Heirs to the Throne: Part Two

A look at the goaltending prospects in the Kings organization

In part one of our look at the Los Angeles Kings’ goaltending situation, we looked into Jonathan Quick’s injury record and how the future might play out for him and the Kings organization as a whole. Unfortunately, the bad news came all too quickly with word that our starting net minder would be out “indefinitely” for a meniscal injury. While the news may be dire, there is still a light at the end of the tunnel.

Part two of this two-part series is going to a take a look into the goalies the Kings have in the prospect pipeline and who among them might be the next heir to the goaltending throne in LA.

Jack Campbell

Perhaps the most immediate replacement for Quick, Campbell has been thrust into the spotlight this season. To be entirely fair to Campbell, he has acquitted himself very well so far with a 2.67GAA and .912SV%. As I stated in part one, I don’t think he is the future of this organization, but he is definitely a good stand-in for Jonathan Quick.

I do think it will end up being a situation similar to what the New Jersey Devils have going on with Keith Kinkaid and Cory Schneider. Schneider has had serious injuries several times over the last few years, and most recently, was out for the latter half of last season for a total of 41 games.  Kinkaid filled in admirably for that period and for parts of this season. At this point Kinkaid could be viewed as a 1B rather than a true backup goalie for the Devils. To date, Kinkaid has nearly identical numbers to Campbell, with a 2.67GAA and a .913SV%

But enough of the Eastern Conference. How this affects the Kings is that at the age of 26, Campbell will likely be looking for a bump in salary and a larger role when his contract expires at the end of 2019-2020 season. Since Quick is on the books until the end of the 2023 season, keeping Campbell around might be a smart idea as he and Quick could become more of a 1A/1B tandem as Quick enters the twilight of his career.

This, of course, is if the status quo is maintained. Should one of the other prospects play their way into contention for the spot, then it would be better to allow the prospect to develop under the tutelage of Quick, than keep Campbell under contract.

Peter Budaj

Budaj is definitely not one for the future, and at the age of 36 he is the elder statesman of the goalie pool within the organization.  He may have had a good run with the Kings a few years ago, but he current performances do not inspire confidence.

Cal Petersen

The first true heir to the throne, at 24 years old, Cal Petersen still has some development to do before he is ready for the NHL. The 6’4” Notre Dame alum was originally drafted by Buffalo before signing with the Kings as a free agent and plays a much more conservative style in comparison to both Quick and Campbell.

Hockeysfuture.com describes him as “… a quick, athletic goalie who models his game after Tuukka Rask. He does not get scored on often down low because of his quick feet. He controls rebounds well and catches with his right hand, which poses a challenge to shooters. His focus and stamina are both very good, which helps him cope with the physical and mental pressures of being an everyday starter”

His first year in the AHL was an excellent start as he earned AHL All-Star honors posting a 2.58GAA and .910SV%. However, the beginning of his second year has been less than stellar as he has suffered from playing behind the beleaguered defense of Ontario. Officially, he has a GAA of 4.20 and a SV% of .879.  It’s not all doom and gloom for Petersen though, as his last two appearances with the Reign this past weekend were more indicative of what he is capable of.  In those two games he posted a GAA of 2.50 and a SV% of .927, averaged over both games. The hope is that with continued playing time he will develop into the goaltender many project him to be. In another year or two he could be ready for “The Show” but, for right now, he needs to stay with Ontario to get as much playing time as possible.

A final note on Petersen; he is an RFA at the end of the year so his contract situation will need to be ironed out this summer. Not that it should be of major concern, but it should be a priority for the Kings in the off season.

Matt Villalta

A third round pick in 2017, Villalta was a bit of a gamble for the Kings but he is certainly proving he has the work ethic and drive to eventually make it to the NHL. Villalta, who plays for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, was never drafted into the OHL, and was essentially a walk-on to the team. After impressing at a development camp, he then went on to the team’s main training camp, and eventually supplanted the starter.

For a full breakdown, check out his prospect profile from JFTC.

His numbers have been outstanding since he took over as a starter. In his draft year his record was 25-3-0 with 2.41GAA and a .918SV%.  The following year he posted a record of 40-5-2, 2.58 GAA, and .908SV%, and, so far this year, he has won 9 games of 13 with a 2.76GAA and a .913SV%.

Statistics aside, at just 19 Matthew Villalta possess great athleticism and poise in net, and is certainly a prospect to watch as he continues to develop. Standing 6’4’ and weighing 187 pounds, he still has a bit more physical development to do, as well as some refinement of his technique, but this will come as he continues to mature. With his work ethic and drive he is definitely a contender for Quick’s place once Quick retires. He is a long term project so having him remaining in juniors for another year or two will not hurt his development at all; in fact it would probably be the best thing for him.

David Hrenak

Drafted in the fifth round last year, David Hrenak could be seen as another contender to eventually take over the starting position once he fully matures. The Slovakian’s route to professional hockey is drastically different than Villalta’s. He has represented his country several times, played in the USHL with the Green Bay Gamblers, and was eventually recruited to play for St. Cloud State University in the NCAA.

