“Who Wore it Best?”: LA Kings edition, No. 10

JFTC continues our series on the best Kings players to wear each sweater number.

Editor’s Note: In homage to “Who Wore it Best?” the NHL-produced series featured on both NHL.com and the league’s broadcast partners, JFTC continues its regular feature highlighting the top players to wear each sweater number in Los Angeles Kings’ franchise history. Check back to our first edition for a discussion of the selection process.

32 players have worn the Kings number 10 sweater, tieing it for the most issued jersey in franchise history (What’s the other most popular sweater? You’ll have to keep reading future series installments.) While it was not unexpected to learn that the no. 10 has been through such heavy rotation, the one-sided positional breakdown of those to have worn the sweater may come as a surprise to even long-tenured Southland hockey fans. Whereas each previous sweater we’ve examined has leaned (sometimes exclusively) toward one particular position, common wisdom provided no. 10 would be sort of a “tweener” jersey, with a more equitable split between forwards and defensemen. Thus it was surprising to learn that 28 of the 32 players in Kings history to have worn no. 10 have been forwards.

The first player to wear no. 10 for the Kings was Howie Hughes. Hughes joined the team after being claimed from Montreal in the 1967 Expansion Draft. Having previously spent his entire eight-year professional career in the minors, the 5’9” 180-pound right-winger made his NHL debut in the Kings 4-2 Opening Night victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, posting one shot on goal and two penalty minutes. Hughes played 74 games for the Kings that inaugural campaign, lighting the lamp 9 times and assisting on fourteen others. His offensive totals improved the following season, scoring 16 goals and again helping on 14. However, a slow start to the 1969-70 season proved disastrous for Hughes’ career as he posted a stat line of of zero goals, 4 assists, zero penalty minutes, and a -6 plus/minus rating through 21 game before being sent to the minors. He never again laced up in the NHL. (Fun fact: After losing to the Flyers 2-0 in their Forum debut, Hughes scored the first Kings goal in Forum history when he opened the scoring in a 2-2 tie against St. Louis, January 11 1968.)

Fifteen forwards wore no. 10 before it was worn by its first blueliner, Dennis Smith. Smith signed with the Kings as a free agent prior to the 1990-91 season having previously made four unremarkable appearances for the Washington Capitals, racking up zeros in every scoring category (including shots and penalty minutes.) Spending most of that first season in the AHL, Smith played four games for the Kings, again posting no points, although he did have one shot on goal and four penalty minutes. Smith left Los Angeles after one season to join the Boston Bruins. However, he failed to make the Bruins out of training camp and never made in back to the NHL. (For those scoring at home, that’s zero points, one shot and four penalty minutes over an eight-game NHL career.)

Michael Amadio was the last player to wear no. 10 for the Kings Amadio, who was traded to to Ottawa Senators late last season in exchange for the recently re-signed Christian Wolanin played parts of four seasons with the club, including 37 appearances during his 2017-18 rookie season wearing the no. 52. When the much-traveled Tobias Rieder left the Kings that summer to sign with Edmonton as a free agent, Amadio (who himself recently signed with Toronto as a free agent) took over his no. 10 sweater. According to LAKings.com no. 10 is currently unassigned.

Of the 32 skaters to wear no. 10 for the Kings, 22 were born in Canada, five in the United States, three in Germany, and one in the former Soviet Union (Victor Nechayev in Russia.) Five played NCAA hockey before turning professional. As noted in a previous edition of “Who Wore it Best?” Bernie Nicholls actually wore no. 10 for two games as a rookie before settling on no. 9. Similarly, Terry Ruskowski, who captained the Kings for two seasons in the early eighties, wore no. 10 his first year with the club, but switched to no. 8 when he donned the “C” prior to the 1983-84 season. Mike Richards served as alternate captain while wearing no. 10 during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.

Franchise records for career goals (61), assists (101), points (162), and games played (430) while wearing the no. 10 are all held Vic Venasky. Warren Rychel spent 655 minutes in the sin bin over only 157 games, making him the most penalized player to wear the Kings no. 10 sweater. The team’s single-season no. 10 goal scoring record of 18 is shared by Venasky (1975-76) Daniel Audette (1988-89) and Mike Richards (2011-12) Richards also holds the Kings no. 10 single-season assist title, posting 30 helpers over the 2013-2014 championship campaign. Mathieu Schneider tops the single-season no. 10 points chart with 43 points during the 2002-03 season. Finally, it’s no surprise Rychel’s 1993-94 season total of 322 penalty minutes (the fourth-highest single-season PIMS recorded in team history) is also the no. 10 single-season record.

Who wore No. 10 best?

Vic Venasky — (1972-1979)

Brother-in-law of former Kings teammate Mike Murphy (himself a previous “Who Wore It Best? honoree) the 5’10”, 169-pound forward played his entire seven-season NHL career with the Kings. As noted above, he leads all Kings’ no. 10’s in career goals, assists, points. and games played. His 61 career goals ties him with three other players for 51st place on the Kings all-time goal-scoring chart, while his 101 career assists and 430 games played places him 49th and 34th respectively among franchise leaders all-time.

Known for his “quick speed, scoring abilities and smart play-making“ the Thunder Bay, Ontario native took a then-unusual route to the NHL. After leaving junior hockey, he attended the University of Denver, where he lead the WCHA in scoring his freshman season and earned All-America honors. The following season he was leading the entire NCAA in scoring before suffering a knee injury, prematurely ending his college career. Upon leaving the Pioneers, he made the leap directly to the NHL, making the Kings, who had drafted him in the the third-round (34th overall) in the 1971 Entry Draft, directly out of training camp. He appeared in 77 games for the Forum Blue and Gold that season posting 15 goals and 19 assists, and was named the team’s rookie of the year.

Plagued by groin injuries the following two seasons Venasky shuttled between Inglewood and the minor leagues before sticking with the big club for good beginning with the 1975-76 season. He played in all 80 games that season, scoring a career-best 18 goals and 44 points. The following season he again played in all 80 games, putting the biscuit in the basket 14 times and totaling 40 points. However a shift from his natural position of center to right wing for the 1977-78 season resulted in a huge drop off in Venasky’s offensive production, during which he posted only three goals and 10 assists in 71 games. The following season, he again failed to regain the scoring touch he exhibited earlier in his career, managing only 4 goals and 17 points in 73 games. That season turned out to be his last in the NHL. After returning to the minors and then playing in Switzerland, Venasky was out of pro hockey by 1981.

Upon his retirement Venasky returned to Southern California. He stayed involved in the game coaching youth hockey, club-level college hockey, and operating both a hockey school and “Vic’s Pro Shop” out of the Skating Edge Ice Arena in Harbor City. He also worked as a compliance inspector with the ports in both Los Angeles and Long Beach. He was inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.

Agree or disagree with the selection of Vic Venasky as the Kings’ “No. 1 of No. 10s?” Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below or hit up Mark on Twitter at @MarkDevoreNHL. Stay safe, and as always, Go Kings Go!