A deep, analytical dive into LA Kings’ prospect Jordan Spence’s ceiling. He’s playing his first year of professional hockey with the Reign

Jordan Spence was drafted by the LA Kings in the fourth round of the 2019 draft and was coming off of a 49-point season in the QMJHL. Quite a shocker that a defenseman that achieved that many points in his first CHL season, but the Kings managed to snag him. He was one of the more interesting players in the Kings system, as he was born in Sydney, Australia, but has a Japanese/Canadian heritage. Spence has been one of the more underrated prospects in the LA Kings prospect pool and one of the most underrated prospects around the league. 

Ever since his draft year, Spence has played in multiple tournaments, different leagues, and many games. He’s managed to finish off his career in the QMJHL while being at a 1.25 point per game pace. As a defenseman on the Moncton Wildcats, he impressed the Kings’ head scouting enough to put enough faith in him and sign him to an entry-level contract. 

He was good enough to be invited to the Under-20 Canadian team back in January 2021, where he played two games and even scored a goal that had fans on their feet.

Even though the year was hard for many with Covid-19, it seemed like it was prominent for Jordan Spence. He finally made a name for himself among the hundreds of NHL prospects, and people finally realized what this young kid was capable of.

But what is his true potential, and what is his true floor as a fourth-round pick? Could he possibly be as good as Thomas Chabot, or could he become a low-scoring third-line defenseman? In this article, we’ll go over what Jordan Spence could accomplish as an LA King in the next few years and what he could bloom into in the distant future.

We’ve already addressed that he went in the fourth round, but it seems a little outrageous that he went that late. Considering he had almost 50 points as a rookie defenseman, it seems quite impractical that he would fall to the fourth round of that draft. If you may remember, the 2019 NHL Draft was all over the place as some teams made surprises in the first rounds and some teams had some later-round steals. While points aren’t always the story when it comes to evaluating hockey players, surely you would want to draft an 18-year-old high-scoring player earlier than the low-scoring player.

LA Kings Jordan Spence

Analytics play a big role in seeing the truth of a hockey player, and this chart that shows Jordan Spence after his first year in LA shows that his points never told the full story of him. Obviously, the chart overall is positive. His shots-per-60 are his best attributes, which is obvious as he generated a ton of points and goal-scoring opportunities, but his goals-for-above-expected was definitely a tad of an issue. It wasn’t a great attribute, and there was definitely work to be done.

What looked the weakest was his percentage of goals allowed above expected. When you’re looking at defensemen analytically, you always want the one with the best %GAAx. The higher and the better it is, the better defensively the player is. It takes in even-strength play, power play, and penalty kill defensive skill. So, it does prove to us that Spence fell due to his lack of defensive skill and due to his analytical play.

As of today, it doesn’t seem to be much improved. 

LA Kings Jordan Spence

Obviously, red is bad, and blue is good. His defensive skill is still… not great. The two defensive stats, GAAx (goals allowed above expected) and xGAA% (goals allowed above expected percentage), are in the deep red. Better yet, the GAAx sits at roughly -1.4 in point form, and the xGAA% stands at roughly -1.3. Defensemen are supposed to defend, and they lose a lot of value when they can’t do that. 

I do bring good news, though! Don’t you fear!

Jordan Spence’s level of defensive awareness is saved by his majestic offensive play. You saw how good he was at getting points and getting assists. The chart backs him up as an offensive defenseman. His aP/60 (assists per 60) and his iSF/60 (isolated shots for per 60) are big positives and arguably carry his analytical side. He knows how to get assists – he had a ton of them in the juniors. In his past three years of playing in the QMJHL, he’s had a aP/60 of +1.8. Note that the max when it comes to prospects is +3. That’s pretty dang good for a fourth-round defenseman draft pick. His iSF/60 also proves how much of a star he is offensively, as he had a +1.4 over the course of three years.

I definitely see how it could get misconstrued that defensemen who don’t play defense are useless by the analytics community, but what sort of defensive core do you even have if you don’t have at least one of your six guys rush up high and help the forwards? The Kings already have many defensive guys on their current roster, and they have defensive skill in their prospect pool. Jordan Spence may not be that guy who stays back and defends the best, but he will be the guy who comes up high and scores that important goal or gets that perfect assist.

LA Kings Jordan Spence

The proof is in his prospect card up top. His closest comparisons are quite legitimately some of the better offensive defensemen in the NHL. Thomas Chabot, for example, or Matt Carle. Chabot is notably one of the best defensemen in the National Hockey League, yet he’s pretty awful defensively. Why can’t that be the case with Spence? If his second closest player comparison is Thomas Chabot, I truly don’t see how he can’t become that Thomas Chabot-like player one day. 

Or Matt Carle, for instance, another player who was fantastic offensively but suffered in his own zone. Carle played in the NHL for 730 career goals and had 283 points. His career-high in points was 42 in his rookie season in San Jose. He was a fantastic player all his career, but he excelled mainly with the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Philadelphia Flyers. Carle was drafted in the second round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, and even then, people said he belonged in the first round.

Give this some thought now. Chabot is currently one of the best defensemen in the NHL, who was drafted in the first round. He is Jordan’s second-closest comparison. Carle was one of the most important players in Tampa Bay’s Cup run back in 2015 and was told he had the value of a first-round pick. Carle is Spence’s second-closest comparison. What doesn’t make you think that this kid has first-round potential? Half of those first-round picks in 2019 aren’t looking too hot, but Spence is. Spence just finished a successful career in the QMJHL and now looks to further his talents in the AHL with the Ontario Reign. 

Let’s not leave out how his chances at becoming an NHLer aren’t too bad, either. Spence has an 81% chance at becoming an NHLer one day in the fourth round 365 days a year. Some players have less chances to make the NHL who are picked in the first round every year. Just take a look at 2021 second overall draft pick Matthew Beniers.

Sure, that’s Beniers’ draft year stats compared to Spence’s D+2 year, but even in Spence’s draft year, he had a 46% chance at becoming an NHLer – 3% more than Beniers.

I’m not suggesting that Spence will be a star — I think I speak for everyone when I say we’d love him to be — but I am saying that he’s painfully underrated. Nobody talks about how successful this guy is and how talented he is when it comes to offensive hockey. He knows how to shoot, he knows how to create plays, and he knows what it takes to win. The LA Kings will love this guy, and he’ll be a big part when it comes to winning games once the prospect pool takes over the LA Kings roster soon.

LA Kings Jordan Spence on AHL: “I have to adapt to the game”

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