With word getting around that the Toronto Maple Leafs are scouting the Los Angeles Kings again this evening, we’ve officially left ‘routine scouting’ territory and we’re pretty securely in ‘something’s going down’ town.
First, Elliotte Friedman reported in his always-excellent 30 Thoughts piece last week that a Dion Phaneuf-for-Mike Richards deal was “seriously considered“, but the Kings’ unwillingness to include Tyler Toffoli or Tanner Pearson in the deal ultimately lead to its demise.
Then, Andy Tonge of Mayor’s Manor reported that Leafs GM Dave Nonis was in attendance for the Manchester Monarchs vs. Portland Pirates game on Friday, which just so happened to be Richards’ first AHL game since being demoted by the Kings.
Last night, the trend continued. According to Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe, Nonis was once again scouting the Kings tonight as they played the Bruins in Boston.
Like I said, this isn’t a coincidence. The Leafs organization is heavily scouting the Kings, and I doubt we’ve heard the last of the Richards-to-Toronto rumours. But judging by the original trade rumours courtesy of Friedman, I doubt Richards would be the only player coming back Toronto’s way. After all, why would Nonis be scouting L.A.’s NHL team if Richards isn’t even there?
Let’s talk about the players who the Leafs might be targeting, not including Mike Richards…
Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson
Let’s get these ones out of the way quickly, as we’ve already mentioned that the Kings don’t really want to move either of them. Of course, that doesn’t mean they won’t.
Toffoli was drafted by the Kings in the second round of the 2010 draft, after scoring 333 points in 252 games over an impressive four year OHL career with the Ottawa 67’s.
A right shot who’s listed as a center by the NHL but generally lines up on the wing, Toffoli is one third of That 70’s line along with Pearson and Jeff Carter. He’s from Scarborough, Ontario, listed as 6’1″, 196lbs, and owns an impressive shot and offensive awareness.
After a solid rookie campaign last season, Toffoli has already cemented himself as a full time NHLer on one of the best teams in hockey at just 22 years old. This season, he has 13 goals and 29 points through 43 games so far.
Pearson is a similar story, in that came up through the Kings organization alongside Toffoli and established himself as a NHL talent also at the age of 22. Pearson was a late bloomer in the OHL and was actually passed over in his first year of eligibility, but after a 91-point season with the Barrie Colts, the Kings made Pearson a first round pick in the 2012 Draft.
Hailing from Kitchener, Ontario, Pearson stands 6’1 and weighs in at 200lbs. So far this season, Pearson has 12 goals and 16 points in 42 games. For reference, here’s his HERO Chart…
Drafted by the Kings in the 3rd round of the 2011 Draft, Colorado-native Nick Shore came up through the U.S. National Development Program before jumping to the University of Denver for a three-year NCAA career. Both of his brothers, Drew (a Flames prospect) and Quentin (a Senators prospect) followed a similar route through the USNTDP and Denver to the NHL.
Shore was a big scoring threat in college, scoring over 20 goals in two of his three NCAA seasons. That trend continued in the AHL – he scored 20 goals and 42 points in 38 games this season before being recalled by the Kings for his first taste of NHL action.
If Toffoli and Pearson are the top targets of the Leafs, then landing Shore would be considered a compromise. He’s had success everywhere he’s played so far, but hasn’t established himself as an NHL yet, let alone a really good one like Toffoli.
Another 22-year old with offensive skill, Jordan Weal was a third round pick of the Kings in 2010. Noticing a trend here? The Kings seem to draft really, really well.
Weal hasn’t yet cracked the Kings roster, but he’s probably near the top of the list of those who would get the next call up. He’s been nearly a point-per-game player in the AHL for two seasons since making the jump to professional hockey after dominating the WHL with the Regina Pats. This season, Weal has 12 goals and 41 points in 43 games for the Monarchs.
Targeting Adrian Kempe certainly makes some sense, but he’s nowhere near ready to help Toronto at the NHL level and likely won’t be for a few years still. Kempe was the Kings’ first round selection, 29th overall, in the 2014 Draft. He’s a strong, hard working winger with some offensive pop.
Still only 18-years old, Kempe was one of William Nylander’s teammates this year both with MODO in the SHL and with Team Sweden at the U20 World Juniors. In the SHL, Sweden’s top men’s league, Kempe has scored four goals and 15 points in 39 games. With Team Sweden, he scored four goals and eight points in six games at the World Juniors.
Like Shore and Weal, landing a Kempe instead of a Toffoli or Pearson is definitely accepting less value. That being said, there’s always something to be said about ‘the unknown’ and the intrigue that young prospects carry… and Kempe might just be the Kings’ top prospect.