Kings 2009 draft review

By David A. Rainer

The theme of the Kings 2009 Entry Draft, and subsequent personnel moves after the draft, was character and grit.  Keeping the fifth overall pick after numerous attempts to pry it away from General Manager Dean Lombardi, the Kings selected Brayden Schenn as the first of many gritty forwards.  Not able to consummate the right deal for an offensively skilled winger, the Kings remained pat with their assets and selected the best player available, delaying a trade to another day.  Despite entering the draft with 13 selections, various trades of picks whittled the total down to 10: seven forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender.

Brayden Schenn, C
1st round, 5th overall

A rugged forward for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, Schenn has a leader-type mentality with a growing offensive game.  He is known for his physical play and grittiness around the net, something the Los Angeles Kings made a point to draft for this season.  Knowing that whoever was to be drafted fifth overall was not likely to make the NHL roster for at least another two seasons, Lombardi projected what his roster would need at that time and focused on grit, reserving the acquisition of top offensive skill to the trade or free agent market.  Schenn also has some skill, but it is unlikely that he will develop into a high scoring game-breaker or a franchise top line center.  Instead, he has been described as a very good second line center for a playoff caliber franchise, something extremely important to any organization with Stanley Cup aspirations.  Schenn will return to the WHL for the 2009-10 season and will be held in reserve for another couple of seasons before the Kings will look to utilize his services.

Kyle Clifford, LW
2nd round, 35th overall

Continuing the theme of rugged and gritty forwards, Kings selected Clifford with their second round selection.  The physical forward fills a need for the organization as a left winger and adds some toughness without losing out on other skills.  Unlike many other physical left wings, Clifford can skate as well as any other forward and can contribute enough on both sides of the ice to keep him in the lineup for longer than as just an enforcer or grinder role.  Clifford is expected to take on a larger role next season with a very young Barrie team of the OHL.  With both Schenn and Clifford coming up through the Los Angeles ranks at the same time, Lombardi has sent the message that the Kings will be making a transition to a gritty and physical team in the next few years.

Nicolas Deslauriers, D
3rd round, 84th overall

More skilled than other picks by the Kings in 2009, Deslauriers is no less feisty in his own right.  An emerging offensive defenseman out of the QMJHL, Deslauriers is mobile enough to lead a rush, solid enough on defense to play significant minutes on the penalty kill, and physical enough to hold his own in front of the net and in the corners.  He has more room for growth than any other prospect taken by the Kings in 2009, yet also is the prospect that might surprise the most with a high developmental ceiling.  He will return to the QMJHL for the 2009-10 season as an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on.  He has shown an ability to push the puck up the ice as well as find the back of the net and may finish next season as one of the leading scorers for defensemen in the QMJHL.

Jean-Francois Berube, G
4th round, 95th overall

Another prospect with a high ceiling selected by the Kings also comes from the QMJHL.  Berube quietly had a solid season as a backup with the Montreal Juniors.  He is an athletic butterfly style goaltender that has yet to receive an opportunity to showcase his skills on a fulltime basis.  Berube is the sleeper pick of the Kings draft and could be the continuation of a now fertile Kings goaltending pipeline.  He will likely remain as the backup for the 2009-10 season, waiting for starter Jake Allen (STL) to move on to the professional ranks.

Linden Vey, RW

4th round, 96th overall

After two straight high upside selections, Lombardi returned to his game plan of gritty skaters with leadership qualities.  Vey hails from the rough and tumble WHL where he scored at better than a point per game average while working hard around the net and setting teammates up for quality scoring opportunities.  He is likely to return to Medicine Hat for the 2009-10 season where if he can maintain his scoring averages while continuing his gritty play, will be a welcome addition to the Manchester Monarchs in two seasons, replacing the likes of David Meckler or Bud Holloway as they move on or move up.

David Kolomatis, D

5th round, 126th overall

Kolomatis is the first of three 20-year-old selections by the Kings.  Presumably to add depth and competition to the Manchester Monarchs, each has shown some offensive punch in their time in major junior hockey.  Kolomatis is an offensively skilled defenseman who has already had a full AHL playoff run of 16 games under his belt with the Providence Bruins at the end of his 2008-09 season.  Kolomatis will likely be assigned to Manchester to start the season where the Kings can test him for two seasons before needing to make a decision on whether to sign him to an entry level contract.  It is a low risk selection by the Kings that will pay dividends in Manchester immediately and may develop into dividends at the NHL level.

Michael Pelech, LW/C

6th round, 156th overall

The second of the three 20-year-old selections, Pelech is a solidly built forward that has experience at both the center and left wing positions.  At 6’3 and over 200 lbs, he has the prototypical size for a left wing and the toughness to go with it.  Like Kolomatis, Pelech will likely be joining Manchester this season and providing some skilled grittiness from the left side or centering an energy line or penalty kill unit.  Pelech is also the type of player that will sacrifice the body to get the job done.  He might be unheralded as a sixth round draft choice, but Pelech is the type of player that every team needs to on the roster to do the dirty work for the squad.  He will have two seasons to show his value to the Kings before there is any requirement to offer him an entry level contract.

Brandon Kozun, RW

6th round, 179th overall

This diminutive right wing is one of the fastest and hardest workers in the WHL.  Despite his slight build, these values led him to over 100 points for the 2008-09 season for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL.  The Kings chose a similar player last year in Justin Azevedo, but Kozun offensively erupted as an 18-year-old while Azevedo did so two years later in his development.  This does not necessarily mean that Kozun will emerge as a better player than Azevedo who is already proving he can score at the AHL level, but Kozun has a better opportunity to improve on his skills before reaching the professional level than Azevedo had.  Kozun is a local kid, born in Los Angeles, who will be a fan favorite to follow.

Jordan Nolan, C
7th round, 186th overall

The son of former NHL coach Ted Nolan, Jordan Nolan is the third of the Kings overage selections for the 2009 draft.  Nolan is known more for his rough play and fighting than for his scoring ability, although he has been able to modestly contribute at the major junior level.  In terms of enforcers, he will be behind several already in the system but may be the AHL replacement for Kevin Westgarth or Richard Clune as they ascend to the NHL ranks.  Gritty and solidly built with a bit of a nasty streak, Lombardi sent the message that the Monarchs will be a lion’s den of toughness next season with a number of physical draftees already slated for Manchester.

Nic Dowd, C
7th round, 198th overall

Dowd was drafted out of the American juniors league of NAHL, out of which no more than 20 or so selections have ever been made.  But there are some notable graduates of the NAHL with the likes of Brian Rolston and Mike Knuble cutting their teeth in the tier two juniors league.  In fact, former Kings draft choice and current NHL strongman George Parros was initially drafted from the Chicago Freeze of the NAHL.  Dowd has a strong work ethic and a projectable body frame that convinced the Kings that there is enough potential in Dowd to take a chance with a seventh round pick.  He has committed to play for the Huskies of St. Cloud State University where he will skate alongside current Kings prospect Garrett Roe.