With the development of talented defensemen in all corners of hockey's global village, a team needs to be prepared to log a few frequent flyer miles if they intend to stock up on blue chip blueliners.
For further proof, look no further than the Kings current crop of world-class defenseman, which reads more like a Rand McNally map than a hockey roster. Mattias Norstrom hails from Sweden, Aaron Miller was raised in Buffalo and Lubomir Visnovsky came to Los Angeles via Slovakia.
With up-and-coming players from all over the hockey world in the Kings' pipeline, the next generation figures to be every bit as diverse. In order to get a sense of the future of the Kings defense, it's necessary to span the globe, taking a journey from North American minor league teams to European leagues, from Canadian Junior teams to Ivy League colleges.
With Kings Director of Amateur Scouting Al Murray serving as a guide, here's a trip into the Kings future, as we check up on the organization's most promising young defensemen.
Richard Petiot (6-3, 200; Born: Aug. 20, 1982, Daysland, Alberta) "Right now," Murray says, "Richard is probably our top prospect of the players who were in Manchester last year. Defensemen seem to take a little longer to get the hang of things – although Calgary's Dion Phaneuf would challenge that. Richard played college hockey at Colorado College, and his game there was a combination of offensive play and defensive play with some hits. I think, as Richard progresses through pro hockey, he's going to be a little more of a defensive player who brings physical play a little more often. Once he gets in that habit, he's going to be fine. We've seen it from him in spurts, and we'd like to see it more consistently.
"For a guy coming out of college hockey and into his first year as a pro, he played a lot for Manchester," Murray continued. "We gave him an opportunity and he had a real good year. You always hope they can continue to take steps."
Petiot says he learned a lot from a brief two-game stint with the Kings last season.
"I was really excited," Petiot says of being recalled, "and it really gave me a chance to see how fast the game moves in the NHL."
Petiot spent four years at Colorado College, earning a degree from school known for its progressive calendar.
"They're on the block system," Petiot says of his alma mater's unique academic schedule. "You take one class for three and a half weeks, then start a new one."
Now, it seems, Petiot is close to being ready to make the NHL his classroom.
Peter Harrold (5-11, 190; Born: June 8, 1983, Kirtland Hills, OH) "He had a very good career at Boston College," Murray says. "He's more of an offensive defenseman that defensive. You look at his size and he's not the biggest guy in the world. It's hard to know for sure, because with the college guys, you never know how accurately they are listed. But Peter is somewhere between 5-11 and 6-0, and somewhere around 185-to-190 pounds, but his game doesn't need to be a big body game.
"He's very skilled with the puck, makes a good first pass and was a very big part of a very good Boston College team over the last few years."
An Ohio native, Harrold has spent his spring watching the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"I enjoy watching every aspect of the games," Harrold says, "but now with me having the opportunity make it in the pros, it's a chance for me to watch the defenseman and learn what it takes to play at that level."
While watching the playoffs, a couple of defenseman have caught Harrold's eye.
"You just stand in awe of guys like Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger," Harrold says. "Scott Niedermayer makes everything he does look so, so easy. He's just a supreme talent. To think you can go out and play like them, that's just not going to happen. But you can go out and learn, so I've been watching."
Harrold has also been watching the developments in Los Angeles, where the Kings have a new head coach.
"Marc Crawford is a great coach. He's won a Stanley Cup, so his reputation speaks for itself. I'm really looking forward to playing for him."
Ryan McGinnis (6-1, 197; Born: March 3, 1987, Fenton, Mich.) "Ryan is a player we drafted out of the Ontario Hockey League," Murray says. "He played for Plymouth this year and, unless you watch him over a number of games, you probably won't appreciate how good he is.
"Ryan is a very good skater and very strong for his size. If you want to get a picture of him, he's similar to Timmy Gleason. Similar size, and he's strong. He's not at Timmy's level, but he's that kind of player. Ryan took a major step this year. He played against the best players on the opposing teams, and we were really happy with his development."
Joey Mormina (6-6, 220; Born: June 29, 1982, Montreal, Quebec) "Joey is a bit of a project player," Murray says. "He's very tall and needs to use his size effectively. In the new NHL, the big player who can use his stick can keep a player away from scoring is very effective.
"If you have a good active stick, and you can get it in the passing lanes and use your stick to poke check the puck off people's sticks, putting it out there so players have to make their move earlier than what they would like, it gives you more time to react. We hope Joey becomes that kind of player. As a college player (Colgate), he wasn't a real banger, but coming into the pros, we think can develop, but he's going to need a little more time in Manchester."
Patrik Hersley (6-3, 205; Born: June 23, 1986, Malmo, Sweden) "Patrik is from Sweden, but the hockey world has shrunk quite a bit and the difference between European and North American hockey is smaller than what it was in the past," Murray says.
"Patrik has some injury problems that kept him from playing on the Swedish World Junior Team, which would have been a great experience for him. But, he rebounded in the second half. He's got good size and has a good shot from the point, so he could produce offense for us. And he's a punishing checker. He's along the lines of Richard Petiot, but he has more offense than Richard."
Paul Baier (6-4, 225, Born: Feb. 2, 1985, Summit, NJ) "He's a smart kid and Paul's development has been a little up and down since we drafted him." Murray says of the Ivy Leaguer. "We knew he was going to Brown (University, in Providence) when we drafted him. It's not the ideal college for NHL development, but we felt he had all the attributes we were looking for in a player and we felt he would continue to get better. His team isn't that strong, so I think maybe Paul tries to do too much."