First off, let me just say that I'm kind of a big deal...haha...OK. Just kidding. But my photographs of the Kings Development Camp are on Rich Hammond's blog. I sent them to Rich and he was kind enough to share them with his readers.
I spent Wednesday and Thursday shooting the scrimmages so most of my impressions will be based on what I saw during the one-hour scrimmage on Friday morning.
First off, the scrimmages were missing alot of big names: Jonathan Bernier, Brayden Schenn, Andrei Loktionov, Viatcheslav Voynov, Colten Teubert and Brandon Kozun. Those six players are arguably the best six in the Kings farm system right now.
With that said, this camp gave us a glimpse of all the recent Kings draft picks and second-tier prospects. I'll start with the recent draftees.
At 6'5 and 198; Forbort is a mammoth on the blueline. He actually fills out his frame nicely but he's absolutely a project. Is he the next Tyler Myers? Time will tell but he's headed to an outstanding program at the University of North Dakota. The program has recently produced NHLers like Jonathan Toews, Zach Parise, T.J. Oshie and Kings defenseman Matt Greene. Forbort doesn't have the offensive flash of Doughty or JJ but he makes good decisions with the puck. If he can add some grit to his game at UND; he'll be the perfect compliment to the Kings established blueline.
When I researched Toffoli after the Kings drafted him; I read some comparisons to Corey Perry. I can absolutely see the similarities in their games. Toffoli has a nose for the net. He's not your typical power forward at 6'0 but he's got good offensive instincts around the net. Similar to Perry, Toffoli is an average to below-average skater which was probably the one thing keeping him from being a first-round pick. Another knock on him before the draft was his conditioning. He doesn't have that nasty SOB side of him like Corey Perry but it may develop in time. If Toffoli can improve his skating like Perry did at the AHL level; he could easily be another second-round gem for Dean Lombardi and his scouting staff.
Weal finished third in WHL scoring this past season with 35 goals and 102 points behind fellow Kings prospect Brandon Kozun and Regina Pats teammate Jordan Eberle. Many teams may have felt he was the product of a great linemate in Eberle (i.e.- Dany Roussin and Sidney Crosby) but Weal looks like the real deal. At 5'9, he may remind alot of people of Brandon Kozun but Weal's got more grit to his game than Kozun showed. He's got some great offensive instincts and darts in and out of spaces quickly. His skating and pursuit on the forecheck really made him stand out. He's a competitor; can't wait to see what types of numbers he puts up next year in Regina without Eberle.
At 6'4 and 185; Gravel is another big defenseman who will need some time to develop. Gravel looks lanky right now and will definitely need to fill out his frame. His size and reach on the blueline are a plus but like so many prospects; his skating will need to improve. He projects to be a nice all-around defender once his offensive game develops more. He's committed to St. Cloud State University in the Fall. A definite project.
The wildcard. I was probably most excited to see what Kitsyn had to offer. Many draft experts felt the 'Russian Factor' kept Kitsyn from being drafted in the first three rounds. Two years ago, Kitsyn was being compared to Evgeni Malkin but injuries and a disappointing couple years in the KHL derailed those hopes. Kitsyn looked a bit lost the first two days but had his best showing on Friday. He possesses a 6'2 frame that projects well but he'll need to get stronger. He lost alot of puck battles and coasted into the defensive zone many times. Hopefully Kitsyn can get out of his KHL contract and play in the OHL this upcoming year to get accustomed to the North American game. His beautiful roof shot backhand during the shootout gave Kings fans a glimpse of what he's capable of.