LA Kings

After finishing second in last year’s rankings, the LA Kings fell five spots to seventh in The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler’s Prospect Pool rankings.

The top players are still the top

Brandt Clarke & Quinton Byfield

There were no surprises at the top of the list, as Brandt Clarke and Quinton Byfield ranked first and second, respectively. Wheeler has historically been high on Clarke and continues to see game-breaking potential in the young defenseman:

“I also expect him to make significant progress as he continues to get stronger and sturdier. His statistical profile is sterling and has been reinforced by some earth-shattering production since returning to the Colts. He’s going to be a lot of fun to watch when he finds his body and game in the NHL if he’s allowed to play freely.”

Jordan Spence

Jordan Spence continues his ascent up these rankings, he checks in at number three. Wheeler notes that, despite his size, Spence is adapting to how to disrupt play:

“…defensively his game is all about breaking up that flow. It’s about stick-on-puck. It’s about tight gaps. It’s about disrupting passing lanes. It’s about forcing dumps or funneling opposing carriers into tough spots. He may lack size (5-foot-10, 180 pounds), which can be a little limiting in the NHL, but I think we spend too much time assuming that will be the case when small defenders often show us it’s not with their timing, and footwork, and results. He’s going to be able to play with a variety of partners and his handedness is a benefit (though the Kings do coincidentally have plenty of righties). I like him to become a No. 4-5 defenceman who can run PP2.”

Alex Turcotte

Alex Turcotte remains a top-five prospect in the organization, coming in at number four. It’s been another season where he’s missed games due to injuries. In 21 AHL games this season, he has six goals and 13 points. Turcotte has also appeared in four NHL games on the LA Kings’ recent road trip. Given how the start of his professional career has gone and the fact he’s dealt with injuries dating back to his college career, a healthy second half would be a welcome sight to the organization.


Three hot prospects

Alex Laferriere

First, coming in at number top five is Harvard’s Alex Laferriere. The 21-year-old is quietly becoming one of the Kings’ better prospects. Hockey Royaly’s Russell Morgan ranked him sixth in his prospect rankings before the season. From a production standpoint, he continues to improve each year as does his likelihood of becoming an NHL player (per Byron Bader’s Hockey Prospecting):

Via: Hockey Prospecting

Wheeler refers to Laferriere as “one of the hottest prospects in the world the last two seasons.” The question I have had is whether he’s an older prospect when it comes to the production he’s putting up for the level. Wheeler notes this as well:

“He’s a frontline forward in college and his variety of offensive-zone weapons, average size, and engaged style should earn him an entry-level deal and might make him a useful middle-six piece eventually. His challenge is an age one in that if he stays at Harvard for three or four seasons, he’s likely going to be 23 or 24 by the time he plays his first pro games.”

He’ll be a fun prospect to watch in the short term.

Francesco Pinelli

Francesco Pinelli (7th) is having a great season with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL. In 39 games, Pinelli has 30 goals and 30 assists. Like Laferriere, he’s rapidly climbing prospect lists and is looking like a legitimate NHL prospect. We may see Pinelli with the Ontario Reign after the OHL season ends, and if not, he’s a sure bet to be in the AHL next season.

Via Hockey Prospecting

Martin Chromiak

It’s been a tale of two halves for the 8th-ranked Martin Chromiak. After the 2020 5th-round pick lit up the OHL in 2021-22 (44 goals, 42 assists in 60 games), there was a lot of excitement heading into the 2022-23 season. In his first 13 games, Chromiak didn’t score a goal and mustered just three assists. However, in his 14 games since January 8th, he has eight goals and seven assists. Including his first professional hat trick:

If he keeps producing like this, he’ll be in the top five this time next season.


Swedes still prominent

Helge Grans

After a strong start to his 2021-22 AHL season, Helge Grans has plateaued a bit since the second half of last season and into this year. In 34 games in the 2022-23 season, Grans has just six points. Last season, he had six points before Thanksgiving. Unlike Laferriere, whose stock is rising, Grans has seen his slip:

Via: Hockey Prospecting

Despite his struggles, he still has a good chance of being an NHLer. He’s someone that I’ve held in high regard in the organization, having him the best defense prospect not named Brandt Clarke. I still view Grans as having top-four potential.

The 6’3″ defenseman comes in at number six on Wheeler’s list.

Samuel Fagemo & Tobias Bjornfot

The next two Swedes have some NHL experience under their belt. Samuel Fagemo (10th) and Tobias Bjornfot (11th) have combined to play 125 games in the NHL (with Bjornfot shouldering most of those at 112). They have both seen action with the LA Kings during the 2022-23 season as well.

Fagemo is the one with the higher upside, at least offensively. The winger had 27 goals and 44 points in 63 AHL games last season and, to date, has 13 goals in 29 games with the Ontario Reign this season. He’s known as a shoot-first winger though it remains to be seen if it’ll translate to the NHL on a consistent basis. Though, he’s certainly shown he’s capable:

Bjornfot plays a position that is thin in the system, left defense. He was probably thrust into NHL action before he was ready, and throughout his first 100 games, looked very inconsistent. This season, however, he has looked like a much more confident player who has a much better feel for what he wants to do on the ice. He’ll never be a top-pair defenseman and may top out as a reliable bottom pair, but he’s still young and there’s value in a reliable bottom-pair defenseman.

Fading Finns?

Rasmus Kupari

In 37 games with the LA Kings, Rasmus Kupari has picked up three goals and seven points. With his skill and skating, he’s shown flashes, but despite the exciting tools and hitting over 100 NHL games, Kupari barely cracks the top ten (9th) on Wheeler’s list. While the AHL production has been respectable early in his pro career (48 points in 85 games), he just hasn’t been able to find that in the NHL (nine goals, 21 points in 101 games).

Kasper Simontaival

Kasper Simontaival has had some strong World Junior appearances for Team Finland, notching 15 points in 16 games. However, in 38 games with KalPa in Liiga he has eight goals and 19 points. In the 2021-22 season, Simontaival picked up 14 points in 33 games. Wheeler had this to say about his 14th-ranked LA Kings prospect:

“I’m not sure if Simontaival will become the top-nine winger I’ve at times thought he’s capable of becoming, but he’s one of my favorite prospects to watch nonetheless.”


Of course, as we approach the 2022-23 NHL Trade Deadline, some of these names may not be with the organization much longer. While there may not be many top-end prospects, it is still a deep system of potential NHL talent.


(Main Photo Credit: Edward Jacobs)

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