Our seventh 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 and the staff rankings to determine the top 25. To be eligible for the countdown, a player must be 24 or younger on October 2, 2019, when the 2019-20 NHL season begins.
Here are three totally unrelated facts which I need to get out of the way before starting this piece.
- At 5’7”, Blake Lizotte is the shortest player to appear in a game for the Los Angeles Kings since Corey Millen in Game 5 of the 1993 Stanley Cup Final.
- Blake Lizotte is the first college free agent to be signed and play for the Kings in the final game of the regular season since... uh... Daniel Brickley, one year earlier.
- Blake Lizotte went to St. Cloud State, like 25% of the other players profiled on this year’s countdown thus far.
I think that knocks out the somewhat lazy talking points which I was going to rely on, which is great! Now I just have to write about... a player who wasn’t drafted, who has played one game during his time in the Los Angeles Kings organization, and who I can’t easily compare to anyone else currently on the team. Let’s see what we can do.
For starters, the fact that we’re even writing about Blake Lizotte is a bit of a stunner. Lizotte was undrafted, sure, but his path was much more unconventional than simply being overlooked at 18. Last year, he became the first NHLer from his high school (Chisago Lakes in Minnesota) and his North American Hockey League team (the outstandingly-named Minot Minotauros). In the NAHL, he put up the best U-18 season by any player that season, which was enough to get him to St. Cloud State. It wouldn’t get him drafted, though; that’s for guys like Brandon Saad, who was a point-per-game player at 16 in the NAHL. Instead, Lizotte excelled at the NCAA level and got his shot.
Lizotte is the first alum of Chisago Lakes High School, and first alum of the Minot Minotauros to play in the NHL. Kid beat the odds with an absolutely incredible work ethic. So cool to see. https://t.co/Iwn3XkaCO8— Chris Dilks (@ChrisDilks) April 6, 2019
Here’s what we wrote about Lizotte back in April, when he first signed with LA and prepared for his debut:
Lizotte put up 42 points (14 goals, 28 assists) in 37 games with St. Cloud, whose season ended last week after an upset to underdog American International. (St. Cloud was the number one seed in the NCAA, going 30-5-3 on the season.) He generally anchored the Huskies’ top line throughout the season. Last season, he was named to the All-NCHC Rookie Team and also received the NCHC’s Rookie of the Year award. This season, he received NCHC First Team All-Star honors.
Listed at 5’7”, Lizotte is on the smaller side, but the Kings’ scouting staff clearly honed in on a player who exhibits a high compete level. He’s excelled at every level he’s played in and is regarded as a player with a high work ethic who will do what it takes to work on any areas of concern. Lizotte is generally known as a playmaker who is working on increasing his scoring.
You know what you want out of Lizotte: playmaking, quickness, energy, occasional goals, so on and so forth. If you prefer a briefer description of what Lizotte can bring to the table, he calls himself a waterbug. Everyone has the same concern about whether a player of Lizotte’s stature will successfully adjust to the NHL landscape, and frankly, I can’t tell you how he’ll do. This year will be enlightening. I’d love to project Lizotte to make as big a splash as teammate Ryan Poehling, who picked up a hat trick in his NHL debut with Montreal. Poehling was a first-rounder in 2017, though, and Lizotte simply doesn’t project to be the game-changing talent you can find in the first round of the NHL Draft.
What he does have — speed, namely — is something LA can use more of, though. Given Lizotte’s (appropriately) speedy ascent, and the fact that he left St. Cloud State a year earlier than expected, Ontario seems like a logical landing spot. He’ll get to play with former teammate Mikey Eyssimont, he’ll be able to ingrain himself in the Kings’ system, and he’ll have a merit-based path back to the NHL. Essentially, if he outscores his teammates, he’ll get a call-up. Considering that’s all he’s ever done, I like his chances.
If he needs motivation, just count all the guys we put ahead of him that haven’t gotten their feet wet in the NHL yet. And don’t show him that #1 reader vote he got.