Kane or MSP?

From the various mock drafts and analysis that have been thrown around, it seems increasingly evident that the Big Two — John Tavares and Victor Hedman — has become the Big Three with the addition of Matt Duchene, who is now widely expected to go no later than No. 3, to Colorado.

Conventional wisdom has the Atlanta Thrashers, at No. 4, taking either Evander Kane or Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, leaving the other forward available for the Kings at No. 5. My journalistic preference is for Kane, merely to avoid frequent misspellings and a repeat of the Voinov/Voynov confusion, about whether the kid’s name is Paajarvi-Svensson or Svensson-Paajarvi.

What’s your preference? Or do you think Dean Lombardi will go “off the board” — a la Thomas Hickey two years ago — and make a surprise pick?

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Dustin Brown make-up date

For those who attended the Tip-A-King event in February and were disappointed not to meet Dustin Brown, who was dealing with childbirth issues, Brown and the Kings have rescheduled a “make-up” date. On Saturday, May 16, Brown will appear at the Sports Chalet in Marina del Rey from 10 a.m. to noon. The autograph session will be exclusively for Tip-A-King ticket-buyers, who can bring their ticket stubs from February and “tip” $1 for an autograph and $2 for a photo.

Sports Chalet
13455 Maxella Ave.
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

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Player evaluation: Zeiler


This season: 27 games, 0 goals, 1 assist, 42 penalty minutes, 6:33 average ice time.
The good: Zeiler basically does what is asked of him. Run around, hit people, get in the way and bring some energy on the fourth line. He seems to understand, and accept, his role as a part-time energy player, and didn’t complain when he ended up being a healthy scratch in more than half of the Kings’ games this season.
The bad: Zeiler generated some goodwill in the 2006-07 season, when he basically came out of nowhere and impressed with his skating and hitting. That led to a four-year contract which, even though it’s for a paltry amount — an average of under $544,000 per season — seems to be a bit of a head-scratcher in retrospect. Zeiler is a filler player who didn’t do much this season to prove that he should be in the lineup on a regular basis.
Going forward: With a player such as Richard Clune earning good reviews in Manchester, it’s no stretch to say that Zeiler’s time with the Kings might be drawing short. Zeiler hardly makes any money (in a relative sense) and is a serviceable spare part, but the Kings are at the point where they need to get beyond just having “serviceable” players on the roster.

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Player evaluation: Williams


This season: 12 games, 1 goal, 3 assists, 8 penalty minutes, 17:51 average ice time (with Kings); 32 games, 3 goals, 7 assists, 9 penalty minutes, 15:10 average ice time (with Carolina).
The good: Williams came in under some difficult circumstances, through no fault of his own. He was the player who came back in the controversial trade that sent Patrick O’Sullivan to Edmonton, and Williams had a broken finger at the time of the trade and didn’t make his Kings debut for two weeks. After seven games without a point, Williams had a one-goal, two-assist game against Phoenix on April 4 and was playing on the first line by the end of the season.
The bad: Keep in mind the image of Michal Handzus in 2007-08, when Handzus went through that typical year-after-ACL-surgery season. Reports from Carolina indicated that Williams was a step slow this season, and his combined four goals in 44 games fell well short of his past performances, which included two 30-goal seasons.
Going forward: Perhaps no player will be watched closer next season than Williams. In O’Sullivan, the Kings traded away a popular young player with potential. Dean Lombardi is adament that he got the better play in the trade, so it’s going to be up to Williams to prove him correct. Given the Kings seem increasingly comfortable with Dustin Brown in a second-line role, Williams is likely to be given first crack to be the first-line right winger.

