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AUGUST PROSPECT REPORT: WING MEN

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
In hockey, it all starts with the center taking a face-off. Yet, any centerman will tell you that good wingers take his game to another level, enabling him to accomplish things that would be impossible on his own.


Kings' centers have every right to feel good about their chances of success with the players like Patrick O'Sullivan, Konstantin Pushkarev, Dany Roussin, Lauri Tukonen, Peter Kanko and Brady Murray within the Kings system.

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A draft day acquisition in the trade that sent Pavol Demitra to the Minnesota Wild, Patrick O'Sullivan, is regarded by most as the Kings' top winger of the future.

With a lightning quick release on a pin-point shot, O'Sullivan put up big numbers with Houston, the Wild's top affiliate, last season. O'Sullivan, who is also regarded as a strong skater and puck-handler, scored 47 goals while dishing off for 46 assists (93 points).

"Patrick will certainly challenge for a spot with the Kings this season," Kings Director of Amateur Scouting Al Murray said. "Patrick moved on to the American League last year when he graduated from Junior hockey and put up terrific numbers there," Murray said. "He is a player that has the ability to put up big offensive numbers at every level he plays at. We hope he continues to do that in the National Hockey League."

New Kings Coach Marc Crawford counts O'Sullivan as one of the most promising of the Kings wing prospects.

"You certainly can look at the guy we just traded for, O'Sullivan, as being a scoring type winger," Crawford said.

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Crawford is also high on Pushkarev, who played in one game for the Kings last season.

"Pushkarev, for sure, will also be a scoring-type winger, especially if we can get him into having better habits of using his speed to go along with his great deception and talent," Crawford said.

Murray added that if Pushkarev can bulk up, he has a good shot of developing into an NHL caliber winger in the not-too-distant future.

"One of the things working against Konstantin is he needs to gain strength because he's not a big player," Murray said. "He's tremendously skilled, he's one the top-skilled guys that you'll find with the puck at any level. He needs to learn how to play a North American-style and not be fancy all the time. He needs to be a little more north-south, instead of always east-west. If he can use that skill and add some strength, we think he's got a chance to be a top offensive player."

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As a product of Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Dany Roussin played his Junior hockey on a line with Pittsburgh phenom Sidney Crosby. Alongside Crosby in 2003-04, Roussin picked up 117 points in 66 games.

Roussin was drafted by the Florida Panthers but the two parties were unable to reach a contract agreement, so he went back into the draft.

"The Panthers missed the deadline to get him signed by a matter of minutes," Murray said. "When he went back in the draft, we took him in the second round."

Back in the draft, Roussin quickly caught Crawford's eye.

"The one kid that I've been very impressed with is Dany Roussin, the winger who played with Sidney Crosby in Juniors and scored a lot of goals," Crawford said. "He has a great set of hands and really knows where the puck is. He's much like Andrew Brunette of Colorado, in that he has real strong puck skills around the net."

Roussin may not be an overnight NHL sensation like Crosby but the Kings believe that, given time, he has a chance develop into a solid player.

"Dany struggled at the AHL level last year and went down to the East Coast Hockey League for a big chunk of the season," Murray said. "Once he got there, he was a point-a-game player, with those points split evenly among goals and assists. He's one of those players who has always taken time to adapt, even as a Major Junior player. He didn't score big right away in Major Junior. Once he got comfortable, he put up big numbers and we're hoping the same thing happens this year."

The speedy Roussin has been playing on the left side since childhood.

"I started playing left wing," Roussin said, "because when I was young, I played either center or left wing, and I had one friend who would only play center, so I became a left wing. That's the position I've played ever since."

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Petr Kanko appeared in 10 games for the Kings last season, picking up one goal, and Murray believes he as a shot at earning a roster spot this season.

"Petr Kanko is a different style player, "Murray said. "He's more of a gritty aggravating player. In addition to having some skill, he can get under the other team's skin. Petr is not tall, but he is very strong. He can play that fourth line, energy line, type of role and contribute some offense in addition. Petr got a few NHL games under his belt last season, so we hope he will take another step and challenge for a spot with the Kings this year."

Crawford is of the opinion that Kanko will develop into the kind of player that will make his presence felt with the Kings.

"Petr Kanko is another kid that I think is going to get more of a look as he continues to get a little bit older," Crawford said.

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As the son of ex-Kings head coach Andy Murray, Brady Murray certainly is familiar with the Kings system.

"Brady's one of those guys that brings a lot of intangibles," said Rob Laird, a Kings Pro Scout.

Those intangibles are the kind that are commonly picked up by coaches' kids.

"He is a very determined athlete," Laird said. "He seems to be on the puck right away, and has a great work ethic. When he's on the ice, something happens all the time."

While at the University of North Dakota, Murray scored 19 goals and recorded 46 points in 2004 to lead the Fighting Sioux to the NCAA tournament. A year later, injuries limited Murray to 20 points in 26 games.

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Lauri Tukonen, a native of Finland, had 14 goals and 36 points in 64 games for Manchester, the Kings' top minor league affiliate, last season.

"Lauri Tukonen was a player who played in the World Junior Championships for Finland," Murray said, "and he was one of the top scorers and made the first all-star team at the World Junior. He had a good year in Manchester, but his year was cut a little short with a shoulder problem that need surgery. He's recovering fine, and we expect him to be back and hopefully take another step as he's now getting to be the age where most Junior players would graduate and move on to the Junior level and he's already got one year under his belt."

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