2015 NHL Draft: Los Angeles Kings draft review

By Jason Lewis
Erik Cernak - Los Angeles Kings

Photo: Los Angeles added talented Slovakian defender Erik Cernak to the prospect pool with its first pick (43rd overall) at the 2015 NHL Draft (courtesy of Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

‏After a disappointing end to the Los Angeles Kings‘ 2014-15 season, the team went into one of the deepest NHL Drafts in recent memory needing to fill some holes and restock. Unfortunately, with just six picks going at the actual draft table, the Kings had the fewest number of selections since 2012.

It is the reality of success that many trades for established talents are made at the expense of draft picks. This year was no different, as Los Angeles dealt the 13th overall pick the Boston Bruins in a deal for Milan Lucic. The Kings will also not have a first-round pick next season due to the Andrej Sekera deal.

‏Nevertheless, the team has done well with minimal picks and mid-round picks in recent years. They would have to dig deep yet again in order to restock a thinning pipeline. With the defensive pipeline brimming with talent, the Kings continued to bulk up by taking three defenseman out of their six picks. They also added three forwards, two of whom are capable of playing multiple positions including center. Versatility, size, and hockey sense are things that the Kings seem to gravitate towards when drafting and they did so again.

‏The team did not draft any players under 6-foot-1, and only one came out of the USHL and NCAA ranks. This will mean some quicker development in terms of AHL and pro ready status potentially.

Erik Cernak, D, Kosice HC (Slovakia)
‏2nd round, 43rd overall
‏Height: 6-3 Weight: 203

‏Without a first round pick, the Kings had to venture into the second to get their first selection. With it they went all the way out to the Slovakian league, something they had not done since 2000 when they selected Lubomir Visnovsky from Slovan Bratislava. It was a defenseman then, and it is a defensemen now.

‏The comparisons really stop there though. Cernak is not a player known for his offensive gifts. Instead, the 6’3 blueliner is an adept defensive mind with excellent reach and an ability to read the game. He is a patient and intelligent defensemen with fairly strong defensive tendencies and thoughts. He fits fairly well into the Kings pipeline, who are seeing more and more puck movers with fewer true defensive bread and butter style players. Cernak has shown a little bit of offensive ability while with HC Kosice, but it should not be expected that he contributes on a regular basis offensively. In many ways he is similar to current Kings prospect Derek Forbort. They both share the natural gifts of good size, solid hockey sense, and a defense first mentality. He may have some two-way ability in the cabinet, but for now he is a very good add to the more defensive oriented pipeline.

‏At 18, the young defenseman has already played the better part of two pro seasons in Slovakia. He may be over in North America sooner rather than later.

‏Cernak met with the media at the 2015 NHL Draft, with a portion of that conversation being captured in this Hockey’s Future video.

Alexander Dergachyov, C, St. Petersburg Jrs. (Russia)
‏3rd round, 74th overall
‏Height: 6-4 Weight: 200

‏Kings went with a bull in a china shop style forward with Dergachyov in the third round. With the center depth slowly depleting, the Kings went with a sizable two-way addition out of Russia. Ranked inside the top 20 in Central Scouting’s EU rankings, and also inside ISS’s top 50, the Russian has been playing pretty well in the MHL with St. Petersburg. He has also stood out a bit with Russia’s U20 team on the international stage.

‏He is a classic looking Kings player. With size and tenacity, Dergachyov is noted for his good technical skills combined with a rather bullish way of playing. Who knows what kind of offensive upside the young Russian has, but he certainly shows potential as a decent top-nine or bottom-six center at his ceiling. He has the size, offensive ability, and work ethic to be a good add to the versatility of the Kings pipeline. Dergachyov is one of the biggest centers the Kings now have in the system that actually has a comparable offensive skillset. With Nick Shore and Nic Dowd still lined up in front of him on the depth chart, there is plenty of time to let him take his time and develop both in Russia and North America.

Dergachyov took part in the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine in early June, where he chatted with the media (via interpreter) for this Hockey’s Future video.

Austin Wagner, LW/C, Regina Pats (WHL)
‏4th round, 99th overall
‏Height: 6-1 Weight: 178

‏Of all the Kings’ pick, Wagner might be the one most capable of breaking and out and surpassing expectation. He was ranked 35th by Central Scouting for NA skaters, and the Kings nabbing him at 99th overall may turn into be an exceptional grab.

‏The forward possesses several things the Kings like. He is versatile, playing both wing and center. He also has good offensive abilities and a notably good work ethic. The progression in his junior career has been nothing short of stupendous as well. With just two points and one goal in 42 contests with the Regina Pats in 2013-14, Wagner upped the ante with 39 points and 20 goals in 61 games in 2014-15. The Kings always like to see the wheels turning and the steps being made. Next year will be a big year for Wagner. While he might lack some overall finish to his game, Wagner has tremendous speed, vision, and a tireless two-way work ethic.

‏With such a good developing skill, the Kings may have received some tremendous value at number 99 with Wagner. He plays a game the organization likes very much, and seems to have an attitude that may also conducive to some positive results in the future.

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