2014 NHL Draft: Los Angeles Kings draft review

By Jason Lewis

Adrian Kempe - Los Angeles Kings

Photo: Seventeen-year-old winger Adrian Kempe spent most of his 2013-14 season playing for Modo in the SHL, Sweden’s top pro league (courtesy of Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Kings, who have had their pipeline thinned out somewhat after years of dealing picks, did a wonderful job of re-stocking the cupboards at the 2014 NHL Draft.

The Kings acquired 10 picks, which is the most they have had in a draft since 2009 and 2007. With those 10 selections the Kings selected a wide variety of players, including four defensemen, three wingers, two centers, and one goaltender.

The Kings were the benefactor of a few players slipping a bit, picking up both the highly rated winger Adrian Kempe and the puck moving defenseman Roland McKeown within the first 50 picks. After that the selections included a wide variety of styles and positions which have helped the Kings improve their system across the board. Although there were a variety of positions and style selected, the Kings went to the OHL for a staggering seven of their 10 picks. This continues a strong trend for the LA Kings, who have selected 16 players form the OHL in the last five years.

Adrian Kempe, LW, Modo Hockey (SHL)
1st round, 29th overall
Height: 6-1 Weight: 187

The Kings generally do not select players out of Europe. They also tend to not select a lot of players from the Scandinavian countries. However, they went to Sweden and to Modo Hockey of the SHL to pick up the big and rugged winger Adrian Kempe. Like Anze Kopitar before him, Kempe is playing in the SHL at the extremely young age of 17. In fact, he was the youngest player on Modo’s senior squad this season. In many of the mock drafts done this year, he was selected in either the late teens or the early twenties. However, he was still around for the Kings to selected at 29 and they did not hesitate.

His style is already fairly King friendly. He fashions himself a power forward who readily engages in the physical game. He battles in the corners and along the half wall, gets to dirty areas, and finishes his checks whenever possible. While his offensive upside is a little bit limited, the Swede has a style that translates well to North American hockey and the type of goals that are scored here. He also plays a 200-foot game and is noted for his intelligent play off the puck. His speed is also a plus factor to his game. Kempe can fly, which is something the Kings have attempted to integrate to their team in recent years. The fact that he is only 17 and playing against grown men in Sweden is definitely a positive sign that he is capable of standing up to the rigors of pro hockey. The Kings can also afford to sit on Kempe for a few years and let him develop given how the organization is currently built.

Kempe will look to develop and step into a larger role with Modo in the coming seasons, where he is currently playing on the team’s bottom lines.

Kempe met with the media following his selection by the Kings, with a portion of that conversation being captured in this HF video.

Roland McKeown, D, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
2nd round, 50th overall
Height: 6-0 Weight: 195

During the mid-second round the Kings decided to jump on the fact that puck-mover Roland McKeown was still on the board. They traded center Linden Vey to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for the 50th overall selection. With that selection they added the right-handed defenseman to a rather thin right-handed defensive prospect pool.

McKeown was slated to go in the top 30 by several pundits but his stock fell into the mid-second round where the Kings pulled the trigger.

McKeown stated “I definitely saw a fit there” when it came to he and the Kings. He also went on to talk about his potential future teammate in Drew Doughty, “I’ve grown up admiring Drew. When I heard my name called that was the first thing I thought of. They’re Stanley Cup Champions and Drew Doughty is on their team, what better way could it go?”

Aside from the excitement the Listowel, Ontario native brings to the organization, he also fills a need for a deeper crop of right handed defensemen. He is a solidly built, two-way defenseman who compares himself to New York Rangers blueliner John Moore. He is already impressive on both sides of the puck and was considered one of the more well-rounded defensemen leading up to the draft. He was an impressive plus-38 last season with Kingston. He finished up the year with 43 points and 11 goals from the back end. He has also been a pillar in Canada’s U-18 World Junior Championship squad for the last two years. He captained the squad on the way to a bronze medal in 2013-14. He definitely has the pedigree and the skill set to be a successful NHL player one day. While he admits having to work on foot speed and his passing out of the zone, his intelligent approach to the game and all-around quality push him near the top of the Kings defensive group of prospects already.

