Ian Clark's On Hockey: Decisions in L.A. will have trickle-down effect here
THE LOS ANGELES KINGS’ losses will be the Manchester Monarchs’ gains.
The Kings are in camp this week and will be sending most of the Monarchs roster back this way early next week. Those last few players to come back will be the key ones, because Kings head coach Darryl Sutter has some tough decisions to make thanks to a deep roster and young talent hoping to crack the lineup.
“There is a little bit of room (on the Kings roster), but to knock a veteran out of his position is tough to do,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris, currently in L.A. for camp. “We’ll see how it all plays out.”
The issue the Kings face is a common one. If any young player is ready to make the jump to the Kings from Manchester and displaces a veteran, that veteran will have to clear waivers before reporting to Manchester. Decent players will not make it that far before being claimed by another team.
That makes the decisions even tougher in L.A., where a team just two seasons removed from a Stanley Cup championship remains stocked with talent both older and young. But if there is one Monarchs players who seems poised to make the jump, it’s left wing Tanner Pearson.
“The guy that stands out is Tanner Pearson. He’s played exceptionally well,” Morris said.
Pearson was called up for the playoffs last season, playing in one game and ending his night with no stats except a little more than five minutes of ice time. But in Manchester, Pearson scored 19 goals and 28 assists for 47 points in 64 games.
Pearson looks like he could stick and would join former Manchester linemate Tyler Toffoli as the latest young gun in L.A. Toffoli made waves in the playoffs last year, scoring two goals and four assists in 12 postseason games. His spot with the Kings seems like a lock.
That could mean that a young former Monarch teammate like Jordan Nolan is displaced. Nolan’s physical play (which sometimes borders on dirty) is a plus, but he still has not developed the offensive power game that the Kings think he can. Nolan had just 2-4-6 in 44 games last season.
A name to watch is winger Scott Sabourin. He played five games with Manchester at the end of last season, notching an assist in five regular-season games and no points in three playoff games. He has played well in camp and could be a breakout player with the Monarchs.
“He was very good Sunday (in an exhibition game with Phoenix),” Morris said. “He was exceptional.”
The blue line is even more crowded for the Kings, with nine players on one-way contracts (who would have to clear waivers to be sent down) and seven realistic spots for defensemen, something has to give.
The end result will likely be that two of them are sent down to Manchester or traded away. But that also means a player who has paid his dues, like Andrew Campbell, doesn’t have much of a chance to make the Kings’ roster unless he really shines in camp.
That also means Manchester will have some experienced leadership in guys like Campbell, players continuing to develop such as Nick Deslauriers and finally a solid infusion of rookie talent that will be exciting to watch such as Alex Roach and 2010 first round draft pick Derek Forbort.
“Forbort has been playing with some NHL-caliber defensemen in camp. It’s been a great learning experience for him,” Morris said. “He’s played well and now he’s in some intense competition.”
The final battle is between the pipes for the right to the backup goaltender position behind Jonathan Quick. Ben Scrivens came over from Toronto, Mathieu Garon (who played in Manchester in 2004-05) was picked up and then Martin Jones is hoping to make his mark for the jump to the NHL.
Garon is a 35-year-old journeyman who might be exactly what L.A. wants behind Quick, since the workhorse starter plays in more than 60 games a year. That means if you want a young prospect such as Scrivens (who has 32 games of NHL experience) or Jones (no NHL games) to develop, they need to play and that means playing in the AHL.
The Monarchs open camp on Tuesday and have two exhibition games against Portland. The first is in Saco, Maine, on Saturday, Sept. 28 and the other is at St. Anselm College’s Sullivan Arena on Sunday, Sept. 29.
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BRUINS NEWCOMERS SHINE: Several new faces on the Boston Bruins had impressive debuts in Monday’s 6-3 exhibition win in Montreal. Veteran Jarome Iginla scored a pair of goals and looks to be the natural replacement for the departed Nathan Horton.Nick Johnson, a Dartmouth College product, scored a pair of goals as well and appears poised to be a solid contributor. He has 104 NHL games under his belt, but most came with Minnesota which means he remains mostly an unknown.
Youngsters Malcom Subban (a perfect 12 saves on 12 shots in net after Chad Johnson struggled) and defenseman Zach Trotman both played very well and look like they will be able to help the team sooner rather than later.
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.