The Los Angeles Kings concluded their annual development camp on Monday with a 50-minute scrimmage, referees, and all.
Development camp is a good way to look at prospects in person that most people won’t have seen in the past year and a chance to look at the new draftees.
Of course, it’s a small sample size and no one should make conclusive evaluations based on development camp alone. But you can still get a sense of where a player is at from the five days.
More than anything, I was looking for tools that stand out from player to player. I don’t care how many goals someone scored in the scrimmages or during drills designed to set guys up in the slot.
And there were a few standouts both good and bad.
2021 eighth-overall pick Brandt Clarke was the headliner at this years camp and he didn’t disappoint.
Actually, that’s not entirely true, he really “saved” his camp with a stellar showing on Monday. He didn’t look bad in the four days prior, but never really stood out either.
He was forcing plays and wasn’t showing off the high-end hockey IQ everyone know he has. Given his season in Barrie and the fact that this camp doesn’t matter much for Clarke in the grand scheme of things. It’s okay to overlook the first four days of average play.
Especially after Monday when all of his high-end skills were on display. His vision, hockey IQ and puck skills stood out beyond what any other player could contend with.
And while Director of Player Development Glen Murray pointed out Clarke wasn’t at his best defensively, I was higher on his overall play. He was aggressively shutting down plays early and was fine when players did attack him one-on-one.
He still has a wonky skating stride that just looks wrong, but it certainly doesn’t hold him back, at least not against his peers.
He was the best player on the ice, as he should be, now it’s time to prove he can be an impact against NHL talent at training camp.
Francesco Pinelli’s a player that has stood out every time I’ve watched him.
His high-end puck skills jump out at you immediately. He’s a very creative player who can feather passes through traffic and between sticks and attacks players one-on-one at every opportunity.
But, one thing that stood out this week was his drive to penetrate the interior of the ice.
One of the criticisms of Pinelli in the past was his tendency to stay on the perimeter and try to create from outside.
Jarret Stoll pointed out that a lot of players have this problem and the need to break that habit. Well, Pinelli looks on his way to doing just that.
His release also stands out. I wouldn’t call his shot an elite tool, but he gets the puck off his stick in an instant which is key for scoring at the next level.
He’s a strong kid who, according to Pinelli and coaches, is adding more muscle each summer. So, I’d expect his shot and his ability to drive into the middle of the ice to continue improving.
Right now, Pinelli looks like a future middle-six complementary piece who can carve up defenses on occasion with his high-end puck skill.
No one’s shot up the Kings prospect rankings like Alex Laferriere over the past few seasons.
After being drafted 83rd overall in 2020, Laferriere’s exceeded all expectations.
He put together two extremely strong seasons at Harvard before signing his entry-level contract at the end of last season. And now he looks like a dark horse candidate to crack the Kings’ roster next season.
I wouldn’t say Laferriere has one skill that really pops in isolation — although his compete is high-end — but he does everything well.
Like Pinelli, Laferriere looks like a nice complementary piece for the Kings’ middle-six. But he brings more intangibles and a goal scoring touch.
He’s one of those players that just finds a way to produce at every level and there’s no reason to think that stops in the NHL.
If I was placing bets on which forward from development camp would play NHL games next season, all my money would be on Laferriere.
In his first trip out to Los Angeles, Otto Salin popped as the best defensemen not named Brandt Clarke at the camp.
Salin looks like what the Kings were hoping Tobias Bjornfot would become. A high-end skater who uses that mobility to defend and activate offensively with regularity.
He glides around the ice with ease and never looks panicked when defending or on the puck.
His style of defending reminds me a bit of Mikey Anderson or former Kings prospect Brock Faber. He takes advantage of his elite skating and is able to funnel players into the boards and strip pucks without too much effort.
He’s not a big, or physical, defensemen but makes up for it in other areas.
When he moves to North America, it will be interesting to see how much his size, or lack there of, impacts his game. But with experience playing against men in Liiga it shouldn’t be a huge problem.
I wouldn’t say Martin Chromiak stood out in the way the others in this article did, but when he was noticeable, he was very noticeable.
And I think that’s just the story of Chromiak right now. You wouldn’t really notice him and then he’d pick up a loose puck in the neutral zone, burn down the wing and snipe top corner. Then back to not noticing him until another sequence like that arose.
I don’t think I’d go so far as calling Chromiak one dimensional, but he isn’t far off it. The good thing is, that one dimension is scoring goals at a high rate. If you’re going to have one thing that stands out, that’s a good one to have.
For anyone who’s read my work consistently, you’d know that I’m not as high on Chromiak as some others. Mainly because I worry the lack of impact outside of those one-off offensive plays won’t work in the NHL.
But the goal scoring is very legitimate. When he sees openings he attacks them without a second thought and doesn’t need much space to create a shooting opportunity for himself.
Assuming he gets a bigger role with the Ontario Reign next season, I’ll be very interested to see what he does with the opportunity. ‘
He still tops out as another middle-six complementary piece, and I worry his skill set will be redundant in the Kings’ system with player like Arthur Kaliyev and Samuel Fagemo ahead of him.
But there’s no denying Chromiak’s talent.