Alex Lintuniemi, D, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
2nd round, 60th overall
Height: 6-3 Weight: 231

Believe it or not this is the first Finnish-born player the Kings have selected in 10 years. The last time the Kings drafted a player directly from Finland was in the 2004 first round when highly-touted forward Lauri Tukonen was taken with the 11th overall pick.

The comparisons really end there.

Lintuniemi is a massive, physical defenseman who spent the 2013-14 with the Ottawa 67’s. At age 18, the young Finn already stands at 6’3” and a solid 231 pounds. He is a bit of a mystifying late second round selection considering he has come out of nowhere recently, but the Kings have had a close eye on him given that he played for current Kings scout and former 67’s coach/GM Chris Byrne. He is definitely a raw talent, but he has a lot of upside and has made big strides over a short period of time. He has a decent shot, great reach, great size, and a very strong work ethic. His skating could use work, as sometimes he does not look quite like he is comfortable with his big frame.

With that being said, Lintuniemi was good enough to suit up for the top defensive pairing on Finland’s U-18 WJC team and was also captain of Jokerit’s U-20 junior squad in 2012-13. He has been a fast riser, and his first year in the OHL saw an very positive adjustment to North American hockey. The Kings are likely hoping he can build on that and continue his strong upward trend of development. He has all the tools to be a good all-around defenseman with a more defense-oriented style.

Michael Amadio, C, North Bay Battalion (OHL)
3rd round, 90th overall
Height: 6-1 Weight: 190

Amadio is something of a defensive specialist. While his offensive upside is limited, and his 38 point and 12-goal season with North Bay can speak to that, he is a quality shutdown centerman. If there was a big penalty kill, a big defensive zone draw, or preserving late game situation, Amadio was the guy to go to for coach Stan Butler. While you are not going to get a truck load of goals from the young forward, he will chip in offensively. He is a solid skater and possesses the puck well. He looked very effective on the cycle at times for the Battalion, and that definitely meshes well with the Kings style of play.

HF caught up with Amadio, and when asked about things he can improve on he said, “I think strength is a big thing for me [to improve on]. I definitely need to work on that this summer on and off the ice…I’ll be working very hard in the gym this summer to do that.”

Much like the Kempe selection, the Kings have gone after a player that definitely fits their style and mentality. He is an intelligent and hard-working player, but falls a touch short in the offensive side of things. The 18-year-old heads into next season with North Bay with a little more of a leadership role on his shoulders as one of the senior members of the squad.

Amadio spoke with Hockey’s Future at the 2014 NHL Combine, a conversation captured in this HF video.

Steven Johnson, D, Omaha Lancers (USHL)
4th round, 120th overall
Height: 6-1 Weight: 185

One of two future collegiate players selected by the Kings, USHL standout Steven Johnson is currently looking at a future development path with the University of Minnesota. He is left-shooting puck-mover who had an impressive 31 points and a plus-23 rating with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL in 2013-14.

He was definitely considered a bit of a fast-riser in the draft this year and the Kings love a player with a good development curve. He plays a very steady all-around style, and couples that with smooth skating and quick thinking. He has room for improvement in almost every facet of his game and is somewhat raw at this point. However, given that he shows promise in all the elements of a professional defenseman, a four-year development path in the collegiate circuit makes very good sense for him and the Kings. He can join up with Minnesota and round out and improve upon all those elements.

The Kings have had very good success with collegiate defenseman of late, with Derek Forbort, Kevin Gravel, and Paul LaDue all making very good strides throughout their respective NCAA careers. They are clearly hoping for the same with Steven Johnson.

