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.
It’s a funny thing being on this list for so many years. It means you are someone who fans are excited about, you have demonstrated your abilities at a high-level, and you figure to be a key component of the franchise. It also means fans can start to forget about you as they become more enamored with the next young, exciting prospect. Sometimes fans might even become bored with you if you haven’t turned into a huge star by this point.
I am nowhere near being bored with Mike Amadio and his game. As a matter of fact, he is truly one of the Kings I am most excited about for the 2019-2020 season.
After being drafted in the third round of the 2014 draft, Amadio transformed himself from a player scouts projected as being a reliable, defense-minded center into a playmaker who scores and makes his teammates better when they are on the ice with him. Part of that ability to improve everyone else’s play is a testament to how responsible his game is in all three zones.
Over the course of his amateur and professional career, Amadio has shown consistent improvements statistically from one year to the next. He would pace the North Bay Battalion with 98 points (50-48=98) in the 2015-2016 season. In Ontario, he progressed from 41 points (16-25=41) in 68 games in 2016-2017 to 35 points (11-24=35) in just 32 games in the 2017-2018 season.
His game steadily progressed from his first season of NHL to the next one. In the same 2017-18 season, he totaled just eight points (4-4=8) over 35 games. Last year, while again splitting time in Ontario, he recorded 13 points (6-7=13) in 43 games. That’s six more points in just seven extra games. Robyn broke down some more of the fancy stats regarding Mike Amadio’s improvement here.
In addition to improving statistically, he also improved his teammates with the Kings. In fact, there was a stretch last season where the Kings most effective line was Amadio centering Kyle Clifford and Austin Wagner. The play seemed to be consistently in the offensive zone, and both wingers were finishing on some good chances that Amadio helped set up.
Zach Dooley had this quote from Mike Stothers where he praises Amadio’s game.
“It’s been unreal,” Stothers said of having Amadio in his lineup. “He has the puck all the time. We actually have somebody in the middle of the ice that has the puck, that’s making plays, he just makes everybody better. He just helps our offense immensely.”
For the 2019-2020 season, I don’t think it will matter whether Todd McLellan goes to his old ways of scratching younger, skilled players for defensive responsibility or if he is embracing the “new NHL” centered on skill and speed. Mike Amadio is a player who fits into both of those categories. It seems reasonable to pencil him in as the third or fourth center on the depth chart to start the year.
I see Amadio as the guy who will make you forget about all your previously beloved bottom-six centers. He will replace the likes of Nic Dowd, Nick Shore, Jarret Stoll, Mike Richards, and others in your heart. Why? Because he makes whoever is playing with him better in all three zones.
He could provide defensive positioning and slick playmaking for young wingers like Wagner, Luff, and Grundstrom. He could reinvigorate veterans by creating plays from the middle of the ice for Kovalchuk and Carter. Maybe he adds some offense and helps turn the tide by playing with reliable wingers Clifford and Lewis.
No matter what, I am excited about Mike Amadio this year. I don’t care if he slid from last year.