Despite not having a first round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, the Los Angeles Kings still managed to grab some talented kids from various leagues and at multiple positions. General Manager Dean Lombardi, who has put together a solid track record of middle-round picks, had a lot on his plate coming into the draft in trying to extend the youthful success his squad has had up to now.
Overall the team selected seven players; one defenseman, one goalie, and five forwards. With no potential for the addition of a real blue chip prospect, the Kings are again relying on those low-risk high-reward picks to pay off. The selection of highly-skilled forward Valentin Zykov with their first pick was a good start, and overall the Kings managed to load up on some areas of need in their 2013 selections.
With the Kings not having a first round selection in what was considered an incredibly talented draft class, a lot of people felt uneasy at the potential of missing out on some high-end talent. The Kings however, were as surprised as anyone when Valentin Zykov fell into the second round. A 40-goal scorer in his first season in the Q, he was slotted seventh in Central Scouting’s final North American Skaters rankings, and was going in the first round in numerous mock drafts. Seizing the moment the Kings traded up with Edmonton, giving away the 57th, 88th, and 96th pick to select Zykov with the 37th overall pick.
Zykov certainly has a lot to offer, and is a player with a big game and a big personality. A sharp and determined work ethic got Zykov significant recognition in the QMJHL last season as he was the leading rookie point scorer in the league with 75 points, the leading goal scorer with 40, and not only the QMJHL's top rookie but also Rookie of the Year for the entire CHL.
The 18-year-old Russian stands at 6’0 tall and 200-plus pounds, but he plays a game you could categorize as aggressive and greasy. Even as a player still growing and adding strength, Zykov is willing to take punishment around the net in order to use his skills from in close.
Whether Zykov fell in the draft by pure luck or the Russian factor, he has a plethora of tools the Kings will be looking to round into form. He can play both wing positions, has a scoring touch, a solid work ethic, and a big presence. Given the potential and relatively low amount of top-end forward prospects, Zykov is going to already be one of the Kings top prospects moving forward.
By trading up to get Zykov the Kings traded away their third round selection and had to wait quite a while before stepping back up to the podium and selecting 19-year-old winger Justin Auger from the Guelph Storm.
Obviously one thing comes to mind immediately when you see Auger: size. At 6’6, Auger towers over the competition. In his 2012-13 campaign with Guelph he had 33 points in 68 games and was a plus-five rating. Auger, who is obviously a very physically gifted player and has a penchant for strong puck possession, still needs to pack on some weight to accompany his height as 216 pounds is not exactly huge for a player standing 6'6. Also, where Auger can make significant strides both literally and figuratively is his skating, which is considered a bit of a negative. Regardless, you cannot teach size and the Kings’ system has used players of lower skill like Dwight King or Jordan Nolan purely for their big bodied, crash and bang style.
Overall, for a fourth round selection the Kings did well in adding depth at wing and adding a prospect who could flourish under their system and mentality. With proper development of his skating and offensive skills Auger could be a handful for defensemen at any level.
The Kings continued to stock up on wingers and selected Hudson Fasching, a right winger, out of the United States Development Program.
Despite having good size at 6'2, Fasching does not play a true power forward game and has made a name for himself as a skill player instead. However, The 17-year-old Minnesota native took a bit of a tumble in the Central Scouting rankings, falling from his midterm rank of 42nd all the way down to 70th by the end of the season. Nonetheless, Fasching still has tons of potential to be a solid producer. He had 36 points in 65 games with the U.S. U18 team this last season and will start his NCAA career with the University of Minnesota in 2013-14.
The Kings have had good luck with mid-draft college players in the past like Alec Martinez and Kevin Gravel, and with Fasching heading into college at 18 he has plenty of time to grow into his body and game.
Although Hockey's Future wasn't able to catch up with any of the Kings draft picks at the 2013 NHL Draft, we did speak with Fasching at the 2013 NHL Combine. That conversation is presented here in this HF video
Finally moving outside the realm of wingers, the Kings selected a player from another area of need: goaltending. With the 146th pick the Kings took goaltender Patrik Bartosak from the Czech Republic.
