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Los Angeles Kings

Play the youngsters or sign a stop-gap?

From Rich Hammond of the L.A. Daily News:

Consider the Kings’ situation on defense. Right now there’s basically Jack Johnson, Lubomir Visnovsky, Tom Preissing and a bunch of holes. The reserve list is starting to fill up with players such as Peter Harrold, Thomas Hickey, Alec Martinez and whichever defenseman the Kings select with the No. 2 pick this year (most likely Drew Doughty or Zach Bogosian). Is now the time to start playing those guys at the NHL level? Or would the Kings be better served by holding off a year on a player such as Hickey and going with a “bridge” player, a veteran who will fill that spot for one more season?

What are the factors here? Consider baseball. On one hand, there’s C.C. Sabathia, who made his major-league debut at age 20. He won 17 games that season, has never thrown fewer than 188 innings in a season since and won the Cy Young Award last year. On the other hand, there’s Edwin Jackson, considered the top pitching prospect in 2003. Jackson made his major-league debut on his 20th birthday and outdueled Randy Johnson. The next year, almost assured a spot in the Dodgers’ rotation, he struggled. He now has a career ERA of 5.30.

Would you play a young defenseman, such as Hickey or Martinez or the draft pick, next year? There’s the excitement of watching them play for the Kings, and the ability to watch them learn the NHL game, as Jack Johnson did last season. On the other hand, there’s the risk that they might be overwhelmed, might start to doubt themselves and have their long-term development harmed.

Read the entire entry from Inside the Kings here.

It really depends on the player in my opinion. Some kids have the maturity level to handle the initial shock of playing against players that are bigger, stronger and faster (in most cases) than them. If I had to opt for one of the two options listed above, I would probably opt for the stop-gap. The Kings need to develop their young players and they shouldn’t risk ruining the players’ confidence to attempt to show-off that potential star player to their fans.