My favorite headline of the off-season so far
AHL affiliate for Los Angeles Kings loaded with NHL-ready talent - Hockey's Future
A solid season which saw the Manchester Monarchs make the playoffs for the ninth time in ten years ended on a sour note as the team lost a hard-fought seven-game series in overtime to the Binghamton Senators during the first round. Still, the campaign was a successful one in many regards, with players such as Dwight King and Brandon Kozun having breakout years, Martin Jones and Jeff Zatkoff filling in admirably for stud goaltender Jonathan Bernier, and youngsters such as Brayden Schenn, Tyler Toffoli, and Jordan Weal getting their first taste of AHL action.
Forward Andrei Loktionov, C, 20
[...] With the Kings, he posted seven points in 19 games despite never quite finding a niche on a particular line at his natural position of center. In 34 AHL games he posted 31 points and was the most consistent producer on the Monarchs' roster. He will enter next season looking to lock down an offensive role with the big club[...]
Justin Azevedo, C, 23
After two injury-riddled seasons, Azevedo was finally able to prove that he can perform over the course of a full professional campaign, cementing his status as a go-to offensive player for the Monarchs'. He was the top scoring center on the team,posting 53 points in a team-high 79 games. Despite his slightness of build, a solid start to next season may earn Azevedo a cup of coffee at the NHL level, being that he's clearly paid his dues in giving three years of professional hockey to the Kings organization to date. [...]
Corey Elkins, C, 26
[...] A late bloomer in college, Elkins posted solid totals of 21 goals and 43 points in 73 games as an AHL rookie in 2009-10 and put up similar numbers this past season, scoring 18 goals and totaling 44 points in 76 contests. A two-way center by trade, Elkins is on the Kings shortlist for players capable of assuming a bottom six role [...]
Dwight King, LW, 21
[...] After posting 35 points split between 72 games with Ontario of the ECHL and Manchester of the AHL, King broke out this season with 24 goals and 52 points in 72 games, good for third in team scoring. His size and checking ability combined with his rapidly developing offensive game make him an intriguing prospect. He is primed to ascend to the NHL as soon as a hole opens in the bottom-six on the left side, which could occur as soon as next season with the possible departure of impending free-agent Alexei Ponikarovsky.
Bud Holloway, RW, 23
Having just completed his second straight season as the Monarchs' top scorer, Holloway is making it difficult for the Kings to justify not giving him a cup of coffee to date. He led the team with 28 goals and 61 points in 78 games and had another solid playoff performance in which he accumulated 11 points in seven games. Though Holloway is a bit of a niche player, possessing neither elite offensive skill nor defensive acumen, his well-rounded game is suited to a depth role and it's hard to imagine him staying out of the NHL for long with the AHL success he's had.
Brandon Kozun, RW, 21
Though his first professional season was not without its speed bumps, Kozun successfully transitioned his game to the AHL to the tune of 23 goals and 48 points in 73 games, good for eighth best amongst league rookies. Playing largely in a second line role with ample powerplay time, Kozun was the only first year player on the roster to finish in the top 15 on the Monarchs in scoring. With the Kings looking for scoring help on the wings and Kozun developing well, it would not be far-fetched to expect him to get a crack with the Kings next season, though he's likely at least another year away from landing a full-time role. [...]
Jordan Nolan, RW, 21
Nolan understood his role for the Monarchs this year and performed it well. Utilizing his 6'3, 217 lb frame, Nolan accumulated 10 fighting majors and 115 penalty minutes to go with 17 points in 75 games. More importantly, he was a physical presence that the team was able to roll consistently. [...] He looks to have the makings of a new wave enforcer who can take a regular shift on the fourth line and drop the gloves when necessary.
Defensemen Slava Voynov, D, 21
Save for Drew Doughty, there's no defenseman in the Kings organization with the same offensive upside as Voynov. The 21-year-old blueliner finished the year with 51 points in 76 games, good for seventh in league scoring amongst defensemen. His plus-21 rating was tops on the Monarchs and a drastic improvement from the minus-three he accumulated in his first two years with the team. [...]
Thomas Hickey, D, 22
Having lost most of the 2009-10 season to injury, that Hickey suited up for 77 games for the Monarchs this past year was an important step forward in his development. It's expected that he'll produce more than the 24 points he totaled this past season, but more importantly his defensive game has shown steady improvement with each passing professional game.
Jake Muzzin, D, 22
One of the biggest surprises in training camp, Muzzin made the Kings' opening day roster and stuck for 11 games before being sent to Manchester for the rest of the season. With the Monarchs, he totaled 18 points in 45 games and posted a very healthy plus-20 rating. He was utilized in a variety of roles, mainly focusing on employing his grit and size in defensive situations and his cannon of a slapshot to create offense. [...] Aside from the occasional lapses, which will undoubtedly become less frequent as he gets more experience under his belt, Muzzin is close to being NHL ready.
Andrew Campbell, D, 23
[...] Campbell had a good season for Manchester as a steadying presence. Despite the blunders, which he has slowly but surely worked to remove from his game, Campbell was often on the ice in the final minutes of games and employed heavily in penalty kill situations. He posted 12 points in 76 games but more impressive is his plus-12 rating, having entered this season with a career minus-31 in his first two professional seasons.
Martin Jones, 21
Jones' season was one with peaks and valleys. He started the season on an absolute tear, seizing the starting job and boasting a 12-2-0 record through December and earning the right to play in the AHL All-Star Game, but ultimately had some struggles down the stretch and finished the year by going 11-10-1 in his last 22 starts. In total, he posted a 23-12-1 record with a 2.25 goals against average and .924 save percentage. [...]
Jeff Zatkoff, 23
[...] A month of March in which he posted a 1.55 goals against average, .949 save percentage, and two shutouts earned him a majority of the team's starts in the playoffs. Jones' inconsistency may have earned Zatkoff a new contract this summer [...].