and high-end effort level added to our blue line. [Guelph Storm]
He’s very determined, and when we talked yesterday the big thing he talked about was team. What we’ll do as a team, and what’s necessary. He may not have a letter on his shoulder, but we’ll see a ton of leadership out of him. He’ll support guys who have been going through this for the first time in our program. [Pension Plan Puppets]
The good lateral movement and gliding stride that are evident in his breakouts also help in the defensive end. Being a fairly undersized defender, that agility is critical to his ability to play defence. He’s not strong enough to be able to physically prevent forwards from establishing themselves around the goal, so he relies on positioning himself between the player and his own net to prevent shots.
Durzi is also a playmaker from the point. He has good vision, and the ability to get the puck through tight areas. On the rush, he is willing to join as the trailer, and wait for a pass from a teammate. He also makes a good first pass out of the zone. However, Durzi could stand to work on his stickhandling and puck protection. He is not as effective if asked to skate the puck out of his own end, or to lead the rush moving up the ice.
He’s not as elusive as top prospects Quinn Hughes or Adam Boqvist, but he sees the ice well, and started to get his shots off incredibly quickly last season. The question becomes: Is he fast and physical enough to defend against top NHL forwards?
Some highlights of Sean Durzi's big performance. I'm always impressed with Durzi's constant involvement in the play, even if it's not in the flashiest way. Always makes himself an option in all three zones. Dangerous passer and lane creator off the rush, too. pic.twitter.com/LtGi7g64r9— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) October 4, 2018