The Los Angeles Kings made the first big splash on Friday evening of the 2007 Entry Draft with the selection of Thomas Hickey fourth overall. Several trade scenarios had Los Angeles trading down in the draft to select Hickey, but when no trade could be finalized, Dean Lombardi was forced to call Hickey’s name at the podium. Showing gambler-like skills in not tipping his hand early, Lombardi stunned the room with the announcement and sent the draft boards of the next few organizations into a frenzy trying to re-adjust their boards as players like Karl Alzner, Sam Gagner and Jakub Voracek began to fall into their laps.
So sure was the hockey world that Alzner would be the first defenseman selected in the draft that even Hickey himself could not believe his ears. “I wasn’t looking. I was sort of dozing off thinking about later picks,” said Hickey. “Then I hear my name and I thought it was a mistake and I heard it wrong.” Even after confirming that the selection was correct, Hickey still was in disbelief. “I was just as surprised as anyone else.”
After a horrific season that saw the Kings either in or near the cellar for almost the entire season and their cross-town rival hoist the Stanley Cup, the one bright spot Los Angeles was able to look forward to was a high draft choice for the first time in nearly 10 years. Lombardi has always shown that he is willing to take chances in the draft, even if that means making the unpopular move after an even more unpopular season that saw him take considerable heat for the acquisition of Dan Cloutier. Whether Hickey selected fourth overall was a good choice or bad, only time will tell and Lombardi will stake his reputation on it. He got his man.
WHL – Seattle
1st round, 4th overall
After the dust settled from the storm Lombardi unleashed by selecting Hickey fourth overall, a better understanding of the pick was made clear. The buzz words around hockey rinks these days have been “the new NHL”. With an emphasis on speed and skill, and little in the Kings prospect pool outside of Jack Johnson who can offer both, Lombardi felt that a skating-mate for Johnson had to be found that had the offensive potential to be his compliment in the future. While Alzner offers the well-rounded package, Hickey offers the offensive potential to be not just an average NHL defenseman but an offensive dynamo.
In fact, Lombardi had reportedly been subtly scouting Hickey all year and possibly had him targeted as his guy very early in the season. Hickey is one of the better mobile defensemen in the WHL with his top-notch skating ability. He can also quarterback a power play with regularity and make the outlet pass to rush the team out of the defensive zone, very similar to a Wade Redden.
Playing alongside fellow Kings prospect Bud Holloway, Hickey was the Seattle Thunderbirds Rookie of the Year for the 2005-06 season. Hickey credits the Seattle organization with where he is today. “I can’t even put it into words. The chances and opportunities that Rob [Sumner] has given to me personally. I know a lot of guys in my situation wouldn’t get those. He stuck with that and gave me all the chances. He rode me hard and made sure I had all the exposure.”
Oscar Moller, C
WHL – Chilliwack
2nd round, 52nd overall
As captain of the U18 World Junior Championship for Team Sweden, Moller has shown the competitive nature, grit and leadership expected from someone relied upon by an entire team. He is a solid two-way player and can be characterized as a “heart and soul” type with a tremendous shot. Moller scored 69 points in 68 games last year for Chilliwack of the WHL, his first season in the WHL after moving over from Sweden. He would prove to be up to the challenge of the physical difference between the lower leagues of Sweden, finishing the season fifth in rookie scoring and being named to the CHL Top Prospects game where he scored two points.
Wayne Simmonds, RW
OHL – Owen Sound
2nd round, 61st overall
Just as the shock over the Hickey selection at No. 4 overall was beginning to die down, Lombardi pulls the trigger on another stunner, selecting physical winger Wayne Simmonds. Not appearing on the common radar before the draft, his name quickly became known as the second round came to close with his name being called. Out of Owen Sound of the OHL, Simmonds battled his way to 49 points and 112 penalty minutes in 66 games in yet another indication that Lombardi is willing to trust his eye for talent as a former league scout. Simmonds is a raw player who can be brought into the development camps and molded into an ideal aggressive right winger.
Bryan Cameron, RW
OHL – Belleville
3rd round, 82nd overall
Showing a bit of a pattern in the style of player Lombardi is searching for, this gritty two-way forward was made the Kings third-round selection. Like Moller, Cameron was invited to play in the CHL Top Prospects Game en route to 33 goals in 58 games for Belleville of the OHL. Cameron also was a member of Team Canada for the 2006 U-18 WJC. Cameron is an asset around the net and plays a bigger game than his slight build would indicate.
Alec Martinez, D
NCAA – Miami
4th round, 95th overall
Martinez led the Miami RedHawks in scoring as a defenseman last season with 24 points. He was drafted in the fourth round by the Kings and will be entering his junior season with Miami. He began to appear on the draft radar after having been passed over last year when he admirably stepped up in his sophomore season to fill the void left behind by the graduation of Andy Greene. Martinez will be returning to the RedHawks program next season where he will skate in front of fellow Kings prospect Jeff Zatkoff.
Dwight King, LW
WHL – Lethbridge
4th round, no. 109 overall
It stands to reason that the Kings would select a player with a similarly regal name. Dwight King is a well built left wing out of Lethbridge of the WHL who finished seventh on the team in scoring with 44 points, up from 16 during the 2005-06 season. Selected with the choice acquired in the trade of Craig Conroy to Calgary, King is yet another player taken by Los Angeles for either his physical size or gritty play.
Linden Rowat, G
WHL – Regina
5th round, no. 124 overall
Going back to the WHL, the Kings selected their only goaltender of the 2007 draft in Rowat. The WHL has historically been a deep league in goaltending talent and the Kings hope to develop this goaltender out of Regina. Rowat back-stopped the Pats with a 25-18-7 record and a 2.87 goals-against average. His butterfly style led to his also being named to the CHL Top Prospects Game in 2007. He also has excellent puck-handling skills and stays square to the shooter. With a number of goaltender projects already in the system, the Kings can wait on his development.
USHL – Waterloo
5th round, 137th overall
With their second choice in the fifth round, the Kings selected Turnbull out of Waterloo of the USHL. Turnbull was second on his team in goals (25), assists (29) and points (54) in 60 games. He has signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the University of Wisconsin next season.
Josh Kidd, D
OHL – Erie
7th round, 184th overall
Josh is no small kid. Standing at 6’5 and 220 lbs, Kidd is the prototypical stay-at-home defenseman and penalty killer from the blueline who gives his all every shift. Looking past the defensive label, Kidd also possesses some offensive skills with a booming shot that resulted in nine goals with Erie of the OHL last season. Ranked No. 49 in the CSS Mid-Term Rankings, the Kings hope to have a steal in the big defenseman out of the seventh round.
Matt Fillier, LW
QMJHL – St. John’s
7th round, 188th overall
And with the last of 10 choices, the Kings took their eighth player out of the CHL in Matt Fillier. Selected with the pick acquired from Columbus in a draft day trade last season, Fillier is another “heart and soul” type of player with limited upside, but a solid and dependable defensive forward. Fillier grinded his way to 36 points in 63 games for St. John’s of the QMJHL and a stout 118 penalty minutes.
Jeff Dahlia, Johan Neilson, DJ Powers contributed to this article. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.