LA Kings 2002 Draft Preview

By Tony Calfo

The Los Angeles Kings will pick at #18 in the first round of
the 2002 draft with a much more relaxed outlook. The Kings still need to
beef up their system, but unlike in years’ past they have a solid base on which
to add.

The 2002 Draft is deep, but only in the sense that after a
certain number of picks, the talent level of the prospective draft picks is very
similar. Look for teams to take a player who may not be the best
player left when they pick, but rather the player that best fits their
organization at that pick. Count the Kings among those teams.

If this was the NFL draft, the Kings would likely trade out
of 18 for a late first rounder and an additional second round pick. With
so many teams in a similar situation, that scenario is not likely to
happen. So assuming the Kings stay at 18, what will they do?

Nearly every mock draft and draft preview have the Kings
taking a defenseman at 18. Don’t bet on it. The Kings could use some
young defenseman in their system, but unless someone like Anton Babchuk or Steve
Eminger become available at 18, which in extremely unlikely, the Kings are
likely to pass and still get a quality defenseman in rounds 2 or 3.
Same could be said for another need the Kings have, goaltender. Look for
them to grab a goalie in round 2, a defenseman in round 3 (or visa-versa) and
grab the best players available after that.

That leaves forward as the most likely scenario in round
one. With Frolov, Aulin, Lehoux and Cammalleri the Kings have legitimate
scoring prospects. With Karlson and Steckel, the Kings have some big,
albeit long-term prospects with questionable offensive talents but unlimited
potential. Look for the pick in round one to be a balance of those two
groups of players.

There are plenty of players who the Kings would love to add
but will likely be gone by 18. Joni Pitkanen, Eric Nystrom of Michigan,
and Peter Taticek will likely be gone when the Kings pick. There are also
some solid players who the #18 spot would be a bit of a reach for, like the
physical Ben Eager, Finnish center Sean Bergenheim and the huge Adam Heinrich,
who are likely to drop later in the first round. Defenseman Daniel
Fernholm is also a coveted player whose stock is dropping. Somewhere
between those two groups lies the answer. Here are the most likely
ones:

Daniel Paille may not slip to #18, but if
he does the Kings will grab him. Paille is a solidly built 6’0, 200 pound
center who played for Guelph of the OHL. He is a two-way player who is
known for going all-out on every shift and being a tremendous leader.
Whoever ends up with Paille is getting a hockey player in every sense of the
word.

Rob Globke’s stock is rising quickly. Globke plays for
Notre Dame and has been considered the closest to NHL level of anyone outside
the top 5 picks. The question is what position will Globke play in the
NHL? He has some scoring instinct and has shown some superior physical
play. Will he learn to use both and become an NHL power forward?
That seems to be the question for most GM’s. I like his game and he could
be in the NHL in two years. 18 is too high for Globke, but if the Kings
can slide down, or if they just think he fits the best, he’ll be a King, and a
good one.

Jim Slater is a gritty playmaking center from Michigan
State. The guy’s name, school and style make him more suitable for the
gridiron, but his game is purely NHL style- gritty, responsible and offensively
capable. Slater would be a solid acquisition.

Jakub Klepis is a poor man’s Daniel Paille. He
is similar in size and plays a similar game, minus the defensive responsibility
and fiery disposition. Klepis is a pick based on potential. He has
shown signs of being a two-way player and signs of a mean streak, but possesses
neither right now. Klepis is a question of potential and with Steckel and
Karlson in the system; the Kings don’t need another question mark.

If the Kings can get Paille, he would be a great fit.
Slater and Globke also mesh nicely with the Kings style and would also be
excellent additions.

In summary, outside of a deal, look for a two way forward
with some grit to join the Kings’ system in the first round, and that forward
will be Daniel Paille.

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