After 2012 saw a first ever Stanley Cup for the Los Angeles Kings franchise, 2013 brought forth a noble defense of the title but elimination in the Conference Finals by the Chicago Blackhawks. In what is considered the most difficult of tasks, the Kings came just three wins from reaching a second consecutive final and a chance at repeating as champions.
Now as they come forth into their official offseason, the team has plenty of decisions to make. With contracts coming up for several young players like Slava Voynov and Alec Martinez and several aging vets with a high price tag, the Kings might be forced to dip further into their prospect pool with a lowering salary cap. The 2013 offseason could be one of the most important General Manager Dean Lombardi has faced in some time and it all starts with the draft on June 30th in New Jersey.
Top 10 Prospects:
After a 2013 campaign that saw the squad struggle in the offensive numbers, especially in the playoffs, the Kings enter the offseason looking perhaps for an offensively-minded wing. Fortunately they have at least one in the system with Tyler Toffoli just now pushing through along with Tanner Pearson and Linden Vey making big strides toward being NHL ready. However the desire for a consistent top-six scoring winger was evident as the Kings were using players like Dwight King and Kyle Clifford on a regular basis in that role.
A back-up goalie might also be in the cards as Jonathan Bernier is a restricted free agent. Bernier's rights could perhaps be traded to address the top-six needs, or at least to help the Kings add more offensive firepower from their bottom lines. In the playoffs, the Kings only saw three goals out of what you would consider their bottom-line players, which in turn laid quite a heavy load on the feet of their offensive juggernauts to fire through some rather smothering defenses.
The Kings have a relatively strong group of defensive players both in the NHL and in the system. With the NHL squad sporting the likes of Drew Doughty, Voynov, and Muzzin, the system still has Kevin Gravel and Derek Forbort making tremendous headway. Deeper into the ranks you run into players like Nicolas Deslauriers who still has tons of potential, the once highly-rated Nick Ebert, and Alex Roach, who is coming off of a career year in the WHL with Calgary.
While they do not have a high amount of top talent at forward, the organization does have multiple prospects like Brandon Kozun and Michael Mersch who are intriguing players with low-risk and high-reward potential. They also have drafted well to fit their system of cycle and grind hockey. Players like Maxim Kitsyn, Pearson, and Andy Andreoff who may not look as desirable in another system look as if they could step in and have value in the King’s system.
As noted before, the Kings do not have any real top end talent in terms of offense. Most of the prospects in the system might fit the King scheme and style, but they are not going to blow you away with any sort of offensive contribution. Tyler Toffoli and possibly Linden Vey look like the only two King prospects with any real potential of a 50+ point player in the future. While a return from Europe by Maxim Kitsyn would certainly boost the wing ranks, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to fill in some considerable lack of quality at the wings.
Goaltending is also looking a little thin as top 2011 draft choice Christopher Gibson has returned to his native country of Finland for mandatory military service and was not signed to a pro contract. This leaves just Martin Jones and Jean-Francois Berube to fill in as a potential NHL back-up and an AHL starter if the Kings do not obtain a goaltender through free agency.
Over the last three seasons, Dean Lombardi has drafted in a well-rounded fashion selecting players of every position, size, junior league, and country. He does however tend to stay in North America with 13 of their last 20 picks coming from the U.S. or Canada.
Also if history is any indication, without counting Gibson the team has not selected a goaltender since 2009 (Berube).
Lombardi also is not one to make any sort of draft day trades. However, without a first round pick this year in what many consider a very deep draft, he might potentially break habit and try to move up.
Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft Results:
As part of the Jeff Carter trade the Kings do not have a first-round selection in the 2013 NHL Draft. Columbus did not exercise their option to select in the first round with the King’s pick last year and will instead select in the 27th spot this year.