Kings 2001 draft evaluation

By David A. Rainer

It is easy to write off the Los Angeles Kings 2001 Entry Draft as a failure, and, for the most part, that would be acutely accurate. Despite the relative weakness of the draft, one would hope that an impact player could be found with at least one of the two first round choices the Kings made, especially considering that nearly 55 percent of all first round choices will play at least 500 NHL games in their career.

However, while neither of the Kings two first round choices would play a single NHL game in a Kings jersey, Los Angeles did manage to find a couple of diamonds later in the draft that were either used as trade bait or who are already contributing to the professional roster. In this weak draft, the Kings focused on long-term projects that could be left to develop in their respective leagues without the obligation of having to sign them. As a result, 10 of 11 selections were picks from the college or European ranks.

The 11 picks have played a total of 346 NHL games, for an average of 31 games per pick.

Jens Karlsson, LW – 1st round, 18th overall, (Frolunda, SEL)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL games played: 0

In a draft with limited elite talent in the first round, often organizations will look for long-term projects that will yield high reward in exchange for patience in allowing the project to develop. Karlsson slipped down the draft board for many teams as a less than stellar pre-draft season with Frolunda of the SEL raised concerns about his development. This type of slide was ideal for the Kings in search of a long-term power forward project.

Perhaps the Kings should have heeded the warning flares provided by those teams that passed on the big left winger as Karlsson never came close to paying dividends on the development investment. Karlsson has never played a professional game outside of Sweden, nor has he earned the right to. His play at the Kings offseason development camps had been pedestrian at best while he never garnered more than sporadic ice time on the fourth line in any season in the SEL. Taken in conjunction with concerns over his willingness to sign an entry-level contract and the Kings and Jens Karlsson cut ties as soon as it became mutually beneficial on June 1, 2006. It is not likely that Karlsson will ever see the inside of an NHL rink without first purchasing a ticket.

David Steckel, C – 1st round, 30th overall, (Ohio St., NCAA)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL games played: 7

Technically, David Steckel is considered an NHL prospect as he still has another year of prospect eligibility left, but can better be described as a fringe prospect. The Kings selected Steckel with their second of two first round draft choices, this pick gained in the trade with Colorado for Rob Blake, and saw him as another long-term power forward project. With a full four years of college hockey available to him before the Kings would need to make a decision to sign him, Steckel’s only development past his freshman year was as a third line checking center. As with Karlsson, the Kings power forward project never developed as hoped. Following four years of grinding in the NCAA, Steckel signed a one-year contract with Los Angeles. He played a single season with the Kings AHL affiliate before being released and eventually signing with the Washington Capitals. With Washington, he has appeared in seven NHL games with little to show for it. If Steckel develops into a legitimate NHL player, it will not be with the team that originally drafted him.

Mike Cammalleri, C – 2nd round, 49th overall, (Michigan, NCAA)
Status: NHL Player
NHL games played: 139

Saving the Kings 2001 draft is the selection of Mike Cammalleri. Drafted out of the University of Michigan, the comparisons to fellow Wolverine Mike Comrie abounded. Cammalleri left college hockey early to sign with Los Angeles in 2002 and immediately made a splash in both Manchester and Los Angeles. He would spend the next two seasons splitting time between Los Angeles and Manchester before finding a permanent roster spot with the Kings in 2005-06. Even at a young age, Cammalleri has solidified his hold as a top second line forward in the NHL and already has a 100-point season in the AHL and a 25+ goal and 50+ point season in the NHL under his belt. Without the presence of Cammalleri in this draft class, the Kings would have little else to look to from 2001.

Jaroslav Bednar, RW/LW – 2nd round, 51st overall, (Praha, Czech Republic)
Status: NHL Player
NHL games played: 102

The Kings had good fortune in drafting over-aged European players prior to 2001 with the additions of Frantisek Kaberle (1999) and Lubomir Visnovsky (2000). They would continue this trend when selecting this 24-year-old forward with their second of two second round choices. Bednar immediately signed with the Kings after being drafted and began the 2001-02 season on the Kings roster. Bednar would split time between Manchester and Los Angeles before being traded to the Florida Panthers in a package for Dmitri Yushkevich in 2002. After only 102 games in the NHL, Bednar would return to Europe in 2004 where he would remain through last season. However, he remains a viable option for any NHL organization looking for depth at forward that is willing to take a chance on this small and quick winger.

