With two rebuilding teams set to face off this week in a rookie tournament, there will be an influx of young talent on display as the Kings and Coyotes square off for a two-game set on Sept. 9 - 10 at Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo.
The Kings have selected eight players in the top 15 of the NHL draft since 2003, while selecting only 16 players there from 1967-2002. Moreover, Los Angeles has had 11 first-round selections since 2003, while accumulating just 23 such selections during the Kings first 35 seasons.
Similarly, the 'Yotes have collected 11 first-round picks since 2002, including five top-10 picks, as the franchise also attempts to rebuild from the ground up.
LAKings.com and Phoenixcoyotes.com teamed up to take a look at some of the top prospects that will be participating in the 2009 LA Kings Rookie Tournament.
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Height: 6' 1"
Born: Jan 13, 1991 (AGE 18)
Birthplace: Ayr, ON, Canada
Round: 2nd (35th overall)
Each player of Dean Lombardi’s 2009 draft class had one thing in common, a little bit of grit and sandpaper on each of the prospects.
Gritty would definitely be a good way to describe the 18-year old Kyle Clifford, who collected 133 PIMs for Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League last season, which ranked third on his team and 19th in the OHL.
Clifford also has a bit of a scoring touch as well, adding 16-12=28 in 60 games last season.
"I try to be a tough, physical player who jumps in the play offensively," Clifford told LAKings.com at his draft. "I'm not afraid to get a little dirty out there."
Clifford played well at the Kings Development Camp this summer, showing a lot of toughness and playing strong on the the puck.
"Clifford is a guy that we are really excited to see him play in a real game," Player Development's Nelson Emerson said. "He is the kind of player that we are are excited about his future. He is a rough and tumble type of winger. That is exactly what we expected out of him. He is going to play both ends of the ice and every puck is very meaningful to him. Every time there is a battle he is in there. He has his nose to the grindstone."
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Height: 6' 3"
Born: Dec 11, 1987 (AGE 21)
Birthplace: Huddinge, Sweden
Drafted: PHX / 2006 NHL Entry Draft
Round: 3rd (88th overall)
Jonas Ahnelov could make a strong case to crack the Opening Night roster. At 6-3 and 205 pounds, the Sweden native can provide plenty of size to Phoenix’s defensive corps.
Ahnelov had a good showing at last September’s training camp and made the roster out of camp. He never made it into a game, however, because of a broken finger sustained in a preseason game. When Ahnelov returned it was with the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in San Antonio. As the season went on he was hampered by an injured shoulder and a concussion.
Ahnelov finished last season, his first in North America, with seven points, 35 penalty minutes and a plus-minus rating of +1 in 43 games with San Antonio.
Ahnelov is no stranger to playing against top-tier talent. He played for his home country at the 2006 World Junior Championship and has logged time with Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League.
Ahnelov skated in the Coyotes’ Prospect Development Camp this summer and said he felt no effects of last season’s injuries.
"He is a great teammate and always has a smile," said Sean Burke, the Director of Prospect Development for the Coyotes. "He enjoys the game and is very physical. You would like to have him on the team. He will keep everyone loose."
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Height: 6' 0"
Born: Feb 8, 1989 (AGE 20)
Birthplace: Calgary, AB, Canada
Round: 1st (4th overall)
A surprise pick at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Hickey has been showing the kind of leadership skills and strong play on both ends of the ice that is fitting for someone selected fourth overall. This past year, Hickey accomplished a lot, scoring 16-35=51 for the Seattle Thunderbirds team in which he captained, ranking 10th among all WHL defenseman and being named a first-team all-star for the second straight season.
On the international stage, Hickey Captained Team Canada to a Gold medal at the 2009 World Junior Championships, scoring 0-3=3 with two penalty minutes in six games.
