A month has passed since the Ontario Reign season ended, and it’s now time to look at the list of free agents on the team.

The following list will be from Ontario Reign players, one player from the ECHL, and another who didn’t suit up due to injury. In this list, we’ll break down if the player should or shouldn’t come back to the organization, or if we are unsure if they come back. Today’s edition will be for the restricted free agents only. Let’s get started!

Tyler Madden

Stat line: 71 games, 20 goals, 13 assists, 33 points, -11 rating

After missing games due to injuries the past two seasons, Tyler Madden played in 71 of the Reign’s 72 regular games. He ended up posting career highs in goals (20), power-play goals (8), and points (33). However, if you look at his game logs this season, there were plenty of games Madden didn’t find the scoresheet consistently. There were too many games where he had zeroes across the board while playing most of the season on the first line with Lias Andersson and TJ Tynan.

After three full seasons in the LA Kings organization, Madden hasn’t lived up to the expectations when the Kings acquired him in the Tyler Toffoli trade. With Alex Laferriere getting set for his first full professional season (we assume with the Reign) and Martin Chromiak with a year of professional hockey under his belt, and inconsistency from Madden this past season, his time and spot with the organization may be up.

Prediction: Won’t return

Samuel Fagemo

Stat line: 56 games, 23 goals, 9 assists, 32 points, -24 rating

Samuel Fagemo recorded 23 goals, with 13 being on the power play. The previous season saw him record 27 goals. Not bad, right? Well, kind of. When you look at the numbers, Fagemo took a step back at 5-on-5 this year after being solid in that department in the 2021-2022 season. Fagemo needs to have a strong camp with very few roster openings available. If he doesn’t make the LA Kings roster, he’ll have to clear waivers to be sent down to Ontario. Like many prospects, this will be an important upcoming season for Fagemo.

Prediction: Will return 

Bold prediction: Makes the Kings’ roster

Tobie Bisson

Stat line: 61 games, 4 goals, 12 assists, 16 points, -4 rating

Tobie Bisson was a nice pickup last summer, providing some experience for a young Ontario Reign team. Bisson is a defensive-minded defenseman that saw him paired with Helge Grans and Jordan Spence (when Tobias Bjornfot got called up to the LA Kings) during the year while providing leadership on the backend. He did chip in with 16 points in 61 games but missed time with an injury toward the end of the season. Offense from the backend was an issue for the Reign this past season, but having a player on the backend with leadership is always a great thing to have.

Prediction: Will return

Akil Thomas

Stat line: 13 games, 5 goals, 3 assists, 8 points, +/- 0 rating

A shoulder injury in November forced Akil Thomas to miss the rest of the season after a decent start. Thomas can play 5-on-5, special teams, and both the center and wing. Unfortunately, injuries the past two seasons have forced Thomas to miss plenty of games, making his NHL future with the organization that drafted him in limbo. If Thomas does return, I expect him to spend the year in Ontario. If healthy, and that’s a big “if”, he is a good middle-six player.

Prediction: Unsure (slightly leaning towards returning)

Lias Andersson

Stat line: 67 games, 31 goals, 28 assists, 59 points, -17 rating

Lias Andersson led the Reign in goals and was excellent on the power play this past season. In 2020, general manager Rob Blake gambled on acquiring Andersson from the New York Rangers in exchange for a second-round pick, and the trade hasn’t worked out as he has recorded only four goals in 44 NHL games. However, still 24 years of age, I’m sure a team out there will give Andersson a shot at an NHL roster. I don’t think it’ll be the LA Kings as the Ontario Reign need to give some of their younger players top-line minutes this season in Ontario, and Andersson doesn’t have much of an NHL future in LA.

Prediction: Won’t return

Matthew Villalta

Stat line: 22 games, 12-8-1 record, 1 shutout, 2.65 GAA, .910 save percentage

After being the starter in the 2021-2022 season, the 2022-2023 season was an unfortunate one for Matthew Villalta. In 17 games, with a tandem of him and Pheonix Copley, Villalta started six of those games and made one relief appearance. When Cal Petersen got sent down to join the Reign, he rarely played. In the rest of those 55 games, Petersen started in 40 games compared to Villalta’s 15. With the Kings trying to get Petersen to get his game back on track, it took away starts from Villalta.

