In 2010, the Los Angeles Kings started trending in the right direction. It is not surprising that we started to see far fewer draft selections, as the team started giving up picks to acquire useful roster players for a deeper NHL lineup. 2010 marked an extreme departure for the franchise, as they had just five overall selections in the 2010 NHL Draft. That is half of what they had in 2009, and four fewer than in 2008. Be that as it may, the Kings were measured in their selection, and still covet all of these selections within their organization in one form or another. Some have made huge impacts at the NHL already and a few others are on the cusp of being impact players. Let’s take a look.
The Kings have received some criticism for the first round selection of Derek Forbort. We are now five years removed from the draft and the big defender remains the only player from that year’s first round to not have played an NHL game. Although that is not a distinction that the young man from Duluth, Minnesota wants to carry, he has come along steadily.
Forbort compiled a pretty strong three years at the University of North Dakota, where he was one of the squad’s key defensemen in his final season. Since 2013, he has moved on to the Manchester Monarchs, where again he has progressed to the point of being the team’s strongest and most reliable defenseman. It has been a steep learning curve at time for the former 15th overall selection, but in the end his heady and composed style of play has seen him rise through the ranks. At 23 years of age many critics would already be calling for the big ‘B’ word when it comes to a player. However, bust would hardly be fair. With as defensively stringent a system as the Kings play, bringing Forbort along slowly was probably the best possible option. They have also waited until a roster spot cleared for the young man at the NHL level.
The Kings have elevated Forbort and he has passed each test that has been thrown at him. In 2015-16 he will almost certainly have the 7th defenseman spot on the NHL roster all to himself. With the retirement of Robyn Regehr, the uncertainty of Slava Voynov, and the ever present cap constrictions that weigh on the Kings, they will need a cheap and familiar defenseman to jump in and play from time to time. He has bided his time with the organization and the time now seems to be as good as ever for Forbort to live up to the first round price tag that follows him.
The only complaint that the Kings fans can have at this point regarding Tyler Toffoli is that he has not been played enough.
For a mid-second round selection, the sniper has been an absolute steal. The former 67 has been an incredibl addition to a Kings roster that has always been light on scoring. After a worthwhile rookie campaign coupled with an outstanding post-season, Toffoli obliterated the NHL sophomore slump. He posted 23 goals and 49 points in his second pro season, good enough for third on the team in both categories. He also posted a team high +25 rating and was one of their best and brightest players in several analytics categories measuring shot attempt differentials and goals for percentage.
The Scarborough, Ontario native took the relative fast track to the NHL. He played in just 77 AHL games at a point per game pace over the course of two seasons in making his way to the NHL. Again, on a team that is so historically light on winger production and offensive depth, Toffoli has been an incredible addition. With such great production, such good offensive instincts and abilities, it is hard to imagine that he slipped to the mid-second simply due to his sub-standard skating ability. Be that as it may, the Kings will take it. He continues to see his role expand with the team and should be an impactful player for several years to come.
Watch this 2010 NHL Draft Look Back video featuring Los Angeles Kings draftees Derek Forbort and Tyler Toffoli.
3rd round, 70th overall: Jordan Weal, C, Regina Pats (WHL)
NHL Games Played: 0
It is hard to say that Weal has not been something of a success as a player so far. When you look at his overall arc from draft to now it is impressive. After his 2010 selection, Weal posted a career high 43 goals in 72 games with the Regina Pats. The following year he posted another 40+ goal season and notched a career high 116 points.
After his stellar junior career, the diminutive center move onto the Monarchs, where he had an admirable rookie season of 33 points in 63 games. He slotted into the bottom lines of Manchester and was praised for his attitude and work ethic. Since 2013-14, with an elevated place in the Monarchs top-six, Weal has been one of the most consistent and threatening producers in the lineup. He has collected points at a near point per game pace since 2013-14, with 70 and 69 points coming respectively in 13-14 and 14-15.
What inevitably has come into question with Weal, despite his outstanding numbers, is the size and question of whether he will be able to handle the NHL. In the defense of the former Regina Pat, he has made the question constantly relevant with great training camp performances, season performances, and a tireless work ethic. He has been held out of Los Angeles due to the team’s exceptional center depth. However, with Los Angeles going through a potential semi-rebuild soon, Weal may see his day in the sun yet. He has been tremendous at every level thus far but has still yet to get his chance to shine at the NHL level.
5th round, 148th overall: Kevin Gravel, D, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
NHL Games Played: 0
While Gravel’s status currently remains ambiguous as an unsigned free agent, he is under contract with the Manchester Monarchs. He just is not under contract with the L.A. Kings. The Kings were at their 50-contract limit this offseason, and with Gravel up for contract the team opted to leave him off the list. Nonetheless, from all accounts the Kings and Gravel still both seem mutually interested in him being a Kings product in the near future.
With that out of the way, Gravel has been another successful looking selection from the 2010 draft. While he is not flashy in any way shape or form, he is a steady stay-at-home defenseman. He carried that reputation through four years at St. Cloud State, where he twice made the WCHA All-Academic Team. Late in in his college career he also started to find a more offensive side to his game, and has carried that over into his rookie year with Manchester. The hulking 6’4 defenseman was a semi-regular player in the Manchester bottom four. Overall, he was a member of an AHL defense that conceded the second fewest goals in the entire AHL.
Gravel has progressed positively since his draft date, and while his status with the Kings seems ambiguous, both parties have been positive in reiterating that they see a future for the former Huskie within the organization.
6th round, 158th overall: Maxim Kitsyn, LW, Novokuznetsk Mettalurg (KHL)
NHL Games Played: 0
The young Russian has had a tumultuous path of development. There was significant promise when the now 23-year old came over from the KHL in 2010-11 to play for Mississauga in the OHL. He showed a willingness to battle, play a big game, and posted 26 points in 32 OHL games to boot. His performance at the 2011 World Junior Championships was also a fantastic boost to his stock, as he was one of Russia’s best players.
However, the next two years were by all accounts disastrous. Kitsyn returned to Novokuznetsk Mettalurg to receive low minutes and limited usage. His numbers with the senior team plummeted and was eventually loaned to the second tier of the KHL, the VHL. It didn’t stop there, as he was even loaned down to the third tier junior level, the MHL. This spiral continued on in 2012-13 with a different KHL team, Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod. With playing time at a minimum he spent almost the entirety of the year in the lower division.
In 2013-14 he returned to North America looking a much different player. There was little in the way of confidence, and instead of being a tough and gritty down low forward, he was a floating perimeter player. He spent the majority of the year in the ECHL where he was a point per game player. He has since made his home primarily in Ontario with the Reign, and rekindled some of his aggressive goalscoring form. While hockey sense has never been a particular strong point for the Russian, a fiery passion has come back in his play, which is excellent to see. However, it is tough to say what his future with the Kings is at this point. The lost two years of development were a huge knock to the once promising power forward.