In addition, Hickey took the next step toward playing hockey in Los Angeles, making his professional debut at the end of last season with the Manchester Monarchs, recording seven points (1-6=7) and two penalty minutes in seven games with Manchester, notching multi-point efforts in three games
"I would think he would be really comfortable going into this week and these games against Phoenix. He is the veteran statesmen of the whole group," Emerson said. "We should see a very comfortable player. I am hoping that he is going to take control out there and be the quarterback of our club. We know the leadership values that he has and being Captain of Team Canada and winning that gold medal, the experiences are all there for him now it is time, The rookies all lean to him. If they have a question, they all go to him. That evolved, just by this kid being such a great all around pro already."
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Height: 5' 11"
Born: Dec 7, 1987 (AGE 21)
Birthplace: Uddevalla, Sweden
Round: 3rd (88th overall)
Joel Gistedt is being given plenty of time to develop in the Coyotes’ system.
The native of Uddevalla, Sweden spent all of the 2007-08 playing in his native country. He split time between the junior team and Swedish Elite League club Frolunda.
With the junior club, he played in five games, going 5-0-0 with a 1.38 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage. With the SEL club, he appeared in 11 games and posted a record of 4-4-3 with a 3.36 GAA and .857 save percentage. After the 2007-08 season Gistedt came to North America.
In 2008-09, Gistedt spend a majority of the season with the Arizona Sundogs of the Central Hockey League. He played in 29 games for the team, going 10-15-1 with one shutout, a 4.15 GAA and .873 save percentage. Gistedt also played in one game with the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate in San Antonio.
Gistedt started in the second game of last September’s two-game series against the Los Angeles Kings’ rookies at Jobing.com Arena and stopped 32 shots en route to a 3-0 shutout.
"He has simplified his game and realizes that in North American hockey you have to make the shooters beat you and not beat yourself by being too active in the net," said Burke.
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Height: 6' 1"
Born: Mar 1, 1988 (AGE 21)
Birthplace: Wapella, SK, Canada
Round: 3rd (86th overall)
Sometimes you have to take a step backward to take a step forward.
Such was the 2008-09 season for Bud Holloway, the Kings third-round selection, 86th overall, in 2006.
Holloway began the season with the Manchester Monarchs, but struggled in the American Hockey League, scoring just 12 points (7-5=12) in his first season as a professional.
Then on Feb. 18, the Monarchs assigned Holloway to Ontario, which seemed to light a fuse under the 6-1 forward, as Holloway scored 14 goals in 23 games and added eight helpers for 22 points. In the postseason, Holloway kept up his high level of play, recording at least one point in each of the Reign's seven playoff games, finishing with 5-9=14 and a hat trick on April 11.
Holloway used that confidence gained at Ontario to show up at Development Camp this summer and shine.
"Things didn’t go his way in Manchester and he was assigned to Ontario and it could not have been a better situation unfold for him," Emerson said. "He found his game there, and played the way we know he is capable. He is very opportunistic player and can really shoot the puck. That should really help him in these games vs. Phoenix. Any player loves success and he experienced it in Ontario. Now it is time to take another step."
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Height: 5' 11"
Born: Jan 26, 1986 (AGE 23)
Birthplace:Abington, PA, United States
Round: 7th (199th overall)
Chad Kolarik has been in Phoenix’s system for five years after the organization selected him from the U.S. National Development Program Under-18 team in 2004.
He spent the 2008-09 campaign with Phoenix’s AHL affiliate in San Antonio. While there, he notched 20 goals and 30 assists for 50 points and 47 penalty minutes in 76 games.
"Chad had a good year," said Burke. "He has a lot of speed. He is not real big, but he learned this year to score some goals from the tough areas. He has a nose for the net and has to continue to get stronger and develop an all-around game. He progressed really well this year."
Before last season, Kolarik’s stock as a Coyotes prospect rose while playing collegiately at Michigan. In four years there, he collected 78 goals and 96 assists for 174 points in 163 games.
The native of Abington, Penn. had an excellent senior year with the Wolverines. He finished second on the team in scoring behind fellow Coyotes prospect Kevin Porter, and earned CCHA First All-Star Team and NCAA West Second All-American Team honors.
Kolarik also had a brief stint with San Antonio after finishing his senior season at Michigan. He notched four goals and two assists in a seven-game playoff series.
Continue to phoenixcoyotes.com for the next six prospects