PROSPECT WATCH: Also featured is Los Angeles Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi’s and Manchester Monarchs head coach Mark Morris’ thoughts on the development of goaltender prospect Martin Jones.
LOS ANGELES — If the name “Bud Holloway” doesn’t ring a bell, don’t worry, you’re not alone. After all, he became a forgotten member of the Los Angeles Kings organization after bolting to the Swedish Elite League after the 2010-11 season.
Holloway, whose real first name is “George,” was selected by the Kings in the third round (86th overall) of the 2006 National Hockey League Entry Draft. The 6-0, 201-pound native of Wapella, Saskatchewan spent his junior hockey days with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League. His best season with the Thunderbirds was in 2007-08, his final season in the WHL, when he scored 43 goals and tallied 40 assists for 83 points in 70 regular season games.
In 2008-09, Holloway split time between the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League (Kings’ primary minor league affiliate), and the ECHL’s Ontario Reign (Kings’ secondary affiliate). He made the jump to the AHL to stay in 2009-10, with his best season coming in 2010-11, when he scored 28 goals and added 33 assists for 61 points, with +8 plus/minus rating and 58 penalty minutes in 78 regular season games.
Holloway also had an impressive run in the 2009-10 playoffs with the Monarchs, scoring seven goals and contributing seven assists for 14 points in 16 games.
But the 2010-11 season would be it for Holloway, in terms of his time in the Kings organization. Indeed, seeing himself buried deep on the Kings’ depth chart, he bolted for Europe, along with Oscar Moller (also still a Kings prospect) and former Kings prospect Corey Elkins.
With Skelleftea HC, Holloway scored 41 goals and tallied 79 assists for 120 points in 110 regular season games over two seasons.
In 2012-13, Holloway scored 20 goals and contributed 51 assists for 71 points in 55 regular season games, his best season in the Swedish Elite League. He also scored four goals and added five assists for nine points in 13 playoff games this past season.
Just prior to the 2011-12 season, then-Kings head coach Terry Murray was critical of these players’ decisions to leave North America.
“I don’t get it, personally,” Murray told Frozen Royalty during an exclusive interview in September 2011. “This is just my own feeling, it’s not a reaction from any conversation I had with anybody in the organization. To me, if you want to be a hockey player, and play in the best league in the world, the NHL, those players made a mistake.”
“Bud Holloway’s game, in the last two years in Manchester, has improved dramatically,” Murray added. “He’s knocking on the door. Even if you start [the season] in Manchester, with the course of the way things go in a season, he’s right there, as a call-up.”
“When you’re young, and you want to play in the NHL, you hang in through the adversity, the grit—it’s a good thing. You’re going to become a better player if you can deal with all this. Your opportunity will get there. At the young age of 22-23—to me, that’s a move you would make if you were 28, 29 or thirty years old, when you’ve been in the minors through your whole career.”
Soon after the Kings were eliminated from the 2013 Western Conference Final by the eventual-Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, various reports from Sweden indicated that Holloway was considering a return to North America, and to the Kings organization.
Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi confirmed that negotiations with Holloway are underway.
“Yeah, we’re still plugging away,” he said. “That’s the way negotiations go—they can get hot, get cold. That’s something that’s still in the process.”
Holloway’s play in the Swedish Elite League certainly opened some eyes in the Kings front office.
“It’s like a lot of kids—he’s a good prospect,” said Lombardi. “I guess it’s safe to say, him going over there, the reports on him were all very good. He’s played in the minors. But until he gets on an NHL rink and you go through the ups and downs then you don’t know for sure. But, it’s fair to say that given what he did over in Europe, and again, it’s not an NHL playing field, that this is certainly a guy who is a good prospect.”
“I think if he wants to be an NHL player, which I think certainly most of these kids do, particularly a Canadian kid like this, it makes a lot of sense, so, let’s get over here and give it another shot,” added Lombardi. “He’s more mature. He’s a better player. It’s just a good prospect.”
Jones Needs More Work Down On The Farm
Something that was made crystal-clear when the Kings acquired goaltender Ben Scrivens as part of the trade that sent netminder Jonathan Bernier to the Toronto Maple Leafs was that goalie prospect Martin Jones is not considered to be ready for the NHL yet.
Jones, 23, who was originally signed by the Kings as an unrestricted free agent on October 2, 2008, spent the 2012-13 regular season with the Monarchs, earning a 27-25-4 record, a 2.53 goals-against average (GAA), a .919 save percentage, and five shutouts. In ten playoff games, he earned a 1-3 record, a 2.16 GAA, and a .932 save percentage.
As Frozen Royalty reported a couple of months ago, consistency is the biggest challenge for the 6-4, 189-pound native of North Vancouver, British Columbia.
“It’s a matter of becoming more consistent,” Monarchs head coach Mark Morris told Frozen Royalty during an exclusive interview in April 2013. “When he’s on, he’s as good as anybody at this level, and probably as good as most backups in the NHL, when he’s focused. Maintaining that focus is much like a real good defenseman. They seem to mature in their mid-to-late twenties, and that’s when they’re at their best.”
“A big part of goaltending is mental,” Morris added. “He’s always been a big guy. I think his compete level for those second and third chances has improved, [and] his ability to read plays and handle the puck has improved.”
“All in all, it boils down to consistently having that real sharp focus and eliminating any type of mental let downs. That’s a hard challenge when you’ve got a lot of young guys in front of you who are trying to find ways to identify potential threats.”
Consistency was also the first thing Lombardi talked about when asked about Jones and his development.
“It’s fair to say that we’d like to see Jones take another step in his development,” said Lombardi. “He’s come a long [way]. Like a lot of young goalies—he was really good, at times—he’s on the same path, and I’m not saying he’s going to be as good, but his development cycle is kind of similar to the other guys. I’m not comparing him to Quick and Bernier. It’s more the development cycle.”
“We’d like to continue to see him improve his game, and also, like so many young players, to nail down the consistency,” added Lombardi. “He’s still a very good prospect, but I think you know how I feel about giving kids proper time to develop.”
Jones’ contract is due to expire this year. He will become a restricted free agent on July 5, but the Kings are expected to make a qualifying offer to retain his rights, and then sign him to a new deal.
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