Since the Kings got two days in between their last game against the Avalance on Monday and their next game against the Coyotes tomorrow, here’s some Kings news to tide you over until then.
Two Kings prospects have been named to the 2011-2012 AHL All-Star Game, Manchester Monarchs defenseman Thomas Hickey and goaltender Jeff Zatkoff.
Hickey, 22 years old, was drafted in the first round by the Kings back in 2007, fourth overall. The story of Thomas Hickey is one that is well known by most Kings fans. Most scouts had Hickey going sometime in the middle of the first round that year, but Dean Lombardi, who has a history of going off the board, went off the board once again after he couldn’t complete a trade to move down in the draft in order to still get Hickey but also potentially more assets. Lombardi made Hickey the first defenseman taken in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, and in order to take him, passed on many other good hockey players, most notably Logan Couture and Jakub Voracek. This is Hickey’s fifth season since being drafted, although he did lose most of his first full season of professional hockey with the Monarchs in 2009-2010 to injury, but with him still not in the NHL, and with the Kings pretty stacked on the back end but really struggling up front, many fans have become frustrated with Lombardi’s decision to go off the board to take Hickey when they could have had a guy like Couture or Voracek to help out the offense.
Will Hickey end up being worth the wait one day? That is still to be determined, but for now, it’s nice to see that he’s staying healthy and having a nice season in Manchester. Hickey’s offensive stats are not great, as he has just one goal and 10 assists in 35 games this season, but the question about Hickey hasn’t really been about whether or not he can put up points, it’s been more about how much Hickey, who’s relatively small (5’11, 190lbs) and not the strongest guy in the world, could improve his defensive play. Plus/minus can be somewhat of a misleading stat, but in just 35 games this season, Hickey is already a team-leading plus-15, so combine that with him being named to the All-Star Game despite the fact that his offensive numbers aren’t overwhelming, and although I don’t get to watch any Monarchs games, it does seem like he’s become a very reliable defenseman in his own zone. If Hickey can start producing some bigger offensive numbers without sacrificing his defensive play, then perhaps it will be sooner rather than later that we finally get to see the former fourth-overall pick playing for the Kings, although the Kings defense is crowded enough as it is right now, so Hickey may not get his shot this season, unless a spot opens up via trade or injury.
Meanwhile, Jeff Zatkoff was also named to the AHL All-Star Game. Zatkoff’s been in a platoon with Martin Jones this season, but in the 17 games that Zatkoff has played in, he’s been very impressive, posting a 10-4-1 record with no shutouts to go along with a 2.04 GAA and a .935 Sv%. The 24-year-old Zatkoff was taken by the Kings in the third round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, 74th overall.
You know, not to be negative, it’s great that these two are having nice seasons, but since the Kings are already strong in net and on defense, it would be nice if there were any forwards who were tearing it up in Manchester and having All-Star caliber seasons that the Kings could potentially call up for scoring help… However, that doesn’t take away from what Zatkoff and Hickey have done this season, so congratulations to them for being named 2011-2012 AHL All-Stars.