For a full breakdown, check out his prospect profile from JFTC:

In his first year in the NCAA, he beat out the reigning starter, leading the team to the NCAA tournament. In 25 games, he posted a GAA of 2.11and a .919SV%.  Impressive for a 19-year-old playing against 23-year-olds. He shows no signs of slowing down this year, as five games into this season he has a 1.40GAA and a SV% of .940. Including a 32-save shutout against Boston College, winning the game 7-0.

From his draft profile, Hrenak seems to thrive in the spotlight, and is universally liked by his teammates.  As with most of the goaltenders in the Kings system, they need him to develop further, but with plenty of time on his side and facing the other tier programs such as the University of Denver, Boston College, University of Minnesota-Duluth, and Notre Dame, the NCAA is the perfect place for him to do just that.

Jacob Ingham

Following Hrenak, the Kings drafted Jacob Ingham in the sixth round of the 2018 draft. Widely considered one of the best goalies in the draft class, Ingham saw his stock fall during his draft year as he struggled throughout the season, posting a 3.65GAA and a .880SV%

For a full breakdown, check out his prospect profile from JFTC.

Ingham does play an aggressive and athletic style and some of the commentary coming out of the OHL is that he needs to work on his glove hand a bit more. Additional commentary suggests that some his poor performance can be attributed to the run-and-gun style of play of the Mississauga Steelheads.  This year, he seems to be back on track, with a 2.87GAA and a .908SV% over 15 games. His development will take some time, as he needs time to develop both physically and technically, but thankfully time is something the Kings have on their side.

Cole Kehler

Where to begin with Kehler… he began his career with the WHL Kamloops Blazers, but was eventually demoted to the BCHL after never posting a save percentage above .900 during his roughly two seasons with the club.  The Portland Winterhawks took a chance on him, trading a late-round draft pick for him. During his two seasons in Portland, he averaged a GAA of 2.94 and a .909SV%.

Never drafted by an NHL team, the Kings offered him an ELC contract in 2017 to fill out their goaltending depth. Kehler is definitely a work in progress as he still needs a lot of development and coaching, but unlike the previous three goaltenders, time is not on his side. Having already graduated from major junior, he is at make or break stage in his career. Assigned to the ECHL Manchester Monarchs for the current season, he has only featured in one of the eight games that Manchester has played so far, posting a GAA of 3.00 and .900SV%. During the one game he did play, he looked unprepared for the speed of the game, struggling to track pucks and rebounds and seemed generally out of his element.

Trade/ Waivers Options

I don’t really see this as being an option as most teams aren’t willing to part with their starting goaltenders unless there extenuating circumstances such contract issues, expansion drafts, or older goalies being forced out by their replacement (Looking at you Fleury and Bishop).

Free Agency

Free Agency is not a route I can see the Kings organization pursuing, either.  With Quick still tied to a contract until the end of 2023 season, trying to secure a replacement via the open market is a nonstarter.

Final Thoughts

So how does this all play out for the Kings, you ask.  For now, their most logical step is to continue to use Campbell. Trading for a goalie or picking one up on waivers aren’t really viable options at this point in time. Full disclosure, I’ve been impressed with Campbell’s play so far and think he’s earned the chance to keep the starting spot for now. We can hope that Cal Petersen matures quickly enough to challenge for a role with the big club, but if he needs a bit more time, then the Kings will need to reevaluate their position with Campbell and whether or not to re-sign him.

With Petersen, it looks to be a question of when, not if, he will make it to the NHL. However, in four years when Quick’s contract is ending, Petersen will most likely be competing with the likes of Hrenak, Villalta, and Ingham for the backup and starting positions. There is pressure on Petersen to cement his place now before the youngsters come in to challenge for those spots.

Now, before I go any further, goaltending development is an art not a science, and I am by no means an expert in all things goaltending, but I will try to give my best educated guess. In terms of who the long term heir to the goaltending throne will be, I can really see it coming down to one of either Hrenak or Villalta.  Hrenak has the pedigree and mindset of a true number goalie, and is proving it in the NCAA. I also like that he is with a highly competitive team in a much broader competition where you have 18 years olds competing against 23 year olds, in comparison to say major junior. Not trying to knock major junior here, but I think facing this broader competition day-in and day-out will give him a better starting point when he looks to take the next step. Villalta is a close second for me. He possesses the drive and determination to succeed and with his story being one of overcoming the odds, I could see him making a strong case for the starting position.

Ingham I view as having an outside shot. He does possess the necessary attributes to succeed, and could prove me wrong, but I just didn’t get the feeling he would be a full time starter in the NHL. Regaining his confidence will be the first step, but I think that puts him a little behind the power curve in comparison to the other two. As for Kehler, I can see him remaining in the system but I don’t think he’ll challenge for the starting role.  He’ll make a good depth goalie but I can’t see him reaching much further beyond that.

Despite Quick’s current injury and the reliance on Campbell in the short term the goaltending picture in Los Angeles remains bright.  What do you all think? Who could you see being the next full-time starter for the Kings?

Go Kings!

Who do you see being the next full-time starter after Jonathan Quick?

Jack Campbell11
Cal Petersen26
Matt Villalta14
David Hrenak6
Jacob Ingham1
Cole Kehler0
None, Trade for a goalie2