Kings 2006 draft preview

By David A. Rainer

Kings Top 10 Prospects

1. Anze Kopitar, C
2. Lauri Tukonen, RW
3. Brian Boyle, C
4. Richard Petiot, D
5. Konstantin Pushkarev, RW
6. Petr Kanko, RW
7. Scott Parse, LW
8. Noah Clarke, LW
9. Greg Hogeboom, RW
10. Jonathan Quick, G

Team Needs

Another disappointing finish to a season with hopeful beginnings resulted in an offseason organizational shake-up for the Los Angeles Kings, which included the replacement of everyone from the General Manager to the trainer. How the shake-up will affect the NHL roster, the status of prospects in the pipeline and the 2006 Entry Draft for the Kings is not known. Several roster spots will need to be filled either by free agency or from within the organization and new GM Dean Lombardi may go in any direction.

Barring a trade, Mathieu Garon and Jason LaBarbera appear to be returning as the starting and backup goaltender, respectively. The acquisition of a veteran backup goaltender in place of LaBarbera would be a welcome addition to push Garon for playing time. With so many goaltending prospects pushing up through the AHL and ECHL ranks, Adam Hauser might be pushed out and into the training camp of another organization. Barry Brust will start the year in Manchester and is the primary option for an injury call-up.

The team, once again, is in desperate need of offense. Luc Robitaille retired at the end of the 2005-06 season. Jeremy Roenick will most certainly leave via free agency and re-signing free agent Mark Parrish would be beneficial but improbable to happen. Pavol Demitra, Craig Conroy, Alexander Frolov and Mike Cammalleri fill out four of the top six forward positions. A mix of Eric Belanger, Dustin Brown and Sean Avery, if Avery is not traded as implied, might contribute to the offensive lines. The Kings could stand to add one or two free agent forwards to the top two scoring lines, if Parrish is not re-signed. Top prospect Anze Kopitar will have an opportunity to make the NHL roster in training camp. Lauri Tukonen and Petr Kanko are dark horse candidates to fill a roster spot out of camp. Noah Clarke and Konstantin Pushkarev will be available in Manchester in the case of injuries.

Defense is a position in definite need of attention. Mattias Norstrom and Aaron Miller are still under contract but are getting up in age and the wear is beginning to show late in the season. Lubomir Visnovsky had a Norris Trophy caliber 2005-06 and will look to reproduce that season. Tim Gleason continues to impress with his development and is now a legitimate second pairing defenseman. Brent Sopel will be back and healthy. The Kings will need to add a top free agent defenseman to fill out the roster and help take some of the weight off aging vets Norstrom and Miller. Mike Weaver and top ten prospect Richard Petiot are available in the event of injuries.

Organizational Strengths

The graduation of the Kings top three prospects to the NHL club and the trade of three more top ten prospects has thinned out the organization depth charts immensely. With the likes of Tukonen, Kanko, Greg Hogeboom and Pushkarev waiting in the wings in Manchester, the Kings are well established on right wing. With both top end talent and depth, the Kings can afford to focus on other areas of pressing need in the draft.

Top prospects Kopitar and Brian Boyle admirably fill out the centerman prospects. However, after the top two, the talent level severely drops off. Matt Ryan and Connor James are available in limited roles in the case of emergency. The trade of Yanick Lehoux makes former collegiate standout turned Swiss league professional Brady Murray next in line. While the Kings could stand to add depth to the center position, it does remain one of relative strength. The Kings might look to add depth in this position.

Organizational Needs

With the loss of Jeff Tambellini in trade, a weak left wing position became even more frail. Clarke and Scott Parse represent the best the Kings have to offer on the left side. Dany Roussin, James and Ned Lukacevic still require development before contributing to the NHL roster. Left wing is traditionally a difficult position to fill for any organization, so the Kings should not panic over the lack of talent here. If the Kings can add a left wing or two through the draft, it will help them add competition to this position down the line.

Former top prospects Denis Grebeshkov (trade) and Tim Gleason (graduation) are no longer in the pipeline. The Kings have only a single legitimate top defensive prospect playing in the AHL. Petiot has a full season of professional hockey under his belt and is ready to emerge onto the NHL roster at some point this coming season. After Petiot, only Brad Fast and Joey Mormina are in the Manchester waiting for an opportunity. That does not bode well for the Kings. Other top defensive prospects, Ryan McGinnis, TJ Fast and Paul Baier, are several years away from even getting to Manchester. Swedish prospect Patrik Hersley is might soon find himself contributing in North America. Recent free agent signee Peter Harrold dropped from Boston College to Manchester this offseason but likely requires some time before being a legitimate option for the Kings. Defense is a position of immediate need through the draft, especially in the top end or elite prospect department.

Goaltending is not so much an area of weakness anymore for the Kings as it is an area waiting for pay-out on their investment. The Kings have several intriguing goaltending prospects in the system, but to date, none have contributed at the NHL level. Brust is now the No. 1 goaltender in Manchester and might find playing time in Los Angeles soon. Yutaka Fukufuji and Ryan Munce have at least a year of ECHL experience and are pushing for playing time in the AHL. Daniel Taylor recently signed out of the OHL while Matt Zaba returns to Colorado College for his senior season. Arguably the best of all their goaltending prospects, Jonathan Quick, will return to the University of Massachusetts for his sophomore season. All are developing slowly and steadily and might one day solve the Kings problems in net, but none have yet to actually contribute, making goaltender still a relative weakness for the Kings. As unlikely of an event it is, the addition of an elite goaltender prospect to the organization, either through the draft or trade, would do wonders for the organizational depth charts.

Draft Tendencies

The Kings have a new general manager in Dean Lombardi, but the director of Amateur Scouting, Al Murray, remains. As such, it is anyone’s guess on how the Kings draft will look in 2006. Prior to joining the Kings, Lombardi was employed as a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers organization, meaning that Lombardi at least has a decent eye for spotting talent.

Lombardi is the former GM of the San Jose Sharks and is recognized as the main contributor to their current NHL roster that includes many homegrown players. Lombardi’s drafts tend to lean towards the European side. However, the last draft that Lombardi conducted occurred under the prior collective bargaining agreement where there were incentives to draft European players. The new CBA has largely eradicated these incentives and it still remains to be seen how it will impact the drafting of overseas players league-wide.

The Kings have their full compliment of picks minus a second round pick traded to Philadelphia as consideration for signing Lombardi. They also acquired a third round pick, also from Philadelphia, in the trade that brought them Roenick. The Kings also may obtain a second round compensatory pick for the loss of Swedish prospect Jens Karlsson this offseason.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result: Bobby Sanguinetti, D


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