Al Murray is in his 12th season as the Los Angeles Kings Director of Amateur Scouting. Hockey’s Future recently spoke with him by phone to get his take on the Kings 2005 Entry Draft selections and recent changes to the entry draft under the new CBA.
HF: The question we should start off with is how do these consensus top five or six picks keep dropping to you?
AM: We’re just very fortunate. We had 13 guys who we felt were at the top of the draft, obviously with Sidney Crosby at the top. All that needs to happen is a couple of teams have a different top 13, or like a particular guy more than you do, and before you know it a good player falls to you. As the week went on and we read certain things on the internet and different mock drafts that were available, we saw that Anze (Kopitar) was going from a top 6 pick to a top 10 pick. At that point all you need is one or two surprises like a Setoguchi, Brian Lee or Price being drafted ahead of us and before you know it a really good player falls to you.
HF: Tell us about Kopitar’s style of play and the organization’s expectations.
AM: He is a very good puckhandler, he can both score goals and set up plays. For a guy his age, he is very solid defensively, he is very good positionally and is very committed to playing defense. He is also very good on faceoffs. If you are looking to compare him to an NHL player, the ultimate upside would be someone like Mats Sundin or Ronny Francis – both honest two-way players. He is a really good kid and really good teammate. People like having him around. He’s had a lot of different experiences this year and from everything we were able to find out, he was very well received by all his teams, from his junior team to the senior men’s team, Under 18, Under 20 and World Championship teams. He was really well liked by all his teams and is a very humble, very hardworking guy. If you are looking to compare him to someone in our organization, he is similar to Alex Frolov.
HF: The Kings’ first of two second round picks was a player who re-entered the draft, Dany Roussin. What can you tell us about him?
AM: When you pick an older guy like Dany, you’ve had a couple more years to evaluate them and they’ve had a couple more years to develop. Dany was drafted in the seventh round by Florida and has done very well over the last two years. He’s been fortunate to play with Sidney Crosby, but he’s also been a good enough player to take advantage of his opportunities and score a pile of goals. He’s a natural goal scorer with a great shot. He’s got good size, and his skating is average. He’s the type of guy that needs to play on one of your top two lines. In juniors, his role was to score and we feel that he’s going to have to be a scorer. He showed us enough that we wanted to give him a chance. We’ll see if he can continue to score as he moves through the ranks. With his age, he’ll go to training camp and we’ll see where he falls.
HF: How long do you have to sign him, two years?
AM: We do, but I would be surprised if he was not signed before training camp or during training camp. We do own his rights for the next two years.
HF: The Kings used their other second rounder, which was compensation for not signing David Steckel, to pick defenseman TJ Fast. What can we expect from TJ?
AM: He lives up to his last name – he is a very fast skater. He has an offensive component to him. We ultimately hope he becomes a player similar to Lubo Visnovsky. He’s around 6 feet tall, around 190 pounds and shoots left handed. He’s coming out of Tier 2 junior hockey in Camrose, which is the same team Richard Petiot played for. He’s going to the University of Denver. We like the style Denver plays and we have a lot of confidence is their coaching staff. They play an up-tempo style, which is perfect for TJ. They allow their defense to carry the puck, join the rush and be real offensive defenseman. With the emerging changes in the NHL, you always want offensive defenseman with speed and puckhandling ability. I think they are going to become even more important in the new NHL.
HF: The Kings third round pick was a goalie named Jonathon Quick, does he live up to his name too?
AM: He does actually. The big joke was “It was too bad we couldn’t get Skille in the first round. If we would have gotten skilled, faster and quicker, we could have made Andy Murray very happy.” Jonathon Quick is a butterfly style goalkeeper. He was one of the top 4 goalies on our list. Brian Putnam saw him the most this year and was very high on him. He’s going away to college at U-Mass Lowell. He is going there with a chance to beat out the No. 1 guy and he’s also been invited to the U.S. World Junior team as one of four goalies trying out for that team.
HF: In the fifth round the Kings selected a defenseman from Sweden Patrik Hersley. What did you see in him?
AM: He was one of the more improved players we saw in Sweden last year. Ari Vuori, our European Scout, was very high on him. Hersley will be trying out and we expect that he’ll make the Swedish World Junior Team and he’ll be in Lake Placid later on this month when the US World Junior team brings in the Swedes and the Finns. Hersley is a big kid, 6’3, plays with some bite and has some offensive skill. He is a good passer, not a quarterback for a power play or anything like that, but a good passer with good size who is a good skater.
HF: In the sixth and seventh rounds you took two more defenseman and a left wing. Tell us a little about them.
AM: The last three guys we picked are sort of long-shots. Ryan McGinnis is strictly a defensive defenseman who has good solid strength. He’s about 6’1 200 pounds, very strong and a very good skater. You can compare him to Tim Gleason from a strength and skating standpoint. Ryan played against the other teams’ top lines and did a good job of shutting them down. We’re not sure how much skill he has because he was told to strictly play defense last year. We’re not sure how much toughness he has because while he was somewhat physical, he wasn’t in everyone’s
face. There are some unknowns but we like his size and we like his skating and his strength.
Our first seventh rounder, Josh Meyers, is a right shot defenseman. He is going to Duluth. He plays a combo style. He is a good safe player, good positionally, moves the puck okay but doesn’t put up a lot of points. He doesn’t get beat, but isn’t overly physical. We’re not too sure how he is going to develop but we like the overall package with good size and decent skating.
The last player we selected was John Seymour from Brampton in the OHL. Good size, okay skater, he rarely played. He was on their fourth line last year. He only played about five or six shifts a game, but every time you watched him he caught your eye. He is scheduled to take on a much bigger role with their team this year.
Our last three picks were more shots in the dark, trying to get a guy with some upside. They’re all decent size and reasonable skaters who don’t make a lot of mistakes, but we aren’t sure what their upside is.
HF: How did your draft strategy change this year with the draft being shortened from nine rounds to seven?
AM: For us it didn’t change. We’ve been of the opinion for the last few years that one of the problems with drafting major junior players in the late rounds is that they are there for a reason. They need time to develop and the two-year window that we are given doesn’t give us enough time for them to develop before they have to be signed. A guy like Dany Roussin is an exception. He came from the seventh round and really improved a lot. We’ve mostly drafted European and college players after the elite of the draft are gone, especially after the fourth round. That’s now changed since the European players now have the same two-year window as the major junior players and you only have two years to sign them. The one type of guy we will look at more is the college guy who has more time to develop. But having said that we want the best player available and if you look at our draft we took two major junior players in the sixth and seventh rounds this year.
HF: The unrestricted free agency age will be moving down each year for the next few years. Will that make it even harder to draft and develop a goalie and will this lower their draft positioning in the future?
AM: I think every team has a different philosophy on that. I don’t think it’s any secret when you look at our drafts that we haven’t taken goalies in the first round. We believe that it takes a goalie a lot longer to develop. I think we have acquired some very good netminders with potential in the later part of this draft. Jonathon Quick, for example, this year. We just signed Ryan Munce, and Matt Zaba and Danny Taylor are progressing nicely. We were able to acquire Mathieu Garon and Jason LaBarbera in their mid to late 20s, they’ve had their signing bonuses and development years and we believe they are both ready to hit their prime. I don’t know how other teams will view it, but if there was an elite guy we felt strongly about, like Al Montoya last year, at the right point in the first round, we would take him.
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