The Rookie Faceoff tournament is nearly here which means we’re very close to the return of Los Angeles Kings hockey.
This year’s roster isn’t as star-studded as recent ones, but there are still plenty of players worth keeping an eye on.
Most notably, defenseman Brandt Clarke won’t be making the trip to Las Vegas, meaning he’ll likely join the main group in Australia.
Here’s the roster:
See you in Vegas 🏒
— LA Kings (@LAKings) September 13, 2023
The first group I’ll take a look at is the more “veteran” prospects. Players who have either played at this tournament before or have some professional experience under their belt.
Martin Chromiak should be one of the best forwards at this tournament. He’s skated in this event a few times already and always seems to produce. Now, 21 years old with a full AHL season to his name, there’s no reason Chromiak shouldn’t take over games.
With a ton of skill and an NHL-ready shot, I expect Chromiak to lead the way for the Kings and score plenty of goals.
This tournament will be a huge litmus test for Francesco Pinelli. I’m assuming he’ll be the team’s number-one center, which will put him up against some high-end prospects during the team’s three games. Players such as Logan Cooley, William Eklund and Leo Carlsson.
He’ll have an age advantage over some of those players, but it will be a good test of where he’s at compared to his peers. With this in mind, I’m looking at his overall impact more than just his numbers. If he can keep pace with those players, that’s a good sign. A productive weekend would be the cherry on top.
Alex Laferriere will be the same player he’s always been at this tournament. Hard-working with sneaky skill and a goal-scoring touch. He’ll make an impact every time he’s on the ice and pick up a handful of points along the way.
I’d like to see the Kings load up a top line with Chromiak, Pinelli and Laferriere, something that could turn into a line in Ontario next season.
At 23 years old, Cole Krygier is one of the oldest players in attendance for the Kings and he should be one of their best defensemen.
Krygier spent five seasons at Michigan State, and after the Kings acquired his rights from the Florida Panthers, he was solid in eight games down the stretch for Ontario last season.
I have my doubts about his long-term NHL projection, but he should be the team’s number-one defenseman at this tournament and I expect him to play well.
This will be an interesting tournament for Samuel Helenius. After not showing much offense on the Reign last season, this is a good chance to show that he’s more than just a physical, shutdown center.
That being said, he also needs to physically impose himself in Vegas. Combine that with the goal-scoring talent that he’s shown at younger levels and it will be a very successful tournament for him.
This will be our first look at Portillo in a Kings jersey since arriving from the Buffalo Sabres at last season’s deadline. He’s the team’s number-one goalie prospect and a strong showing in Vegas could lead into a great first pro season for him.
These tournaments can be tough for goalies because they often lack much defensive structure, so, I’m less worried about his numbers and will be judging him more off the eye test.
Like Pinelli, this will be an excellent litmus test for 2023 third-round pick Koehn Ziemmer. We know he can dominate his age group in the WHL, but now we’ll see if he can take a step up and still produce.
We’ll see if his skating is the big issue it’s been made out to be and if his fitness will be a big issue. You can’t make definitive judgments off this tournament but if those don’t seem like issues here, the Kings might have pulled off a heist in the draft.
Jakub Dvorak might be the player I’m most excited to watch here. Not because I expect him to dominate or because he’s a future superstar. But because I’ll finally get to watch him skate in a game situation.
With conflicting reports about his skating, ranging from very good to very bad, I’ll finally get a chance to watch him play.
If his skating looks good, the Kings have a 6-foot-five, mobile defenseman in the pipeline, something that’s always good to have.
How to Watch:
All of the Kings’ games will be streamed on LAKings.com and free to watch.