Boasting the league’s best prospect pool, the LA Kings have four prospects in The Athletic‘s Top 50 prospects rankings.
The offseason provides a time to reset. It’s also a time for many media outlets to update their top NHL prospect rankings. The Athletic‘s Scott Wheeler does a great job with these, and he recently published his Top 50 prospects list. As you would imagine, the LA Kings are well-represented.
Quinton Byfield (No. 1)
A six-game cup of coffee at the NHL level felt like a teaser for what Kings fans have been waiting for. With Sudbury’s season canceled, Byfield played with the Ontario Reign last year. His slow start in the AHL is well-documented, so I won’t beat that drum anymore. But his totals – 8 goals and 12 assists – in 32 games are impressive for a player who turns 19 on Thursday. The combination of his size and speed have scouts drooling, and he started to look more and more confident as Ontario’s season went on.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 29, 2021
If the Kings can figure out the depth chart down the middle, Byfield should probably be on the NHL roster out of training camp.
Byfield didn’t have the picture-perfect year that Cole Caufield did last year or even the one that Trevor Zegras had, but he also doesn’t turn 19 until Aug. 19, meaning he’s 19 and 17 months younger, respectively, than those two. I suspect by the time he’s their age, he’ll be bursting at the seams with NHL potential and excitement in the way they are. He’s too good a skater and too big and strong and talented for his size not to. – The Athletic/Wheeler
Brandt Clarke (No. 7)
It’s pretty remarkable the Kings were able to grab a player like Clarke at No. 8 overall. He’s already drawn comparisons to Drew Doughty, although Clarke will be the first to tell you that he’s not ready to make that collation. Clarke has that “it” factor about him. He’s a confident 18-year-old and a gifted defenseman. In Wheeler’s list, Clarke is already ranked ahead of Bowen Byram (No. 15), Jamie Drysdale (No. 17), and Luke Hughes (No. 19).
Without an OHL season, the Nepean, Ontario, native proved he can handle himself against older competition, scoring five goals and 10 assists in the 26 games in Slovakia. He returned to North America, tallying seven points in seven games for Team Canada at the U18s. Look for Clarke to be on the fast track to the NHL, despite the early reports that he’ll return to Barrie of the OHL for the upcoming season.
Clarke has offensive zone skill that is extremely hard to find among defensemen. It doesn’t look like the skills possessed by the other highly talented defensemen who either made this list or were considered, though. He doesn’t have the creative flair honed by Ryan Merkley or the athlete’s makeup that Bowen Byram has, for example. He’s just a roving, confident, attacking defender with an uncanny ability to beat opposing players side-to-side, find his way into dangerous areas and then execute NHL-level plays to drive offense. – The Athletic/Wheeler
Arthur Kaliyev (No. 25)
If Kaliyev doesn’t make the Kings roster out of training camp, how long will he remain in the AHL? Playing arguably a year ahead of schedule, thanks to the OHL season being canceled, the former 2019 second-rounder led the way for the Ontario Reign, scoring 31 points in 40 games. Added, he posted stellar numbers at the 2021 World Juniors, helping Team USA win the gold medal. His goal with just over a minute left topped Finland in the semifinals sent the USA bench into a frenzy.
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) January 5, 2021
Per Reign head coach John Wroblewski, Kaliyev made strides (no pun intended) in both his skating and defensive abilities last year. And he can score unlike a lot of prospects the Kings have in their system. With an NHL squad that finished in the bottom five in scoring in back-to-back seasons, Kaliyev’s permanent call-up appears imminent.
Kaliyev can look like Bambi out there with his dragging skating mechanics (almost like he’s snowshoeing). Nobody’s ever going to call him a well-rounded defensive forward, either (though he has made progress with his propensity to cheat, his attention to detail, and the frequency of his fly-bys). But you can also count on two hands the number of hockey players on the planet who can shoot the puck anywhere near the way he can. Not prospects. Players. NHL stars included. – The Athletic/Wheeler
Alex Turcotte (No. 30)
Turcotte often feels like the forgotten one in the prospect pool at this point. He’s 20 years of age and has been hampered by injuries thus far in his career. Several other first-round picks in the 2019 Draft have already made their NHL debuts, but Turcotte spent the entire 2021 season in the American Hockey League with the Ontario Reign. It certainly didn’t help matters that he played through a foot injury in the 2021 World Juniors and missed the start of training camp.
Summer fun ✌🏼 pic.twitter.com/hpFBAwypF5
— Alex Turcotte (@Turcotte__71) June 27, 2021
He also started the year on a slow note, as did the entire Reign roster, scoring his first professional goal on March 13. In that game, Turcotte collected an assist as well and jump-started a stretch in which he recorded 13 points in 14 games. The former fifth overall pick put a bow on the regular season, recording a hat trick against the Colorado Eagles in the penultimate game, which, oddly enough, accounted for half his goal total in the 2021 campaign. I would expect Turcotte to begin the upcoming season in Ontario. Assuming that he trends in a linear direction while remaining healthy, Turcotte is probably in line for a well-deserved promotion at some point this year.
Turcotte’s progression hasn’t followed the linear road I think it could have had he not dealt with his fair share of bumps in the road over the course of the last three seasons…I’ve soured on Turcotte a little since his draft year, I’m still a big believer in him as a hardworking, up-tempo facilitator who forechecks effectively, gets to loose pucks and then allows his skill and his spatial awareness to take over so that he can drive pucks to the middle of the ice or put pucks there for teammates to capitalize on. – The Athletic/Wheeler