Kings 2002 draft evaluation

By David A. Rainer

The Los Angeles Kings 2002 draft was a failure at best.  Not a single draftee out of their 11 selections is currently with the Kings or has played more than 33 NHL games in his career.  Only Denis Grebeshkov has any real chance of becoming an impact player and he is with his third organization in just over a year.  A slew of late-round selections produced nearly nothing while several other selections never signed with the organization.  No matter how the draft class is sliced, probed or perceived, it will go down as a sterling example of how even professional scouts sometimes bust in the elaborate gamble that is the NHL Entry Draft.

The 11 selections have played a total of 46 NHL games (only 24 actually with the Los Angeles Kings), for an abysmal average of 4 games per selection.

Denis Grebeshkov, D – 1st round, 18th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL games played: 33

Following his remarkable play at the World Junior Championships, the Kings selected Grebeshkov 18th overall.  Ranked in about that spot by scouting publications at the time, the Kings selected the mobile defenseman with a plan to allow him to develop against men in the Russian Super League before bringing him over to North America.  The first phase of the plan was immensely successful as Grebeshkov was praised both by NHL scouts and Russian coaches as being one of the best and most poised defensemen in Russia, irrespective of age.

Before the beginning of the 2003-04 season, the Kings felt that Grebehskov had learned enough in Russia and signed him to a three-year entry-level contract with eye towards making the NHL roster sooner rather than later.  He would attend NHL training camp for two seasons but ultimately would spend the bulk of his time in Manchester.  Two short mid-season stints with the Kings did nothing to help keep him on the roster.

After it became clear that Grebeshkov was suffering from inconsistency and defensive lapses, he was traded in a deadline deal package to the New York Islanders that would yield Mark Parrish and Brent Sopel for the Kings.  The Islanders have since traded Grebeshkov to the Edmonton Oilers where he will be given another opportunity to prove himself.  Grebeshkov is still a legitimate NHL prospect, but his time is running out.

Sergei Anshakov, LW
– 2nd round, 50th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Showing a trend, the Kings selected Anshakov in the second round after his impressive play at the WJCs for Team Russia.  Like Grebeshkov, it was expected that Anshakov would spend several years in the RSL before making a move to the NHL.  His large frame and scoring instincts made him an intriguing prospect for the physical NHL.  But following his draft year, Anshakov never really progressed as hoped by the organization and began to stagnate in Russia, playing sporadically on the fourth line.

With consistency and dedication to his game becoming an issue, the Kings traded the rights to Anshakov to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Martin Straka.  Anshakov remains an NHL prospect for the Penguins, but he is a fringe prospect at this point in his career.  Never signed, and having never progressed enough to warrant consideration, Anshakov is likely to spend the remainder of his career in his home country of Russia.

Petr Kanko, RW – 3rd round, 66th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 10

At the time he was drafted, Petr Kanko was a bit of a wild card.  Scouts could see offensive abilities, physicality, and great energy in his game, making him perfectly suited for the NHL.  For Kitchener of the OHL, Kanko would show off his skills in scoring 135 points in his last 115 games while pilling up a hard-earned 220 penalty minutes largely as a result of hounding the opposition along the boards.

But it was becoming clear that while Kanko has offensive abilities, his skills might not be enough to sustain him at higher levels and his game began to take a turn towards being an agitator.  By the time he reached the AHL, Kanko would need to sacrifice his offensive game for playing an even higher-energy, defensive style that was more likely to land him in the NHL than as a scorer.  Personal issues off the ice would prove to be a great distraction to Kanko’s progress.  With only a 10-game call-up to Los Angeles, Kanko could never straighten things out and appeared to slowly lose the confidence of the organization.  But there are still some that are waiting for the light to turn on with Kanko and save his NHL career.

Aaron Rome, D – 4th round, 104th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 1

By the time Rome finished his major junior hockey career, he would be considered one of the best and most solid defensive prospects graduating from the WHL at that time.  It appeared that the Kings had made a steal in the fourth round of the draft.  The Kings had tremendous hopes for Rome’s future with the organization, but the two parties would remain worlds apart at the negotiation table and could never come to an agreement on an entry-level contract.  Eventually, the deadline to come to terms would expire and Rome was set adrift as a free agent.

After being left unsigned, Rome was snatched up by the Anaheim Ducks.  He would spend the next couple of years toiling away with the Ducks AHL affiliate as a reliable if unspectacular defenseman.  Always on the cusp of making the NHL squad, Rome has appeared in only a single NHL game to date and no longer appears to be the gem in hiding that some advisors considered him to be.  At the reported salary figures that Rome was asking from the Kings, it might be said that leaving Rome unsigned was the only gamble that paid off for the Kings in this draft class.

