As the Los Angeles Kings move into win-now mode, it’s no surprise that their prospect pool isn’t as revered as it once was.
This is reflected in Corey Pronman’s recent prospect pool rankings, where he had the Kings down in 20th place. Ten spots lower than they were this time last year.
It’s interesting to see Pronman rank the Kings this low after his colleague, Scott Wheeler, had the Kings ranked at seven in February.
Instead of diving into each placement as I did with Wheeler’s piece, I’m just going to pick out some of the things that stood out to me.
Byfield Over Clark:
The first thing to jump out to me is Pronman having Quinton Byfield ranked over Brandt Clarke. I don’t think that’s a crazy opinion, but feels like a minority one at this point. Looking at Wheeler’s article again, he had Clarke above Byfield.
It’s worth noting that Pronamn’s consistently been low on Clarke, at least compared to others. He’s always viewed Clarke as more of a second-pair/1B type of defenseman. Where big-time believers in Clarke view him as a true number-one defenseman.
I tend to side with the latter, but I’m still okay with Byfield above him. As always with Byfield, it’s the legitimacy of his tools that keep him so high. The size, speed, skill and work ethic are such a rare combination to find and almost always work out.
In the accompanying podcast episode, Pronman does point out that the offensive production might never be elite with Byfield. But he also points out the fact that it often takes big players longer to develop and hope is still there.
One thing that can’t be ignored here is Pronman’s connections with NHL scouts. He’s frequently in conversation with scouts and has them look over lists like this. So, he didn’t just put Byfield at one on a whim, that’s heavily impacted by what the league thinks of him too.
If the slow start to his career doesn’t concern you, it makes a lot of sense to have Byfield above Clarke.
Pronman’s also still very low on Clarke’s skating and defending, causing him to “fall” here. He gives Clarke’s skating a “poor” ranking, the lowest he gives out. However, other than his skating, his tools are all rated as “above NHL average.”
Placing Clarke into the “bubble top and middle of the lineup player,” instead of the “top of the lineup” tier points to his concerns. I would have him in the “top of the lineup” tier, but I see why Pronman doesn’t if he’s really low on those two attributes.
Still High on Kaliyev:
Arthur Kaliyev has always split the opinion of scouts and prospect writers, but Pronamn’s always been high on Kaliyev. He even ranked him at number 2 above Clarke last year. That’s also a sign of him being a little lower on Clarke, but it’s high praise for Kaliyev.
Falling into the “bubble top and middle of the lineup player” tier, Pronman’s remained confident in Kaliyev carving out a top-six NHL role for the Kings.
I find it interesting that Pronman lists Kaliyev’s skating as “below NHL average,” instead of “poor.” That’s a little generous and I’d consider Clarke a better skater, I’d flip their tool grades there.
But Pronman’s also harsh on Kaliyev’s puck skills, ranking them as “below NHL average.” I wouldn’t agree there either, his puck skills aren’t elite, but NHL average seems a fairer ranking.
He also gives Kaliyev credit in his compete, ranking it as NHL average, when a little of people would consider it below NHL average. He also gives Kaliyev’s hockey IQ some love, ranking it as “above NHL average.”
Hockey IQ is an underrated part of Kaliyev’s game and it’s nice to see him get some credit there.
Of course, Pronamn’s faith in Kaliyev rests in his world-class shot. He’s given a “high-end” grade, the highest Pronman gives out.
It’s that goal-scoring threat that keeps him so high on this list and it’s hard to dispute that opinion.
I don’t agree with all of Pronman’s grades for Kaliyev, but the end result seems fair enough.
Tobias Bjornfot at 5:
Pronman was low on Tobias Bjornfot last season, placing him down at number nine, but he’s jumped up the list to five this time around.
A few players aging out contributed to this ascension, as did a strong season in Ontario.
His analysis didn’t provide much new information on Bjornfot. He is who he is, a good at everything great at nothing type. I’m higher on Bjornfot’s skating than Pronman is here, but NHL average is fair given how he ranks players.
Ranking Bjornfot’s compete at “above NHL average” was interesting. I don’t disagree, but high-end compete isn’t something I usually associate with Bjornfot. At least not at the NHL level.
If he can bring that above-average compete to the Kings next season, he can surpass the third-pairing projection Pronman gives him.
Koehn Ziemmer’s Ranking:
Koehn Ziemmer gets a lot of love in this ranking. He’s listed at #7 and the third-best under-22 forward in the Kings’ system.
I was really impressed by Ziemmer at development camp, but this feels a little high. I would still have Alex Laferriere and Francesco Pinelli above Ziemmer after watching them all last month.
Pronman’s very high on Ziemmer’s skill, ranking both his puck skills and shot as “above NHL average.” He dropped in the draft because of concerns about his fitness and his skating and Pronman really buys into the latter.
Ziemmer is listed as a “poor” skater here. Again, I’m not sure I agree with that if Kaliyev is a tier above that. From what I saw, Ziemmer doesn’t appear to be a worse skater than Kaliyev.
After his draft, Ziemmer seemed a prime candidate to out-produce his draft position and this ranking re-affirms that though.
Notable “Has a Chance to Play” Players:
Instead of an honorable mention section at the end, Pronman lists a group of players who’re in his “has a chance to play NHL games” tier.
Essentially, players whose NHL projection is up in the air and whose chances of being full-time NHLers are around 50/50.
The big name in this tier is Alex Turcotte. In the accompanying podcast episode, Pronman cites the injuries as a big reason but also mentions not being impressed with Turcotte in the AHL.
I take the second part with a grain of salt because everyone I’ve heard talk about Turcotte’s play think he’s NHL ready from a skill perspective. That’s not just Kings employees either, other AHL players and media have made these comments.
This is lower than most Kings fans are on Chromiak but right where I place him. There are some really exciting tools in Chromiak’s game, mainly the shot, but some big concerns as well.
He’s set up for a strong sophomore season in the AHL and really needs to pop in Ontario.
This is lower on Laferriere than I am, I’d put him in the “projected to play NHL games” tier. His NCAA production, high-end compete and versatility make him an ideal middle-bottom six forward candidate in the future.
I’m shocked Pinelli comes in lower than Ziemmer after watching them both at development camp. Looking at Pinelli’s tool grades from last year, both he and Ziemmer are given “above NHL average” shot grades. But only Ziemmer has “above NHL average” puck skills according to Pronman.
I just flat-out disagree with this, as Pinelli’s puck skills stood out far more when they were on the ice together. This isn’t meant as a criticism of Ziemmer either, Pronman’s just too low on Pinelli.
If I had to move anyone out of this tier and up one, it would be a toss-up between Pinelli and Laferriere. However, I’m leaning slightly toward Pinelli because of his puck skills and fitness.
That is assuming Turcotte’s out of the equation because of his injury issues.
It was a tough year for Jack Hughes which ended in a poor showing at development camp and Pronman’s ranking reflects this. After featuring at 10 in 2022, he falls off this list entirely.
He desperately needs a bounce-back season at Boston University.
There wasn’t much offense on display from Samuel Helenius last season and you have to figure that contributed to his fall here. There’s still hope for him as a physical, penalty-killing fourth-line center in the future.
But he needs to show more in the AHL next season.