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World Juniors

Kings' bright future on display at World Junior Summer Showcase

Have NHL-best seven prospects at event

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

PLYMOUTH, Mich. -- The Los Angeles Kings' time near the bottom of the NHL standings might not be a long one, if the World Junior Summer Showcase is any indicator.

The Kings, who were 30th in the League standings last season, have an NHL-best seven prospects among the United States, Canada, Sweden and Finland at the eight-day event that started Friday at USA Hockey Arena.

"Right now it looks good," Kings director of amateur scouting Mark Yannetti said. "There's a lot of projection involved. If you're going to be at the bottom of the League you have to take advantage of it. We certainly have seen that that's how teams have been built the last few years. They've had picks and they've taken advantage of those picks. ... We've been fortunate that we've had ammunition and I think we've used it well."

Among the Kings' prospects at the WJSS are five of the nine players they selected in the 2019 NHL Draft, including their top four selections, U.S. forwards Alex Turcotte (No. 5) and Arthur Kaliyev (No. 33), and Sweden defenseman Tobias Bjornfot (No. 22) and forward Samuel Fagemo (No. 50). Also at the WJSS is Finland defenseman Kim Nousiainen (No. 119).

Video: Turcotte on chirping dad, Kings taking him at No. 5

All players at the WJSS are competing for spots on their country's team for the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, a tournament typically headlined by 19-year-old players. But Turcotte, Kaliyev and Bjornfot will be 18 when the WJC begins, and each is projected to have significant roles on their respective teams.

"They're still young kids," Yannetti said. "If there's an 18-year-old kid putting themselves in position to make a [World Junior] team, it's exciting. But it's the first step in a process.

"It's right to be excited because since the draft this is the first and biggest evaluation that there is. Along the way there are five or six other benchmark evaluation steps; this is the first. They've checked off the first box of what we'd want to see, of what you'd hope for the future. And that's good."

Turcotte, who had a goal and an assist in USA Blue's 4-2 win against Sweden on Saturday, said helping his comfort level was his new friends from Kings development camp on the other side of the ice.

"I saw [Bjornfot and Fagemo] earlier today," Turcotte said Saturday. "They're really good guys. We got pretty close at development camp too. Good to see all these familiar faces. Even though they're on a different team, still kind of eases you in in a way."

Video: Kings draft D Tobias Bjornfot No. 22

Bjornfot didn't have a point for Sweden but the Kings have been impressed as much by his maturity as his on-ice ability.

"He's captain of every Swedish team he's involved with," Yannetti said. "Whenever you talk to a Swedish player that isn't Bjornfot, one name comes up as to who's the leader, who's the captain, who's the guy, and it's unanimous. And then you watch the way he plays. He's a top four (defenseman), we think he's a top three, he's got leadership abilities, he's got compete abilities."

Kaliyev scored 51 goals for Hamilton of the Ontario Hockey League last season and was No. 7 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the draft, but questions about his willingness to compete hard in all areas led to him falling into the second round. The Kings are confident Kaliyev will work to correct his flaws.

"There's enough hints from talking to people and from watching game film and watching his live stuff, seeing his body language and seeing some of the stuff he did away from the puck that give you the optimism and the ability to say I think this is the type of kid who gets it," Yannetti said. "Tyler Toffoli didn't compete that way as a 17-year-old. ... Tyler Toffoli improved those areas of the game to put himself in position to win the Stanley Cup. We're hopeful that in a similar way Arthur does that."

The Kings' two players from Canada, forwards Akil Thomas (2018, No. 51) and Aiden Dudas (2018, No. 113), will practice for the first time Sunday and could play against the U.S. on Tuesday.

The Kings see a bright future as their prospects continue to mature, and the World Junior Championship can help move that development along. But the players involved are eager to get the Kings back to the level that helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014.

"I think it's really exciting to be part of a rebuilding team," Kaliyev said. "I think we can be a great team in the future with all the great young prospects we have."

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