Monday, August 6, 2012

One To Watch: Los Angeles Kings

The 2012 Stanley Cup champions may very well become a team organizations try to emulate when as they navigate a rebuild. Yes it took a long time and more patience than most fans possess but in the end it delivered a league title and a pool of prospects that it still very deep. 

The Kings stable of youth includes several players that were scoring dynamos at the junior level like Tyler Toffoli, Jordan Weal, Linden Vey, Brandon Kozun and Justin Azevedo

Derek Forbort headlines a crop of blueliners that still includes Thomas Hickey among other notables.

Yet, it's neither a forward nor a defenceman that has my attention this year.

Martin Jones (G)

Manchester Monarchs
6'4, 189 lbs
Signed as a free agent

Full credit to the scouting staff in L.A. because they saw enough in Jones during his first two seasons in the WHL to invite to their camp in the fall of 2008 where they signed him. 

Jones first two years with the Calgary Hitmen were spent largely in a back up role and despite having solid stats, his limited game time led to him not being drafted in 2008. 

2008-09 was a massive one for Jones who took over the reins as the starter in Calgary and posted a ridiculous 45-5-4 record. Still there were some who weren't sold that Jones' success wasn't simply a case of a very good goalie looking like and excellent one because of the dominant team he was on. 

Photo: Andy Devlin
The next season he backstopped the Hitmen all the way to the Memorial Cup in Brandon, claimed several league awards and also helped represent Canada at the 2010 WJC.      

After playing out his junior eligibility Jones moved to the AHL where, as a rookie, he played in 39 games and held a .924 sv% and a 2.25 GAA, top 10 in both categories. Most notable, the North Vancouver product was named to the league's All-Star game despite being in his first pro season.  

Last year Jones followed up with another strong campaign for Manchester while sharing duties with Jeff Zatkoff, a former collegian that is a couple of years older than he is. 

What makes it an interesting story this year is that most expect Kings backup goalie Jonathan Bernier will be moved. And as an astute reader reminded me, Zatkoff has moved on and signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

That gives Jones an opportunity to really establish himself at either the AHL level or perhaps even higher.

At 6'4, Jones has the ideal frame that NHL clubs are looking for in netminders. Scouts are continually telling me that size has become a huge factor when they are grading goalies and that's certainly an asset for Jones. 

Should Jones find himself back in the minors, he'll get the bulk of the AHL starts so is there any reason to expect he can't continue the strong play he's had the last two seasons? Could he get back to the AHL All-Star game again next year? Might he even push for a roster spot in Kings camp and potentially see duty at the NHL level? 

For those story lines I think Martin Jones is "One to Watch" when it comes to L.A. Kings prospects in 2012-13. 

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