As the Los Angeles Kings continue to progress through their rebuild, one major position of strength is their deep and talented prospect pool. Last week, we examined the likes of Tyler Madden, Mikey Anderson, Quinton Byfield, and Brandt Clarke. This week, four new high-end youngsters take center stage. Without further ado, let’s profile another round of captivating prospects that will soon hit the ice in Los Angeles.
Related: Check out our 2021 NHL Draft Recaps here.
Akil Thomas, Center, 21
Batting first is Scarborough, Ontario native and skilled playmaker, Thomas. Drafted in the second round, 51st overall back at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Thomas has risen up L.A.’s ranks as one of the club’s most impressive young players. He’s smart with the puck, strong on his feet, and loves to create offense. His speed is really something to behold, as is the way he reads the game. This past season with the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League (AHL) saw Thomas post impressive numbers across the board. How does 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points in 40 games sound Kings fans? In addition, Reign head coach John Wroblewski was absolutely thrilled with his progress, referring to Thomas as an “avalanche”, because he just keeps rolling along.
When you look back at the selection, coupled with Thomas’ progression, that pick looks like an absolute steal for general manager Rob Blake and the Kings front office. This is a player who has experienced success on all levels, and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t continue to do so under the bright lights of the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Slated to turn 22 years of age in early January, look for Thomas to make his NHL debut at some point this season. You’re going to want to see this one, hockey fans.
Gabriel Vilardi, Center, 21
Next up is yet another dynamic and uber-talented centerman in the Kings system. Easily one of L.A.’s most coveted youngsters, Vilardi is a phenomenal player with a real raw skill set. Born and raised in Kingston, Ontario, and drafted in the first round, 11th overall back at the 2017 NHL Draft, there really is nothing Vilardi can’t do on the ice. Let’s take a look at his extensive tool kit.
As a player, Vilardi is a confident, exuberant, and strong two-way centerman. He’s poised with the puck, excellent in his own end, and has great hands for a 21-year-old. With the puck on his stick, Vilardi makes accurate passes and maneuvers well with quick feet and strong edgework. At 6’3″, 200 lbs, size is a real strong asset for young Vilardi and he uses it to his advantage on each and every shift.
After appearing in 10 games two seasons ago, Vilardi played in a career-high 54 games in 2020-2021. The pandemic-shortened campaign saw him score 10 goals and 23 points in 14:45 worth of ice-time. Not too shabby for a kid playing in his first full season in the show. The Kings coaching staff and management group should be chomping at the bit at Vilardi’s unlocked potential. Looks like they got a real dandy here.
Tobias Bjornfot, Defenseman, 20
Bjornfot comes in as one of the finest defensive prospects in the Kings organization. As a player, the Upplands Vasby, Sweden native is a strong two-way defenseman with very few glaring weaknesses. A real solid skater, Bjornfot has impressed with his agility, poise with the puck, and ability to anticipate plays.
Last season, Kings’ head coach Todd McLellan (most deservingly) inserted Bjorfot into the lineup for 33 games. Those 33 games saw him post one goal and six points to go along with 16:51 worth of ice-time. Bjornfot’s game just screams top-four caliber much to the joy of Kings fans. Drafted in the first round, 22nd overall back in 2019, Bjornfot should compete for a spot on L.A.’s blue-line out of training camp. He plays hard and is a good leader for such a young player. He is only going to get better as he grows older. This kid’s a true thoroughbred, and the Kings should be thrilled to have him.
Arthur Kaliyev, Left-Wing, 20
Not many players born in Uzbekistan can say they represented Team USA at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Kaliyev is one of them. He even has a goal medal to prove it. Let’s meet one of Los Angeles’ most highly-touted youngsters. Drafted in the second round, 33rd overall back in 2019, Kaliyev is a silent killer on the ice with his lethal shot and fabulous hockey sense. You have to look far and wide to find a player with such an astute “knack” for the game. In the offensive zone, Kaliyev is a master at finding open spaces and open seams. He puts himself and his teammates in prime positions to score goals much to the chagrin of his opponents.
He possesses a heavy shot and loves to fire pucks with rapid speed and precision. At 6’2′, 195 lbs and counting, Kaliyev possesses excellent size and uses it to his full advantage and then some. Kaliyev has the potential to be one of the most explosive wingers the Kings have seen in a long, long time. The kid has all the makings to be an absolute stud. As the Kings continue along in their rebuild, Kaliyev is certainly one to keep your eyes on.
The final part Los Angeles Kings prospect series is coming soon, so stay tuned!
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