The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter for Gabe Vilardi. The chronically-injured Los Angeles Kings prospect has been added to the Ontario Reign roster according to the AHL transactions page after being on the season-opening injured reserve list to this point. John Hoven reports that Vilardi is expected to make his season debut for the Reign this weekend.
Vilardi, 20, has played in just 52 total games since being selected 11th overall in 2017. That’s including the junior and professional levels, though the vast majority were with the Kingston Frontenacs at the end of the 2017-18 season. Last year he was limited to just four contests with Ontario, thanks to a troubling back injury that has derailed the early part of his career in the Los Angeles organization.
When healthy, Vilardi has shown the ability to be an absolute force in the offensive zone, protecting the puck down low and creating scoring opportunities at will. Because of his strong defensive tendencies he was also regarded as a potential first-line center prospect, though at this point it isn’t clear where his future will take him.
The Kings are obviously still excited about the young forward, but at this point the NHL still seems a distant goal. Vilardi needs to get back into games and see how his body responds after such a long layoff. He’ll get that chance in Ontario where the Reign are about to lose a key forward in Mario Kempe after he asked for a contract termination to pursue an opportunity in the KHL.