At first glance, seeing a goalie go in the fifth round it is easy to write them off as perhaps average, but Bartosak had a 2012-13 that was anything but for the Red Deer Rebels and Head Coach Brent Sutter, younger brother of Kings Head Coach Darryl Sutter. An overage draft pick at 20 years old, Bartosak was named the CHL Goaltender of the Year as well as being selected to the Czech Republic U20 team for the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championships. Bartosak was passed over as a 19-year-old in all seven rounds of the 2012 draft but made certain he would not be passed over this year. He had an impressive .935 save percentage and a 2.26 goals against average in 55 games for Red Deer, and an equally impressive .941 save percentage in nine playoff games.
Bartosak is still considered a risky pick however, as at a young age he has already missed a significant part of a season with a shoulder injury. As history has told, injuries to goaltenders can be something that hangs with them for a long time. However, Bartosak oozes potential as his athleticism, size, and aggression proved to be too good to pass up for the Kings.
Moving forward, Bartosak will likely join either the Monarchs in the AHL or the Reign in the ECHL and begin his pro career. The Kings are in need of another goaltender in the system almost immediately as former second round selection Christopher Gibson was not signed to a pro contract and left North America in order to fulfill military duty in his home country of Finland.
Jonny Brodzinski, C, St. Cloud State University (WCHA)
5th round, 148th overall
Height: 6’0 Weight: 202
Two picks after selecting overage draftee Patrik Bartosak, the Kings went with another overager in Jonathan Brodzinski. A good solid center for St. Cloud State, with good size and an above average goal scoring capability, however he comes with a major knock of motivation.
Despite having 22 goals and 33 points in 42 games, the effort level of Brodzinski has been questioned at times, and might be part of the reason he was passed on twice already in NHL drafts. With a lot of young professionals it is not about the skill or the talent, it is more about the everyday grind and work ethic. Brodzinksi has been touted as a very talented player by numerous scouts, and he has now played on a big stage with St. Cloud State competing in the NCAA Tournament. Whether that talent can be backed up by a solid everyday work ethic remains to be seen. However, as a low-risk, high-reward selection the Kings could be sitting on a very good centerman if Brodzinski can put it all together on and off the ice.
Zachary Leslie, D, Guelph Storm (OHL)
6th round, 178th overall
Height: 6’0 Weight: 172
Going back out to Guelph, the Kings took their first and only defenseman and teammate of earlier selection Justin Auger, Zachary Leslie.
Leslie, in a reoccurring theme with King selections, was passed over in last year in the 2012 draft. However after a 40-point, plus-16 rating season with the Storm in 2012-13, he saw his ranking jump into the top 150 for North American skaters with Central Scouting.
Probably one of the biggest factors in the success of Leslie is his work ethic and his overall progression as a player. Getting a somewhat late start in his CHL career, the Ottawa native was playing Junior A with Gloucester at 17 years old when many others were playing the CHL. He struggled in his first season with Guelph, registering just 17 points and a minus-three rating in 65 games. However in a complete turnaround, and an overall improvement in skating, positional play, and on-ice decision making, Leslie had a solid 2012-13. His progression from here will likely make or break him, and no doubt the Kings were attracted to his solid turnaround and progression arc thus far. If he can continue to progress, get stronger and put on some weight, he could be a nice late bloomer.
Dominik Kubalik, LW, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
7th round, 191st overall
Height: 6’1 Weight: 176
With the last selection in the 2013 draft for the Kings the organization selected gritty energy forward Dominik Kubalik from the Czech Republic. Kubalik, who comes from a family that has already had one draftee in his brother Tomas back in 2008, plays a very intense style that fits in well with the King system.
He had 34 points in 67 games for the Wolves this season before stepping up with three goals, three assists in nine playoff games. The winger often used his great skating ability to get in quick on the forecheck and take the body whenever possible. While maybe not the most offensively gifted player, Kubalik showed decent potential in his own zone and a very good mentality as a role playing energy forward. He was an all-situations player for Sudbury this year, and at age 17 with two more years of eligibility with the Wolves he has plenty of time to round out his entire game.
It is hard not to feel like energy forwards are a dime a dozen, and Kubalik is going to need to get bigger and stronger and really embrace that role if he wants to have a chance to separate himself from the pack in the future.
Follow Jason Lewis on Twitter: @SirJDL