Kings Prospect Watch: Juniors and Beyond
Some names to keep tabs on. You might need to know them in a few years.
Back in December, we spent some time looking at Kings prospects who are already playing at the AHL level. Today, we’re going to take a deeper dive and look at players at the juniors and college level, who are a little further away from making an impact. With the trade deadline approaching, some of these names might be worth keeping an eye on.
Erik Cernak, defense (Erie Otters, OHL): The big Slovakian defenseman (6’3”, 221 lbs.) isn’t exactly lighting up the scoresheet in Erie, with just 12 points over 34 games (2G, 10A). His career high in points was set last season in the OHL, with four goals and eleven assists over 41 games. Cernak is known more for being a physical presence than a points machine. Until joining the Otters, Cernak’s experience was all with the national team. He played with the Slovakian team for World Juniors and finished the tournament with one assist in five games played. (2015 draft pick, 2nd round)
Jacob Moverare, defense (Mississauga Steelheads, OHL): The Swedish defenseman was one of the final cuts from Sweden’s World Juniors team this year. Like Erik Cernak, he’s probably not going to ever chart high on the points scale, but is a relatively solid stay-at-home defenseman. In his first year playing in North America, Moverare has 31 points (2G, 16A) in 48 games played. (2016 draft pick, 4th round).
Kale Clague, defense (Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL): Clague got a late start on his juniors season this year due to an injury sustained during Kings training camp, but that hasn’t stopped him from leading all defensemen on the Wheat Kings in points (four goals, 29 assists) in around 17 less games played (he’s been in 28 games out of a possible 55). Clague was a great defender for the Canadian team at World Juniors and finished fifth in defenseman scoring, with six assists in seven games. (2016 draft pick, 2nd round)
Steven Johnson, defense (Minnesota, NCAA): Johnson’s in his junior year with the Golden Gophers and has been a reliable presence on the back end this season. He’s got 14 assists in 27 games played, with 10 of those coming on the power play. In what’s a familiar story for Kings defensive prospects, Johnson isn’t known for putting up points. His career high was 31 during his season in the USHL. Johnson is still looking for his first goal this season. (2014 draft pick, 4th round)
Chaz Reddekopp, defense (Victoria Royals, WHL): Reddekopp fits the mold of the types of defensemen the Kings usually select -- big, physical, defense-first -- but he’s also been figuring out his offensive upside this season in Victoria. He’s having a huge season -- he’s fifth in points on his team and leads the Royals’ defensemen with 43 points (10G, 33A) in 50 games. After an iffy start to the season, the Royals have won six of their last ten and hold the first wild card spot in their conference. (2015 draft pick, 7th round)
Jacob Friend, defense (Owen Sound Attack, OHL): Hey! Look! Another big, physical defenseman. He’s been described as being a player in the “Matt Greene mold”, so you know what you’re going to get. The Kings have a type, okay? Friend is viewed as more of a shut-down defender and has 12 points (2G, 10A) in 40 games. More notably, he leads the Attack in penalty minutes with 54, including two fighting majors. (2016 draft pick, 7th round)
Matt Roy, defense (Michigan Tech, NCAA): Roy was an unranked skater going into his third year of draft eligibility but the Kings must have noticed something they like in the defensemen in order to grab him with their seventh round pick in 2015. The junior currently leads the Huskies in points, with five goals and 14 assists in 33 games. Unlike many of the other defensemen in the Kings’ organization, Roy is known as more of a puck mover and an offense creator. While seventh round draft picks don’t often pan out into NHL material, it will be interesting to watch Roy’s continued development at the college and hopefully AHL level. (2015 draft pick, 7th round)
Alexander Dergachyov, forward (SKA St. Petersburg, KHL): Dergachyov is a prospect who would certainly benefit from coming to North America to play. He’s played under the SKA umbrella for his whole career in Russia, and while he put up big points on his U20 team, he’s hardly had any production at all since joining the men’s league. Dergachyov’s been limited to three assists over 29 games, and is averaging just 10:02 in ice time per game. He’s got good hands and a great shot release but isn’t being given the opportunity to use them or develop. His KHL contract runs through April 2018, so unless circumstances change, it’s going to be another year of his development being hindered by playing on a stacked team. (2015 draft pick, 3rd round)
Michael Eyssimont, forward (St. Cloud State, NCAA): Scouts have touted Eyssimont as a high hockey-IQ player and a goal scorer. The college sophomore spent a little over two seasons in the USHL before heading to college. Thirty games into the season, Eyssimont leads his team in scoring, with 12 goals and 14 assists. (2016 draft pick, 5th round)
Matt Schmalz, forward (Owen Sound Attack, OHL): Schmalz is the second Kings prospect on the Attack, joining the team after three and a half seasons in Sudbury (and half a season in Kitchener). He was passed over in the 2014 draft before being selected by the Kings in 2015. He’s in the “power forward” mold, a big guy at 6’6”, who’s bounced around a bit in the OHL. He’s in his final year of eligibility and has 25 points (13G, 12A) in 47 games. Schmalz joined the Ontario Reign for three games at the end of last season, getting a goal and an assist in the regular season closer. (2015 draft pick, 5th round)
Matt Luff, forward (Hamilton Bulldogs, OHL): Luff was signed after a promising showing as a prospect camp invitee this year. His time in the OHL has been inconsistent, leading to him being passed over in the 2015 draft. After a slow start, he led the Bulldogs in scoring in the 2015-16 season. He’s fourth in scoring on his team this year (18G, 21A) but has played 17 less games, having missed time due to a shoulder injury. Luff led the Bulldogs in scoring before he went out. Since his return, he’s got 19 points (including one three-assist night) in 20 games. (2016, free agent signing)
Austin Wagner, forward (Regina Pats, WHL): Wagner’s development in juniors has been slow and steady, taking on an increasing amount of responsibility with each year. He’s not a flashy player and while he’s been increasing his points production over the years, several scouting reports indicate that he needs to improve his skating. Wagner could possibly project out to be a bottom-six type player. He’s got 25 goals and 31 assists in 47 games played this season, good for sixth on his team. (2015 draft pick, 4th round)
Spencer Watson, forward (Mississauga Steelheads, OHL): There was hope that Watson, signed to his ELC in 2016, would join the Ontario Reign this season. However, recovery from wrist surgery limited his summer training time, as well as his season this year, making it preferable for the high-scoring forward to finish out his last year in juniors rather than jumping into pro hockey. Watson is one of the Kings’ more exciting prospects, often being described as a pure goal scorer. He’s on the smaller side, which could work against him in the organization, but it should be exciting to watch him make the leap to the AHL next year. Watson was traded earlier this season from the Kingston Frontenacs to Mississauga, where he doesn’t seem to have lost a step at all despite his injury. He has 30 points (20G, 10A) in 26 games played and is second in goals despite missing half the season. (2014 draft pick, 7th round)
Alec Dillon, goalie (Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL): Dillon’s the first legitimate goalie prospect the Kings have in their system and -- guess what? He’s injured. Dillon’s generally been regarded as more of a long-shot prosepct, as goalies often are, but it’s disappointing that he hasn’t been able to get in a full season in the WHL yet. He played a full season in the BCHL (second tier Canadian juniors), then shifted to the USHL for a season. While he was initially slated to go the NCAA route, Dillon ended up joining the Oil Kings instead. He was projected to be a starter for them, but a lower body injury early in his 2015-16 season limited him to just seven games, and hip surgery this year has shut him down for 2016-17. Hopefully Dillon can stay healthy and finish out his junior eligibility next year so the team can get a better idea of what they’re working with. (2014 draft pick, 5th round)