J.P. Hoornstra, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
The Kings have two minor-league affiliates in the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League and the Reign in the ECHL. One team is up and the other is down.
The Monarchs finished their pre-All-Star break push with three consecutive wins and surged back into first place in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, the Reign have been mired in last place in the Western Conference, and the entire ECHL, since the start of January.
While some might see that as grounds for reshuffling personnel - sending a dispensable player from the strong AHL team to the weaker ECHL team - the man holding the deck of cards doesn't.
"No, it's about the players' development," said Ron Hextall, the assistant general manager of the Kings who doubles as general manager of the Monarchs.
"We value Ontario. We value Karl (Taylor, the Reign head coach)," Hextall continued. "We were going to send a couple guys to Karl but then as things played out, someone (on the Kings) got hurt ... and the chips all began to fall. Erik (Ersberg) and (Zach) Harnden are examples of two guys who were deleted who, just based on numbers, would have sent two guys to Ontario."
After being sent to Manchester after training camp, Ersbserg was placed on unconditional waivers by the Kings in October, allowing the goalie to sign with Ufa Salavat Yulayev of the Russian-based KHL. Harnden left the Monarchs in December to enroll at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Hextall said it's reasonable to expect the Kings to assign two or three prospects, on average, to their ECHL affiliate in a given season. Sometimes it's more, sometimes it's less, but it's always hard to be precise.
"I try to tell Karl during the summer, `OK, we're probably going to give you a goalie, a defenseman, a forward,' whatever I envision," Hextall said. "But it's so hard for us to plan ahead not knowing whether a junior (player) might make the NHL club, which pushes someone down."
From Hextall's standpoint, this year is just a dry year.
"We had a player earlier this year - I don't want to disclose his name - but I was considering doing the same thing (as Bud Holloway in 2009)," he said, "where he could go down and play big minutes, put up big numbers, play in different situations. But he started to come on and at that point I felt like he was ready for the American League level."
According to the ECHL, at the time of last week's All-Star break, there were 48 NHL-contracted players on ECHL active rosters or injured reserve, an average of 2.5 per team. That number doesn't include Michael Pelech, a Kings draft pick in 2009 who technically is under contract to Manchester.
Eight of the 19 ECHL teams have the added benefit of multiple NHL affiliates: the Cincinnati Cyclones (Florida, Nashville), Elmira Jackals (Ducks, Ottawa), Florida Everblades (Carolina, Tampa Bay), Greenville Road Warriors (New York Rangers, Philadelphia), Reading Royals (Toronto, Boston) Stockton Thunder (Edmonton, San Jose), Toledo Walleye (Chicago, Detroit) and Wheeling Nailers (Pittsburgh, Montreal).
Hextall said the possibility of the Reign having multiple NHL affiliates hasn't been discussed in the Kings' front office.
"I don't envision it happening," he said.
As for this season, the likelihood of any Kings prospects arriving in Ontario appears low.
"I don't see that we're going to have enough numbers to assign guys (to Ontario this season)," Hextall said. "Never say never, but not as it looks right now."
Pat Bowen's point shot got through at 2:03 of overtime for the game-winning goal in a 4-3 victory over the Utah Grizzlies. The Reign (14-26-1-2) bounced back from Saturday's loss to finish the three-game series in Utah 1-1-1.
Chaz Johnson, David Walker and Pelech also scored goals, and Beau Erickson finished with 35 saves. The Reign went 4 for 4 on the penalty kill, a unit that improved to finish 11 for 12 in the series.
Jones stopped 15 of 19 shots Monday for the Eastern Conference in the AHL All-Star Game in Hershey, Pa. He started the game and exited with the East leading 5-4, but was not officially credited with the "win" in the East's 11-8 victory.
Defenseman Andrew Martens had four assists and a plus-3 rating in three games last week for the Central Hockey League's Wichita Thunder. Forward Greg Hogeboom had two goals and two assists in four games last week for the CHL's Texas Brahmas.
Peter Lenes had one goal in three games last week for the Graz 99ers of the Austrian League. The forward has seven goals and 15 assists in 39 games.