The Los Angeles Kings went international in the 2004 Entry Draft, selecting players from Finland, the United Kingdom, Serbia and even Japan. True to form, the Kings were heavy on college and European picks. Six forwards, two goaltenders and one defenseman comprise their nine selections. Quite possibly, the largest story for the Kings’ draft was the three-team transaction that brought goaltender Mathieu Garon to Los Angeles in exchange for Cristobal Huet.
Lauri Tukonen (RW)
1st round (#11 overall), 6’2” 198, Blues (Finland)
Ranked No. 5 among European skaters by CSS, many felt that Tukonen might be a top five selection in the 2004 Draft. Not yet 18 years of age, Tukonen spent the 2003-04 season in the SM-Liiga -– the highest professional league in Finland -– scoring six points in 35 games. Used sparingly and primarily on the fourth line, he has not had the opportunity to display his tremendous offensive skills, instead showing flashes of brilliance to come from his 6’2”, 200 lbs physique. Tukonen is at his best along the boards and banging bodies in traffic, but also knows his way around the net. Adding some more weight to his frame will go a long ways towards developing into the power forward the Kings hope of him.
In addition to being experienced in the top league of his country, Tukonen is also a veteran of the international tournaments. Playing for Team Finland in the 2004 U18 World Championships, the physical forward scored eleven points on five goals and six assists in six games with a +7. Not stopping there, he also added three points in seven games for Team Finland in the 2004 U20 World Championships.
Paul Baier (D)
3rd round (#95 overall), 6’3” 212, Deerfield Academy (USHSE)
The large-bodied and physical defenseman scored six goals and four assists for Deerfield Academy last season while also playing on their lacrosse team. Baier was selected with the pick acquired in the deal that sent Huet to Montreal for Garon and represents the only defenseman chosen by the Kings in the last two drafts. Baier has signed a letter of intent to skate for Brown University this coming season and expects to make an immediate impact with the loss of the Bears’ two top defenseman to graduation.
In a recent interview with Hockey’s Future, Kings Director of Amateur Scouting Al Murray said of Baier, “He plays a combination type of a game he is not a big point producer but he can put up some numbers. He’s not a real crusher but he does play physical.”
Ned Lukacevic (LW)
4th round (#110 overall), 6’0” 185, Spokane (WHL)
After selecting a Finn with their first selection, the Kings again dipped into the international well with Ned Lukacevic. Born in Serbia, Lukacevic grew up in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. The left wing scored 33 points on 19 goals in all 72 games as a 17-year-old for the Spokane Chiefs, his first full season in the Western Hockey League. Possessing a great mix of speed and offensive skills, Lukacevic was one of only forty players named to Canada’s National Under 18 development camp in 2003. “With his speed, puckhandling ability and the ability to score, I think he will catch everyone’s eye at camp,” stated Al Murray. “His style of play is similar to Noah Clarke.”
Eric Neilson (RW)
5th round (#143 overall), 6’1” 201, Rimouski (QMJHL)
This physical right wing is the first person to lay a hit on the opposition and the last person to back down from a challenge. Looking to add a little toughness to the system, the Kings drafted Eric Neilson in the fifth round. Skating on the same team as phenom Sidney Crosby, Neilson has scored 26 points in 103 games over the last two seasons. However, in that time, he has also amassed 535 penalty minutes, making him one of the top pugilists of the QMJHL.
“If anyone takes exception and goes after one of their better players, he’s the first guy to step in,” Murray said. In addition, Murray was very impressed with his ability to skate, “Plus he skates well enough and has enough skill that he can play with those two [Sidney Crosby and MA Pouliot] on a line.”
Scott Parse (RW)
6th round (#174 overall), 6’1” 185, Univ. Nebraska-Omaha (NCAA)
Scott Parse played alongside fellow Kings’ prospects Mike Gabinet and Joel Andresen while playing for the University of Nebraska-Omaha. The high scoring right wing led the team with 16 goals (7 on the power play) and 35 points as a freshman for the Mavericks in route to being named All CCHA Rookie Team honorable mention. Prior to playing NCAA hockey, Parse was a standout with Tri-City of the USHL, scoring 44 points in 48 games. As the primary scoring threat on the top scoring line, Parse will see plenty of ice time with Nebraska-Omaha next season.
John Curry (RW)
7th round (#205 overall), 6’3” 190, Sioux City (USHL)
John Curry has the mix of skating, skill and toughness that organizations love. The 6’3” forward scored 20 goals, 40 points and a +4 in 60 games for Sioux City of the USHL. Curry will be attending the Univ. of Minnesota-Duluth in the fall where he will further hone his skills and learn the consistency necessary to compete at the higher levels of hockey. Al Murray informed us, “John is a big kid, has some skills, plays physical, skates well, but doesn’t do it consistently.” He later went on to say, “He does have to mature and become more consistent, but he does have some very interesting raw materials.”
Daniel Taylor (G)
7th round (#221 overall), 6’1” 177, Guelph (OHL)
The Kings international road trip continued with their second 7th round selection. Goaltender Daniel Taylor was born in the Plymouth, United Kingdom but plays junior hockey for the Guelph Storm. In his first season, Taylor posted a record of 16-4-3 with a 2.71 goals against average and a .900 save percentage as backup for the OHL Champion Storm. Prior to Guelph, Taylor backstopped Cumberland of the CJHL, going 13-3-1 with a 2.44 goals-against average.
|Year||Team||League||GP||W- L- T||GAA||SV%||SO|
|2003-04||Guelph||OHL||26||16- 4- 3||2.71||.900||0|
Yutaka Fukufuji (G)
8th round (#238 overall), 6’1” 160, Kokudo (Japan)
The last stop on the international road trip found the Kings in way off in Japan. The Kings selected Yutaka Fukufuji in the 8th round, their second goaltender of the draft. This is the second time the Kings have drafted a goalie of Japanese descent – former first round selection Jamie Storr is half-Japanese. Fukufuji has played for the Japanese National Team in international tournaments. As part of a nine-game stint in the ECHL, Fukufuji stopped 45 shots to beat Lexington 3-1 during the 2002-03 season, finishing the season with a 3.13 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.
|Year||Team||League||GP||W- L- T||GAA||SV%||SO|
|2002-03||Cincinnati||ECHL||9||4- 3- 0||3.13||.915||0|
Valtteri Tenkanen (C/LW)
9th round (#264 overall), 5’11” 183, Jyvaskyla (Finland)
The young center playing for Jyvaskyla of the SM-Liiga, Tenkanen is described as a high-energy forward with defensive skills but limited puck-handling ability. Scoring four points with two penalty minutes and a –3 in 25 games, Tenkanen is a developmental project.
“He’s one of those guys that has some tools, he’s in a good development situation where we don’t have to worry him and hurry him and we’ll just see how he turns out,” stated Murray. The Kings are under no obligation to sign Tenkanen and can let him develop on his own schedule in Europe until he is ready to contribute.
DRAFT DAY TRADES
- Traded their 3rd round pick, no. 77 overall, to Ottawa for C Radek Bonk.
- Traded C Radek Bonk and G Cristobal Huet to Montreal for G Mathieu Garon and Montreal’s 3rd round choice, no. 95 overall.
- Traded their 9th round choice, no. 271 overall, to Columbus for their 8th round choice in the 2005 Entry Draft.
Read the complete interview with Kings Director of Scouting Al Murray here.
Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without written permission of the editorial staff.