Key defensive selections lead the Los Angeles Kings 2008 draft class

By Jason Lewis
Drew Doughty - Los Angeles Kings

Photo: Kings' second overall selection Drew Doughty has developed into a cornerstone of the franchise and played a key role in bringing the club their first Stanley Cup in 2012. (courtesy of Dustin Bradford/Icon SMI)

 
In 2008, the Los Angeles Kings were in the midst of a taxing rebuild process. With the fourth overall pick in 2007 along with the second and 12th picks in 2008, the team was looking to add key pieces around which the team could be built moving forward.

Looking back, the draft might seem like a home run with headliner Drew Doughty being widely considered a top defenseman in the league and second-round pick Slava Voynov being a surprisingly sound top-four NHL defenseman at such a young age. However, things might not have gone as planned further into the draft.

The 2008 draft was a mixed bag of success and disappointment, but the franchise has moved forward well and utilized its assets to the best of their ability. They still have a few project players waiting to pan out and a two already making significant impacts in the NHL.

Drew Doughty, D, Guelph Storm (OHL) – 1st Round, 2nd overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 321

In retrospect, the 2008 first round was a very deep round of future NHL caliber talent. Heading into that draft the talk was all about forward Steven Stamkos (TBL) and defensemen Alex Pietrangelo (STL), Zach Bogosian (WPG), and the Kings' second overall selection Drew Doughty.

Of those defensemen, Doughty has had the most success at the NHL level thus far in his career. On the back of a gold medal at the 2008 World Junior Championships with Canada and a Max Kaminsky Trophy (OHL Outstanding Defenseman) with the Guelph Storm, Doughty made his NHL debut at age 18 with the Los Angeles Kings for the 2008-09 season. After a 27 point rookie campaign, he missed out on a Calder nomination to forwards Anaheim's Bobby Ryan, Chicago's Kris Versteeg, and Columbus goaltender Steve Mason. However, in 2009-10 a 59 point sophomore season would earn Doughty a Norris Trophy nomination.

Although he eventually lost the Norris bid to outstanding Chicago product Duncan Keith, a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver with Team Canada probably took the sting out of it. During the tournament Doughty was widely considered one of the best players on the team, all at the young age of 20. In fact, Doughty was the youngest player to compete for Team Canada in a major tournament since Eric Lindros.

On an already long hockey résumé for a 23-year-old, Doughty claimed yet another milestone in the 2011-12 post-season with 16 points and a plus-11 during the 20 game run to the Stanley Cup for the Kings. While he has had his ups and downs like any young player, Doughty has been exactly what a franchise dreams of with a top-three pick in a draft.

Colten Teubert, D, Regina Pats (WHL) – 1st Round, 13th overall
Status: Prospect (EDM)
NHL Games Played: 24

One selection from the 2008 draft that might sting a little for L.A. Kings fans and management alike is the selection of defenseman Colten Teubert with the 13th overall pick. The selection came as a bit of a surprise as the team actually traded down a slot from the 12th pick to the 13th pick with the Buffalo Sabres, who subsequently selected future 2010 Calder winning defenseman Tyler Myers (BUF).

As stated before, the first round of 2008 was ripe with talent. Highly skilled defensemen Erik Karlsson (OTT), Jake Gardiner (TOR), Michael Del Zotto (NYR), John Carlson (WSH), and Luca Sbisa (ANA) still remained in the pool, as did forwards Tyler Ennis (BUF), Jordan Eberle (EDM), and Mattias Tedenby (NYJ).

The Kings were looking for a big, physical defenseman in the draft, and while they got it with Teubert, they got little else to warrant NHL minutes with the team. In his time with the franchise Teubert spent time in the ECHL with the Ontario Reign and the AHL with the Manchester Monarchs in an average 2009-10 rookie pro season. He spent only 57 games of pro play with the Kings minor system before being traded to Edmonton for forward Dustin Penner. He has fallen by the wayside in Edmonton a bit, but still has potential to be a slow developing, hard-nosed bottom pairing defenseman in the NHL. However, as a first round selection goes, it seems the Kings may have ultimately struck out on Teubert.

Slava Voynov, D, Traktor Chelyabinsk (Russian Superleague) – 2nd Round, 32nd overall
Status: NHL player
NHL Games Played: 59

In a trend by the Kings of reloading the franchise with defensive talent, the selection of Slava Voynov in 2008 turned out to be a fantastic second round pick.

A product out of Russia, Voynov was considered a talented all-around defenseman in his pre-draft analysis. Of course due to his slight stature of 5'11, many teams were worried about his adaptation to the North American game. The Kings rolled the dice on Voynov and received exactly what scouts had said about him.

Through almost three full seasons in the AHL with the Monarchs, Voynov averaged nearly a point every other game and developed an all-around style. His skating is good, his offensive game is solid, and for an offensive-oriented player Voynov possesses a strong defensive zone awareness. In 2011-12 he was one of the keys to the Kings success, as his emergence and ascension up the ranks bolstered the team's very young depth on the blue line. He, along with fellow 2008 draftee Drew Doughty and 2007 draft choice Alec Martinez, was part of an under-25, puck-moving trio that ultimately helped the franchise win its first cup.

At 23, Voynov has already developed into a second pairing NHL defenseman and still has a lot of growing to do.

Robert Czarnik, C, USNTDP – 3rd round, 63rd overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

At the professional level, Robert Czarnik has yet to really make a name for himself. The two-way forward has had a slow development path, but he has been developing no less.