Mark Rooneem, LW – 4th round, 115th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Rooneem broke onto the hockey scene with 41 points in 69 games with Kamloops of the WHL during the 2001-02 season before being selected by the Kings in the fourth round.  His game would never progress much beyond this initial spurt and he would be left unsigned by the Kings at the conclusion of his major junior hockey career.  He would eventually sign with the Minnesota Wild, where he has spent several years bouncing between their AHL and ECHL affiliates.  With good speed, but not much more than a grinder, Rooneem remains a fringe NHL prospect with little hope of having any significant impact on the NHL.

Greg Hogeboom, RW – 5th round, 152nd overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The hockey career of Hogeboom since being drafted by the Kings has been a “tale of two worlds.”  Highly productive and having never missed a game in his four years with Miami University, he signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Kings and was assigned to Manchester.  He began on the third line with the thought by the coaching staff that, because of his work ethic, it was only a matter of time before he secured himself a spot in the top-six forward rotation.  Then the injuries began to hit.  After being an iron-man for the RedHawks, Hogeboom could not stay away from the trainer’s table for Manchester and Reading (ECHL).  Missing significant portions of his first two seasons, he finally remained healthy for the entire 2006-07 season and was named to the ECHL All-Star team as a result.  But the damage had already been done and Hogeboom fell completely off the depth charts for the organization.  With his contract up, it is probable that Hogeboom has seen the end of his days with the organization.

Joel Andresen, D
– 5th round, 157th overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

After having been selected by the Kings, Andresen attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha but never really found his niche.  Four games into his sophomore season he left for major junior hockey where he played another 49 games for Lethbridge of the WHL.  Once his major junior hockey eligibility ran out, the Kings never showed any interest in bringing him under contract and he was left unsigned.  After jumping between Canadian collegiate hockey and the ECHL, Andresen finally landed in Germany.  At this point, it does not appear that Andresen will ever work his way onto an NHL roster and his name will soon fade into Kings draft history.

Ryan Murphy, RW – 6th round, 185th overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Ryan Murphy was drafted as a high-energy, two-way forward.  While he maintained his high-energy style throughout college and into the AHL, he never fully developed his offensive skills and turned into more of a defensive specialist than a two-way forward.  After completing his college career with Boston College, Murphy would sign a minor league contract with Manchester where he would be scratched on occasion and played only when the match-ups called for a defensive specialist.  Since he is having a difficult time skating a regular shift in the NHL, in all probability he will not make an NHL roster any time soon and remain a career minor leaguer.

Mikahil Lyubushin, D – 7th round, 215th overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Lyubushin was drafted as a relatively safe bet.  At the time he was selected, he was already a solid defensive defenseman and could have been brought to North America at any time and immediately plugged into an AHL line-up.  However, he never progressed much beyond his initial analysis and bringing him to Manchester would mean a pay-cut for Lyubushin from what he was making in his home country.  With not much room for growth and cheaper alternatives found across North America, there was not incentive to bring Lyubushin into the fold and he was left unsigned by the Kings in 2006.  Lyubushin currently is an extra defenseman for his RSL team and likely to remain in the RSL for the remainder of his playing career.

Tuukka Pulliainen, C – 8th round, #248 overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Like Lyubushin, the Kings made a safe selection with Pulliainen in the eighth round.  Pulliainen had the good skating skills which were largely sought after by then General Manager Dave Taylor.  With some age and experience, Pulliainen could have been brought in as a depth forward for Los Angeles like Esa Pirnes did in 2003.  While Pulliainen was a top six forward in Finland, he continued to skate in the lower developmental leagues and never proved enough at stiffer competition to peak the Kings interest in signing him.  The Kings draft rights in Pulliainen expired in 2006 and, like Lyubushin, he is unlikely ever to leave his home country for North America.

Connor James, LW – 9th round, #279 overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 2

With two games played in 2005-06, James is the only second-day selection for Los Angeles to have ever played a single game with the Kings out of their 2002 draft class.  After four full years of college hockey where he led the University of Denver to a National Championship in 2004, James signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Kings and was assigned to Reading of the ECHL.  James would work his way up the ladder, finding himself in Los Angeles for two games after a stop in Manchester.  But his stay in Los Angeles was short and James soon found himself back in Manchester without scoring his first NHL point.  At the conclusion of his entry-level contract, James signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins where he was assigned to their AHL affiliate and still has not seen the NHL since his two games with Los Angeles.

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future.  Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.