Even though the 2013-14 season that saw the Los Angeles Kings wrap up their second championship in three seasons just ended less than a few weeks ago, it is already time to think about the future.
On the backs of championship hockey, it is best to remember that the Kings got there via great drafting and development. It is that time of year yet again to restock the cupboards. They have had some limited amounts of picks in the more recent drafts due to transactions, but they have a full complement of picks this year to work with.
With an already solid group of prospects creeping closer to graduation status and pro hockey, the Kings will be looking to add another layer of depth to the organization. With a successful young core already in place in L.A., Dean Lombardi will be looking far into the future to add pieces that will be the next wave of talent to pass the torch to in tinsel town.
Top 10 Prospects:
1. Martin Jones, G
2. Valentin Zykov, LW
3. Tanner Pearson, LW
4. Brayden McNabb, D
5. Linden Vey, C
6. Nikolai Prokhorkin, C/W
7. Kevin Gravel, D
8. Derek Forbort, D
9. Jordan Weal, C
10. Michael Mersch, RW
It is good that the Kings have their first round pick in this year’s draft. There is a considerable amount of useful talent from the area of players 10 through 40 and they desperately need to add a player with a decent level of top-end talent to replace what is inevitably going to shift to the NHL in the next year or so. They have a number of quality players like McNabb, Pearson, and Zykov who have the potential to be quality NHL players, but one more decent top-level player would be beneficial for the long-term outlook.
The Kings could use a little more center depth in the deeper portion of their pipeline as well. Vey, Weal, Nick Shore, and Andy Andreoff are all currently playing in the AHL, and Nic Dowd of NCAA has just joined the group. They currently have no prospects playing center in the CHL or the NCAA. You might also see them draft another goaltending prospect, as Martin Jones has securely planted himself in the NHL behind Jonathan Quick, and both Patrik Bartosak and Jean-Francois Berube are now in the AHL. Just like their pipeline at center, they will have zero prospects at the goaltending position outside of the pro level moving forward.
The Kings have taken an approach of quantity over quality in a manner of speaking, and it has paid off. While the team has lacked a true elite blue chip prospect in recent years due to their success, they have compiled a group of incredibly useful players that fit within their system quite well. They also sport a very promising group of defensive prospects that includes McNabb, Forbort, and Gravel as the headliners, with guys like Paul LaDue, Zachary Leslie, and Nick Ebert a little bit further out. With a high number of pro level prospects, the Kings currently have one of the best AHL affiliates in the league with the Manchester Monarchs.
The pipeline is almost non-existent at both center and goaltender once you get passed the AHL level. While that is good for the short-term outlook, it could be a concern in the long term if it is not filled. The center group in particular has a real lack of upside. While Vey, Weal, Dowd, Andreoff, and Shore are all good young players in their own right, it would be a longshot to believe they have overall potential as top-six NHL forwards. While they have done a good job in amassing a decent group of wingers over the last few seasons, a few more gems in the lower ranks of the wing pipeline would be helpful for the future.
The Kings and Dean Lombardi have almost always had a tendency to go with big, strong players who fit the current mold of the Kings team. While it is projected that there will be players like Josh Ho-Sang and Nikolay Goldobin available late in the first round, the Kings often pass on players like that in an effort to maintain the team identity of size, strength, and character. The team has drafted only two players under 6’0” since 2010 (Jordan Weal, Tomas Hyka). Compare that to teams like the Montreal Canadiens or the New York Rangers whom have drafted seven and five, respectively.
In recent years, the Kings have gone deep into the OHL and North American amateur leagues to fish out talent. In fact, 13 of the Kings last 19 draft selections have come from one of those levels. They have also stuck primarily to wingers and defenseman in the last several drafts, drafting few pure centers. That being said the Kings tend to draft forwards who can play multiple positions in order to fill a variety of needs within the forward group.
Few selections have been made from the European ranks and they do not draft very heavily from the QMJHL either. With that in mind, the Kings will go anywhere as long as the player fits the model of Kings hockey. They went into the KHL to get Nikolai Prokhorkin in 2012, but he is the only European prospect since Slava Voynov and Andrei Loktionov in 2008 that has showed real NHL promise for the Kings. The success in the Quebec league has also been more miss than hit. Since 2009, the Kings have selected four players from the QMJHL: Nicolas Deslauriers (2008), Christopher Gibson (2011), Tomas Hyka (2012), and Valentin Zykov (2013).
Maybe the team will buck the trend this year and head into the QMJHL and Europe once again, but the tendency in recent history has been primarily in Ontario, the WHL, and the NCAA/amateur league realm.
Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft Results:
29. John Quenneville, C/W, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Quenneville possesses everything the Kings look for in their young prospects. He is a big body that is described as difficult to play against, he has the potential to be a strong 200-foot player, and he can play multiple forward positions. He also has stated his favorite player and someone he tries to emulate in style is Anze Kopitar. Noted as having leadership qualities and being a very hard worker, he fits right in with the character and identity that the Kings have built over the years.