Though it’s unclear when Kings prospects will be able to return to the ice, the team on Wednesday signed two more of their up-and-coming players, 2019 draft picks Arthur Kaliyev and Jordan Spence, to entry-level contracts.
Both are coming off of strong junior-hockey seasons. Kaliyev, an early second-round pick last summer, was a finalist for most outstanding player in the Ontario Hockey League after collecting 98 points (44 goals, 54 assists) in 57 games.
Spence, a fourth-round pick who was born in Australia before moving to Canada as a teenager, was the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s defenseman of the season after notching 52 points (nine goals, 43 assists) and a plus-49 rating in 60 games.
The pair will join an already deep incoming class of recently signed prospects. Since March, the Kings have agreed to entry-level deals with Alex Turcotte, the club’s highest-drafted player (No. 5 overall in 2019) in a decade; Tyler Madden, their most promising acquisition from this season’s series of trades; and Jacob Ingham, a former sixth-round pick whose stock has been on the rise in recent seasons.
Several other young players who signed entry-level contracts last year are also expected to make a jump from juniors to pro, including highly-anticipated forwards Samuel Fagemo and Akil Thomas.
When that group will be able to begin training this off-season, however, remains unknown. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, usual off-season events such as a midsummer prospect camp and preseason rookie tournament are in doubt.
On Wednesday morning, the Athletic reported that the seven teams not included in the NHL’s 24-team restart plan — the Kings being one of them — could be allowed to stage some formal on-ice activities during the longer-than-usual off-season, if approved by the league and the NHL Players Assn.
But later in the afternoon, Ducks general manager Bob Murray said he thinks “there’s not a chance” of holding a rookie tournament before the start of the 2020-21 season. Originally, Arizona was supposed to host the event that is usually attended by a handful of Western Conference teams, including in the past all three California clubs.
“Those are two very important situations that it looks like we won’t have now,” Kings director of player personnel Nelson Emerson said last month of the prospect camp and rookie tournament, adding: “It’s an important process for the young players to go through because it gets the guys around players that are their peers so they can start to develop that relationship with them, and also they start to develop that relationship with the coaches and the development staff.”
In the meantime, Kings director of player development Glen Murray and senior advisor Mike O’Connell have been trying to figure out “the things they can work on with the players in the summer that they’re able to do to get better,” Emerson said.
“And also, what can the players do by themselves in order to improve some of these skill sets they might need to work on. Glen and Mike O’Connell have done a good job getting that going, getting prospects on the phone. The next step will be translating that message to the players.”