Alec Dillon, G, Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
5th round, 150th overall
Height: 6-5 Weight: 170

Big Alec Dillon was the second and final future collegiate player the Kings selected in the 2014 draft. He will play one more year for the Victoria Grizzlies in the BCHL before heading to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in NCAA. 
For a fifth-round pick, Dillon is one of those low-risk high-reward style pick-ups. He is massive goaltender standing at 6’5”. Since he is all arms and legs, Dillon covers the net extremely well, and when he plays his positioning correctly, he is a challenging figure to beat. He is a very raw talent, but with that sort of physical make up, he is an intriguing goaltender to develop. His athleticism has been a bit of a concern, but he will only get more comfortable with more experience and more physical development. Kings have done well with Martin Jones, who had a similar scouting report on him.

The Victoria native is heading to the NCAA in a few years and has a fairly long development path. That works out perfectly fine for the Los Angeles Kings, who have a pretty stacked pipeline of goaltenders already with Jones, Jean-Francois Berube, and Patrik Bartosak.

Jake Marchment, C, Belleville Bulls (OHL)
6th round, 157th overall
Height: 6-3 Weight: 206

Marchment is the nephew of former NHL defenseman and Belleville Bull Bryan Marchment.  He also has the same kind of bite and nastiness as his uncle as well. He is a big body at 6’3” and is not afraid to use that to get the better of opponents. He plays extremely hard and shows a solid defensive acumen. There is an element of fearlessness and recklessness to his game that make him an imposing forward for defenseman to go toe-to-toe with.

However, he does have limited offensive upside, which probably hurt his overall draft status. That being said, 32 points in 57 OHL games is not bad for a first year player. Where the 19-year-old excels though is at being a big, gritty, character player. The Kings certainly love players with that make up.

Matt Mistele, LW, Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
6th round, 180th overall
Height: 6-1 Weight: 190

The winger is a bit of a project player, but a decent pick for a sixth-round selection. Mistele is a pesky forward who has decent size and an intriguing blend of offense, defense, and physicality. He can be chippy, he can score, and he can play solid in his own zone. Where he needs to improve though is doing it consistently and getting more engaged. Mistele surprised a lot of people with his 2012-13 season where he potted 34 goals with Plymouth. It was a huge step up from the three he scored in 28 games in 2011-12. However, he struggled to find the net with the same consistency in 2013-14, firing home just 18. He does have the skills to do it though, it is just about finding the consistency.

Mistele is also pretty willing to drop the gloves and finish his checks. He has had seven fights in his OHL career. Again, look for Mistele to be a bit of a project. It seems like he has the potential to be a decent two-way forward and the Kings are looking to unlock that potential from the 18-year-old.

Spencer Watson, RW, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
7th round, 209th overall
Height: 5-9 Weight: 170

Watson is not your typical Kings selection. He is a small, shifty winger, who plays a high speed and high-octane offensive game. He is a pure goal scorer and has excellent one-on-one skills. As the second to last selection in the draft though, it is a great low-risk high-reward player.

Watson can score, no question. He was over a point per game last season with Kingston with 68 points in 65 games. He had 33 goals to go along with those 68 points. While he could use some development on his physical make up, Watson has a lot of natural talent and wowing puck skills that make him an intriguing late round pick up. His road to the NHL will be difficult and he will constantly have to prove that he is capable of playing bigger than his size. The Kings have had mixed results in recent years with similar players. Brandon Kozun and Oscar Moller had difficulties adjusting, but in more recent years players like Jordan Weal have done very well at the pro level. Watson arguably has the most pure goal scoring talent out of the three aforementioned players, so that helps his cause a bit.

Jacob Middleton, D, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
7th round, 210th overall
Height: 6-2 Weight: 207

Mr. Irrelevant, Jacob Middleton, is very similar to the selection of Steven Johnson in the fourth round. He has all the qualities of an all-around defenseman, but he has not quite peaked in any one category. The best asset for Middleton though is his mobility. He also shows decent puck moving skills, defensive skills, and physicality. It is safe to say that Middleton might be a bit of a project player, but his potential in almost every category make him a great late round selection.

He developed very well from his first year in the OHL where he had just one goal and four assists in 29 games. He upped his point totals to 23 in 65 games in his second season. The Kings are hoping he can continue his upward trend and round out his game. There is plenty of room for improvement.

Follow Jason Lewis on Twitter via @SirJDL