Welcome to the Los Angeles Kings Prospect Update, a weekly feature highlighting a prospect in the Los Angeles Kings system.
The Kings currently own the league rights of 44 players outside of the NHL, including Professional players in Europe, Junior players and players in college. Click here to see the 2008-09 LA Kings Prospect Roster.
This week’s highlighted prospect is the ECHL Goalie of the Week, 21 year-old Jeff Zatkoff, currently playing for the Ontario Reign of the ECHL. Making his professional debut with Ontario on Oct. 18, Zatkoff stopped 29 of 30 shots in a 2-1 win over the Bakersfield Condors. Starting in net for the Reign’s next two wins of the season against the Las Vegas Wranglers, Zatkoff stopped a total of 91 of 95 shots for a save percentage of .958 and a goals against average of 1.33. With a 3-1-0 record this season, the Reign are currently tied with the Fresno Falcons for First Place in the Pacific Division with six points.
“We are not giving up a lot of chances, Zatkoff said. “I hope this continues, but the biggest challenge for me coming from college to pro hockey is to show that I can play on a consistent basis, night in and night out, for a 72-game schedule. My goal this year is to prove that I can and it is a challenge for me.”
Zatkoff was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the 3rd Round (74th overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. The 6’2”, 170-pound goaltender had 27 wins in 36 games while minding the net during the 2007-08 season for the University of Miami Red Hawks, placing him second in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and second in the nation for wins. In 2008 Zatkoff, a Detroit native, was also named to the CCHA’s All Tournament Team finishing with a 1.72 GAA and a .933 SV%.
“I had a chance to see Zatkoff in his first [professional] game [on Oct. 18]. He is a young guy with a lot of energy and he is excited about his first year pro. I think he will bring that enthusiasm to the group of guys in Ontario,” Bill Ranford, Los Angeles Kings Goaltending Coach said. “If everything goes according to plan, we will see him in Ontario for one or two years, but in a perfect world, hopefully next year he will be able to make the jump to the American Hockey League. Then after a few years in the AHL, make the push for one of the jobs in L.A.”
“Anytime you get to work with Bill Ranford is great. I was out there for about two weeks [at Training Camp] with him and Jason LaBarbera, so I was able to take from that and grow from the experience. If you can take different bits and pieces from every training camp that you go to, it will help your game. For me, the biggest thing to work on was getting adjusted to the speed and working with my ice awareness.
“At that level, every guy can make a play, so you have to give guys that respect.“
Ranford sees a lot of potential in Zatkoff’s future but had this to say about what he needed to improve on to make that next step: “Jeff does a really good job with rebound control with his stick, and up to this point, he has done a very good job in controlling pucks to his body. In today’s game most goals are scored are on little tiny rebounds in front and he has been doing a good job in taking those away. The biggest thing that he has got to work on is dealing with traffic and his foot speed, being quicker in the crease.”
Click here for the statistics on all of the Los Angeles Kings 2008-09 Prospects.