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Player evaluation: Westgarth


This season: 9 games, 0 goals, 0 assists, 9 penalty minutes, 5:02 average ice time.
The good: Westgarth, the Kings’ second Princeton-educated enforcer, had developed a solid reputation in Manchester for his willingness to mix it up. Westgarth, mentioned as a probably successor to Raitis Ivanans, got his first chance in mid-January, not so coincidentally, after the incident against Tampa Bay when the Kings didn’t respond to a hit on Drew Doughty. Westgarth got another call in March after Ivanans suffered an injury.
The bad: It’s hard to make too much of two brief NHL stints, but Westgarth didn’t really do anything to force the Kings to keep him on the roster. His size (6-foot-5) and willingness to drop the gloves allow him to fill a prescribed role, but what did he really show beyond that? Westgarth had 10 points in 65 games in Manchester this season.
Going forward: Westgarth is a restricted free agent this summer, and Ivanans remains under contract for one more season and a paltry $600,000. At 25, Westgarth still has time to improve, and there’s a decent chance that, a year from now, Westgarth will inherit that spot from Ivanans. At this point, is there enough of a difference between Ivanans and Westgarth to justify making a change in that spot?

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Calder Trophy finalists

Columbus’ Steve Mason, the Ducks’ Bobby Ryan and Chicago’s Kris Versteeg have been named as the three finalists for the Calder Trophy. The Kings’ Drew Doughty was not among the top three vote-getters.

I voted Mason first, followed by Doughty. Ryan and Versteeg were also in my top five, but I thought Mason and Doughty were particularly outstanding, compared to fellow rookies at their respective positions. The award will be given out on June 18 in Las Vegas.

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Ontario Reign update

Jeff Zatkoff made 29 saves last night as the Ontario Reign beat Stockton 4-3 and forced a seventh game in the first-round ECHL playoff series. That game will be played tonight in Ontario. The Reign led 4-0 before Zatkoff allowed three third-period goals, but held on. Colten Teubert had a plus-2 rating and took two minor penalties.

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Brown nets two for USA

Team USA played its final warmup game yesterday before the IIHF World Championships, and Dustin Brown scored both USA goals in a 5-2 loss to Switzerland. The first goal was on a 5-on-3 power play and the second goal was with a two-man disadvantage. Team USA plays its opening game in the tournament on Saturday morning (7:15 a.m. Pacific time) against Latvia.

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Player evaluation: Stoll


This season: 74 games, 18 goals, 23 assists, 68 penalty minutes, 17:05 average ice time.
The good: The Kings’ power play wasn’t great this season, but how much worse would it have been without Stoll. With his particularly strong shot from the point, Stoll finished second on the team with 10 power-play goals. His 18 goals and 41 points, overall, were his highest totals in three years, and Stoll’s defense and faceoff ability were also strengths.
The bad: Ideally, Stoll is a third-line center, but it’s been a bit hard for him to find a fit with the Kings because they already have the ideal third-line center in Michal Handzus. Stoll isn’t exactly a playmaker, which makes it difficult to pair him with high-scoring wingers on a first or second line, but he also has too much talent to be forced into a fourth-line role. Then again, that’s more a problem for Lombardi and Murray, not Stoll himself.
Going forward: As a reliable two-way player and a good presence in the locker room, Stoll has a stable place on the Kings’ roster. His play took a somewhat-mysterious dip in the early part of the season, and it would still be beneficial to the Kings if he could provide more offense, but the Kings knew what they were getting in Stoll, and he has held up his end of the bargain.

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Player evaluation: Simmonds


This season: 82 games, 9 goals, 14 assists, 73 penalty minutes, 13:50 average ice time.
The good: Simmonds was all skin, bones and energy when he showed up in the summer of 2007 for his first prospects camp. A year later, his performance in training camp was so dynamic that the Kings, shockingly, chose to keep him around. After that, all Simmonds did was play 82 games, bring a ton of energy, play good defense, bring some toughness, skate hard on every shift and show some offensive potential. On a per-minute basis, no Kings player got more out of his playing time than Wayne Simmonds did this season.
The bad: Everyone knows what Simmonds’ weakness is at this point. He needs to find a way to pack on some bulk without losing any of his speed. That shouldn’t be hard to do. At a legit 6-foot-1, Simmonds certainly has room to pack on a few pounds, and he talked about his desire to get stronger this summer. Another 10 pounds or so, over the summer, could make a world of difference.
Going forward: Since Simmonds is still so much a work in progress, it’s hard to know what his ceiling is. At worst, he’s already a dynamic third-line winger. At best, he could develop a scoring touch and be a real two-way threat. Simmonds made tremendous strides in the last 12 months, and if he can take a similar step forward over the next year, the Kings will have a real gem.

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