Henrik Juntunen, LW – 3rd round, 83rd overall, (Karpat, SM Liiga)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL games played: 0

One draft tendency identified with General Manager Dave Taylor was to select players who excelled in the World Juniors Championship immediately prior to their draft year that had previously been relatively unknown. Juntunen is another such example. Taken in the third round after impressing at the 2000-01 WJC U-18 for Team Finland, Juntunen was another draftee expected to compete for the role as a physical or power forward for the Kings. Juntunen never progressed in his post-draft years with Karpat of the SM-Liiga despite emerging into the league at such a young age. Juntunen’s playing time would gradually decline, as he never showed the scoring touch that many NHL scouts identified in him while skating in the WJC. Juntunen would attend the Kings offseason prospect development camps but never impress enough to warrant bringing him to North America. Eventually, the Kings’ rights in Juntunen would expire on June 1, 2006 with Juntunen never having played a single game in the NHL.

Richard Petiot, D – 4th round, 116th overall, (Colorado College, NCAA)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL games played: 2

With Cammalleri, Richard Petiot represents the only other player chosen in the 2001 draft that might still make contributions to the Kings roster. Due to his stay-at-home defensive style, Petiot went largely under-valued in the draft and slipped to the Kings in the fourth round. After a full four years of college hockey, the Kings signed Petiot in 2005 after steadily climbing the organizational prospect ranks. Petiot played last season in Manchester and was widely recognized as the best defenseman on the roster for the Monarchs. As a result, Petiot earned himself several call-ups to the Kings and has already gotten his feet wet in the NHL in his first season of professional hockey. Petiot is still a top prospect for the Kings and projects as a solid second pairing defenseman for many years to come.

Terry Denike, G – 5th round, 152nd overall, (Lake Superior St., NCAA)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL games played: 0

Drafted out of the SJHL, Denike was yet another college player that the Kings could be patient with as they developed for four years in the NCAA. However, after two seasons and faced with dwindling playing time, Denike decided to leave college hockey early to pursue the professional game. Denike was invited to the Kings 2003 prospect development camp and professional training camp in hopes of earning himself a spot within the organization. Denike was non-tendered by the Kings and eventually signed with the Reading Royals of the ECHL. After a short stint in the ECHL, Denike was released where he has bounced around the Central Hockey League and the Southern Professional Hockey League ever since. Denike never appeared in an NHL game and now seems to be extremely far from ever suiting up.

Tuukka Mantyla, D – 5th round, 153rd overall, (Tappara, SM-Liiga)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL games played: 0

Many considered Mantyla a “sleeper” pick or diamond in the rough when selected by the Kings in the fifth round. Many organizations avoided Mantyla due to his diminutive size (5’9). The Kings saw a gritty style in the undersized defenseman and took a chance. Mantyla would appear in several prospect development camps but never garnered enough attention from the organization to sign him away from Europe. Mantyla recently became a free agent as his draft rights have expired. With the new emphasis on speed and skill in the NHL, Mantyla may still find his way onto an NHL roster. However, it is more likely that he will play out the remainder of his career in his home country of Finland. The Kings took a low-risk chance on Mantyla in the fifth round. Unfortunately, the chance did not pan out.

Cristobal Huet, G – 7th round, 214th overall, (Lugano, Swiss League)
Status: NHL Player
NHL games played: 96

In a league where scoring is up and the league average for save percentage is down to .903, a goaltender who posts a 2.20 goals against average and a save percentage of .929 in 36 NHL games sounds like an absolute steal for the Kings from the seventh round of the draft. Too bad for the Kings, that player is doing it in a Montreal Canadiens jersey. Cristobal Huet spent parts of two seasons as a solid if unspectacular backup for Los Angeles. However, just prior to his breakout season in 2005-06, Huet was traded in a package to Montreal that would bring the Kings Mathieu Garon. After spending part of the season as the backup to Jose Theodore, Huet would eventually replace Theodore as the starting goaltender and excel to such a degree that Montreal eventually felt safe in trading Theodore. The 2001 draft class for the Kings could have been saved had Huet produced his breakout season in Los Angeles.

Mike Gabinet, D – 8th round, 237th overall, (Nebraska-Omaha, NCAA)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL games played: 0

After an impressive freshman season with the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Gabinet was selected near the end of the draft in hopes that he would round out his game before the Kings would be obligated to sign him. Gabinet experienced an injury-plagued and inconsistent remainder of his collegiate career before graduating in 2004 after a bounce-back senior season. He was invited to the prospect development camp and training camp in 2004 but could not find a spot in the organization and was non-tendered by the Kings. He would go on to skate a season in Finland before coming back to North America to play with Idaho of the ECHL and Iowa of the AHL. Gabinet is likely to be a career minor league player but might one day find sporadic playing time in the NHL.

Sebastien Laplante, G – 9th round, 277th overall, (Calgary, WHL)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL games played: 0

Sebastien Laplante was the final selection for the Kings in 2001. He would appear in a prospect development camp for the Kings but was never much in the thoughts of the Kings organization. After a short stint with Calgary of the WHL, he also would be non-tendered by the Kings and end up bouncing around the AHL, ECHL and CHL over the next four seasons. It is not likely that Laplante will ever find himself in net on an NHL roster.


Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.