Kings 2000 draft evaluation

By John Logue

The 2000 NHL Entry Draft was a watershed year in Los Angeles Kings amateur draft history. When Dave Taylor took over the General Manager duties in 1997, Kings fans were promised something the franchise lacked for its first 30 years — a farm system. For the first time in the organization’s history the mandate was “build from within”. The Kings are well known as the organization that traded the first round picks that led to Ray Bourque, Phil Housley, and Tom Barrasso for little in return. They are likewise well known for numerous first round disappointments like Aki Berg and Jamie Storr. It’s no secret that the Kings had one of the worst draft track records in NHL history up to that point.

The 2000 draft will be looked back at as the year the franchise finally turned the corner in its scouting, evaluation and selection of impact prospects. The Kings ended up drafting 11 players that weekend. Three have played in the NHL for a combined 604 games, good for a 55 NHL games per pick average for the class. The three are solid NHL players and a fourth pick remains a prospect, one who had a breakout season in Manchester before an injury ended it abruptly.

Alexander Frolov, LW (First round, 20th overall, Yaroslavl Torpedo, Russia)
NHL games: 156
Status: NHL player

During a post draft interview in 2000, Frolov was asked about his style of play. His reply, “My style, I don’t know. I just score goals.” Frolov followed those now famous words with two very good years in the Russian Super League where he earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2001. He also led Russia at the 2002 U20 World Juniors Championship in goals.

Frolov signed with the Kings prior to the 2003 season and made the team out of training camp. He finished the year sixth in rookie goals and was the sixth highest scorer on the Kings. In his sophomore year, Frolov finished second on the Kings in scoring and led them in goals. He spent 2005-06 in the Russian Super League due to the NHL lockout.

Frolov is seen as the future franchise player for the Kings and will most likely be the player they build around in the post-lockout era.

Andreas Lilja, D (Second round, 54th overall, Malmo IF, SEL)
NHL games: 180
Status: NHL player

The Kings second round pick was used to select an over-age European defenseman that they were hoping could step right in an fill the void created when Sean O’Donnell was claimed in the 2000 NHL Expansion Draft by the Minnesota Wild. Lilja never developed into what the Kings had hoped and he was traded in 2002 to the Florida Panthers in a package for veteran defenseman Dmitri Yushkevich.

Lilja got plenty of ice time in Florida that season and the following season before signing with Nashville as a free agent.

Yannick Lehoux, C (Third round, 86th overall, Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL)
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL prospect

After his draft, Lehoux had two very impressive years in the QMJHL, where he set the all-time record for shorthanded goals. Lehoux came to the AHL Manchester Monarchs with very high expectations in 2002-03. He, Jared Aulin, and Michael Cammalleri were seen as the new generation of Kings and were expected to be immediate impact players. His first two seasons were decent, but didn’t compare with the lofty expectations placed upon him. Lehoux was one of the few players not called up from Manchester during the Kings incredible rash of injuries.

Lehoux spent the last offseason re-dedicating himself to hockey and stormed out of the gate. He was by far the Monarchs best player, scoring at almost a 1.5 point per game pace, before suffering a season-ending injury 38 games in. Heading into next season, big things are expected of him.

Lubomir Visnovsky, D (Fourth round, 118th overall, Bratislava Slovan Harvard, Slovak)
NHL games: 268
Status: NHL player

The Kings used their fourth round pick to select another over-age European defenseman. But unlike Lilja, Visnovsky would make the team out of training camp and have an immediate impact on the team.

Visnovsky has become the Kings most well rounded defenseman. He is defensively sound while anchoring the power play and helping the offense break out of their own zone. While not overly physical, he has shown the ability to be in the right place at the right time and pin opponents much bigger than him. He spent the lockout season with Bratislava Slovan Harvard of the Slovak league, putting up 38 points in 43 games.

Nathan Marsters, G (Fifth round, 165th overall, Chilliwack Chiefs, BCHL)
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL bust

Goaltending has been the Achilles heel of the Kings franchise since its inception and unfortunately Marsters was not the answer to help stop the bleeding. After being drafted, he had four inconsistent years at R.P.I. in the NCAA and was not offered a contract by the Kings. Instead, Marsters joined the Louisiana IceGators of the ECHL this season where he had a 3.51 goals against average and a .901 save percentage.

Evgeny Fedorov, C (Seventh round, 206th overall, Molot Perm, Russia)
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL bust

Fedorov has played with the Kazan Ak-Bars since his draft. Federov is small by NHL standards at 5’9 and has generated almost no interest in signing from the Kings. This shifty and speedy skater has carved himself a little niche in the Russian Super League but as his career as an NHL prospect winds down, he is almost a sure bet never to cross the Atlantic.

Tim Eriksson, LW (Seventh round, 206th overall, Vastra Frolunda Juniors, Sweden)
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL bust

Eriksson has been playing with Linkoping of the Swedish Elite league the last few years. Like Federov, he is small for the NHL at 5’9 and has not generated any interest to signing him by the Kings. Eriksson is likely to play out the remainder of his career in the SEL.

Craig Olynick, D (Seventh round, 218th overall, Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL)
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL bust

Since being drafted, Olynick continued in the WHL and dropped down to the SJHL in 2002-03. The Kings did not sign him when his junior eligibility expired and has since been living the life of a free agent. He spent the 2004-05 season with the Toledo Storm and South Carolina Stringrays of the ECHL.

Dan Welch, F (Eighth round, 245th overall, U. of Minnesota, NCAA)
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL bust

Instead of playing his sophomore season with the University of Minnesota, Welch joined Omaha of the USHL only to return to Minnesota the next season. Welch left Minnesota early for academic reasons and signed an amateur tryout agreement with Manchester of the AHL in January of 2003. He has split time between the Monarchs and Reading of the ECHL and resembles more of a career minor leaguer than a legitimate NHL prospect.

Flavien Conne, C (Eighth round, 250th overall, Fribourg-Gotteron, LNSw)
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL bust

A small and shifty forward, Conne is one of the better scorers in the Swiss League. Another late-round European prospect that the Kings have shown little interest in signing, Conne has remained one of the top players with Lugano HC the last several seasons.

Carl Grahn, G (Ninth round, 282nd overall, Kalpa Jr., Finland)
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: NHL bust

Grahn moved onto KooKoo in the Finnish 2nd League after juniors. He has struggled against the lesser competition of the lower Finnish leagues and does not seem likely to improve enough to warrant bringing him to North America. While the Kings retain his rights, Grahn must show he is capable of stopping the top talent in Finland before he will garner any interest by the Kings.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.