It’s unclear what Villalta’s future holds as Erik Portillo is set to make his professional debut this upcoming season and if Cal Petersen is traded (that 10-team no-trade list puts a wrinkle in that). He can be that veteran presence for Portillo if he returns, or there could be a look outside the organization to bring in a veteran AHL netminder.

Prediction: Unsure

Tobias Bjornfot

Stat line: 50 games, 5 goals, 7 assists, 12 points, +/- 0 rating

It was a decent start to the season for Tobias Bjornfot. The pair of him and Jordan Spence was one that head coach Marco Sturm could trust early on in the season. With Jordan Spence providing the offense, Bjronfot’s job was to improve his defensive play in his zone, and occasionally he led the rush. While there were some improvements early on, there were times the bad habits from previous years came back. His play hasn’t carried over to the NHL. With his entry-level contract up, the Kings need to figure out Bjornfot’s future with the organization. I would expect Bjornfot to get a look in camp to crack the Kings’ roster, however, it’s time to show improvements and consistency at the NHL level if given the chance.

Prediction: Probably makes the Kings’ roster

Taylor Ward

Stat line: 71 games, 9 goals, 17 assists, 26 points, -20 rating

Taylor Ward was a player I thought could quietly have a good season. It looked to be heading in that direction when he scored the first Ontario Reign goal of the season on opening night in an 8-2 win against the Abbotsford Canucks. As the season went on, it started to look like the opposite. Ward finished the season without a goal in his last 22 games and his defensive play didn’t look sharp during that stretch. However, it was his first full professional season, an adjustment from college. He’s not a player who will play in the NHL next season, but he could fill in a roster spot for the Reign. Let’s see how he adjusts in his second year.

Prediction: Will return

Nate Schnarr

Stat line: 18 games, 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, -9 rating

Nate Schnarr was acquired at the trade deadline in a depth move that sent defenseman Frederic Allard to the Montreal Canadiens. With Francesco Pinelli ready to make his professional debut, I expect him to take Nate Schnarr’s spot in the lineup. If the Reign will look for depth at that position, I expect them to move on and look elsewhere.

Prediction: Won’t return

Aidan Dudas

Stat line: 72 games, 12 goals, 18 assists, 30 points, -16 rating

It was a career year for Aidan Dudas in every offensive category. His 30 points on the season were good enough for sixth in scoring on the team. While it was a breakout season for Dudas, I expect his time in the organization to come to an end. His energy and work ethic will be missed, but it seems like he doesn’t have a future with the LA Kings.

Prediction: Won’t return

David Hrenak

Stat line (ECHL): 43 games, 22-13-14 record, 1 shutout, 2.82 GAA, .906 save percentage

David Hrenak spent the whole season in the ECHL with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits after playing three games in the AHL the previous regular season after his college season came to an end. Rookie netminder Erik Portillo will be with the Ontario Reign next season, but that backup goalie spot is up for grabs. Just like Villalta, I’m not sure what the future looks like for the 25-year-old netminder. I don’t know if he’ll be back.

Prediction: Unsure

Jacob Ingham

Stat line: No games (injured)

Jacob Ingham played no games this season due to injury. I’m curious to see how the LA Kings organization views the 22-year-old’s future with the club. Just like Villalta and Hrenak, he is a Restricted Free Agent.

Prediction: Unsure

The LA Kings will have a bunch of decisions to make on both the NHL and AHL rosters. An interesting Summer awaits.

UPDATE: After checking, David Hrenak signed a two-year deal overseas in Europe. That’s my fault for not checking properly and making sure he wasn’t signed yet. I apologize for the mistake. You can cross him off the list.

Main photo credit: Mike Zitek/Ontario Reign

1 thought on “Ontario Reign: The List of Restricted Free Agents

  1. I don’t know what else Lias Andersson could have done with the Reign to get the Kings keep him in the organization. He may end up like a few others that the Kings let go of, that ended up being solid NHL players. And a shame if Akil Thomas isn’t kept, bad luck to be injured 2 yrs in a row. And I thought Infham was considered the best G prospect in the org until Portillo? Bad luck to be out the entire season.

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