Czarnik has played in many different arenas of developmental hockey. He came up with the U.S. National Team Development Program, attended the University of Michigan, but during his sophomore season, transitioned to play nearly two full seasons in the OHL with the Plymouth Whalers. Czarnik has had some decent success statistically wherever he has gone, even his first year of professional hockey with the Manchester Monarchs in 2011-12 was solid. He played a limited role with the team and still had 23 points in 48 games. He is very new to professional level hockey, even though he is 23 years old.

As a third round pick, Czarnik could be one of those players that gets lost in the many developing middle round picks.

Andrew Campbell, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) – 3rd round, 74th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

For a mid-draft, defensive defenseman, Andrew Campbell has developed as expected. Drafted in his third year of eligibility, Campbell has been a mainstay in Manchester since he was selected in 2008.

For any defenseman, especially defensive-minded ones, development is slow due to adjustments to the speed of the game. In 2008-09 and 2009-10 Campbell got a crash course in this concept, as his rookie and sophomore seasons at the pro level netted him a combined 19 points, and a minus-15 and minus-16 rating respectively. However, as the big defenseman has grown older and wiser, his numbers have steadily improved. Combined he had 31 points and a plus-26 in his latter two seasons in comparison to his dismal first two seasons.

Campbell is now an alternate captain for the Monarchs in 2012-13, and despite injury setbacks early on, he is a plus-13 on the season. Considering his selection spot in the 2008 draft, Campbell could still yield significant value to the franchise as his development arc has been steadily going up after a rough start to his pro career.

Geordie Wudrick, LW, Swift Current Broncos (WHL) – 3rd round, 88th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Geordie Wudrick suffered a fate that many players drafted by NHL teams suffer. Although he had three and a half solid years with the Swift Current Broncos and one-plus season with the Kelowna Rockets, he never quite wowed the Los Angeles Kings enough to warrant an NHL contract.

Under a point-per-game pace in the CHL and with a wealth of forwards to compete with in Manchester, the big grinding winger never made it to the AHL, was never offered a contract, and instead went the European route to Starbulls Rosenheim in the Germany2 league. Wudrick returned to Canada during the 2011-12 season with the University of New Brunswick, where he played until recently joining the senior hockey level with the Bentley Generals in the Chinook Hockey League.

Andrei Loktionov, C, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 2 (Russia-3) – 5th round, 123rd overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 59

Later round draft choices are normally low-risk, high-reward style picks. Sometimes they pan out, most times they do not. However, with Andrei Loktionov, a fifth round selection by the Kings, it seems they found value.

Loktionov was a question mark heading into the draft, as many thought he would stay in Russia. However he eased the mind of many when he came over to the OHL and had a 66 point regular season with the Windsor Spitfires, followed by a 33 point post-season, and 7 points for the Memorial Cup champs. However, rumors of his return to Russia swirled and his draft status fell. The Kings took a chance on the young center in the fifth round and seemingly have been rewarded.

Loktionov has played 130 AHL games over the course of three seasons with the Monarchs and come up with 97 points. He has proven that size is not an issue, at least at the AHL, as his vision and puck handling have made him a very successful player. His NHL success has been varied, as he experimented at playing a less comfortable wing position in attempts to crack the line-up. At 59 games NHL experience, Loktionov has 14 points and is a minus-two. At this point the Kings face a tough decision as his fifth round pick value should be considered a steal, but he may not have a place within the franchise's bigger picture.

Justin Azevedo, C, Kitchener Rangers (OHL) – 6th round, 153rd overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games: 0

Justin Azevedo was another prototypical low-risk, high-reward draft choice in the late rounds for the Los Angeles Kings in 2008. The undersized forward was another player taken in his third year of draft eligibility.

The St. Thomas, Ontario native had a phenomenal 2007-08 season with the Kitchener Rangers, putting up 124 points in 67 games. The Kings were likely hoping for a fraction of that when they took him in the sixth round of the draft.

As Azevedo progressed into the AHL with the Manchester Monarchs he showed that he still had the offensive skill, as he averaged between a point per game and a point every other game. However, despite his tenacity, compete level, and four years of dedication to the Monarchs, at 5'7 and 165-pounds Azevedo's size proved to be a hindrance to his game. Seeing that he would likely never make the NHL, the Kings did not tender an offer to Azevedo in the 2012 off-season and he left for Europe. He is now a point per game player for Lukko of the SM-liiga in Finland. Such is the life of a late round draft pick at times.

Garrett Roe, LW, St. Cloud State (WCHA) – 7th round, 183rd overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games: 0

Garret Roe, like Azevedo before him, was an undersized but skilled forward with many questions about the translation of his game to the professional ranks. Roe, a product of the Indiana Ice of the USHL was the last pick the Kings had in the 2008 draft. Following the draft he committed to four years at St. Cloud State, where he had a pretty solid career. He had 178 total points in 156 games with the Huskies.

Despite his solid play with the Huskies for four years, the Kings did not see a future with the young forward considering the franchise possessed similar project forwards Jordan Weal and Brandon Kozun. They chose not to offer him a contract and lost his rights in 2011. He was then signed by the Adirondack Phantoms, the AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Like many small forwards, Roe has had success in the AHL by utilizing his speed and tenacity. He put up 40 points with the Phantoms in 2011-12 along with 44 penalty minutes. However, the question still remains if he can maintain that play in the minors. He is going to have to fight every game for a chance at ever being in the NHL.