Kings 2009 draft preview

By David A. Rainer

Top 10 prospects    
1. Oscar Moller, RW
2. Thomas Hickey, D
3. Jonathan Bernier, G
4. Colten Teubert, D
5. Ted Purcell, RW
6. Vyacheslav Voinov, D
7. Brian Boyle, C
8. Trevor Lewis, C
9. Martin Jones, G
10. Matt Moulson, LW

Team Needs

While the LA Kings found themselves out of the playoffs once again, the scope of their needs narrowed.  Questions were answered as roles became more defined on the NHL roster.  Going into the 2009 Entry Draft, the Kings clearly need one more top-six forward in the form of either a dominate center or a goal-scoring winger.  Outside of this very pressing need, the Kings appear to be content to make a run at the playoffs with the team that has currently been assembled.

With a solid forward core of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Alexander Frolov and Justin Williams, the Kings need to add that one elite forward to the group that creates match-up problems for opposing teams.  While their current forwards are more than capable of scoring in their own right, this team needs someone that can create his own scoring opportunities.  The pursuit of a forward of the caliber of an Ilya Kovalchuk or Eric Staal is not an easy one and requires as much timing and luck as it does cap space and tradable assets.  There is a strong possibility that the Kings’ first-round pick will be packaged with a prospect(s) and/or a soon to be restricted free agent to obtain an elite forward on the right side of 30 that another cap or cash strapped organization is desperate to move. 

The defense has begun to round into shape.  Previously an Achilles heal, the organization focused on revamping their blueline through top draft picks, strategic trades and one very beneficial waiver claim.  Only needing to re-sign restricted free agent Jack Johnson to bring the top five of their defenders back, the Kings are more than settled on the blueline and could possibly use someone from their group in a package trade to acquire the elusive elite forward.  With Thomas Hickey, Vyacheslav Voinov and Colten Teubert waiting in the wings, do not be surprised to see this crowd thinned out in a trade, especially considering an overabundance of depth defensemen currently under contract.

If there was a single question answered last season, it is that the Kings will be content going into next season with Jonathan Quick, Erik Ersberg and Jonathan Bernier vying for the two goaltending roster spots.  Quick more than held his own as a rookie while Ersberg was steady in a back-up role.  If Bernier is ready to play at the NHL level, he could join Quick in Los Angeles with Ersberg assigned to Manchester.  Either way, the Kings will not be looking for a goaltender at draft time, a refreshing breath of air for an organization previously lost between the pipes.

Organizational Strengths

With recent draft focus on defense, the Kings’ farm system is beginning to bear fruit on the blueline.  A number of high-level prospects are expected to spend the season between Manchester and Los Angeles, including former fourth overall selection Thomas Hickey.  The waiver pick-up of Kyle Quincey provided the organization with the flexibility to bring some of their prospect defenders along slowly.

Similarly, the rapid development of Quick in net gave the Kings the luxury of not having to rush Bernier to Los Angeles before he was ready.  With Quick in Los Angeles, Bernier in Manchester, and Jeff Zatkoff waiting in the wings to pick up playing time wherever he can get it, the Kings are strong in net.  While not a pressing need, this position could stand to be replenished soon in the draft.

Organizational Needs

While solid, none of their forward prospects are projected to be an elite scorer at the next level.  Oscar Moller will be a great top six forward with immense leadership qualities, but largely incapable of taking a game into his own hands offensively.  Ted Purcell has begun to level off as a prospect and Brian Boyle and Trevor Lewis are complimentary third line forwards.  It is unlikely that the Kings will find such an elite forward at No. 5 overall and are more likely to obtain him in a trade from one of their strengths.

The Kings have a number of physical defensemen, but their two top youngsters that fit this description come with question marks.  Restricted free agent Jack Johnson is in the middle of on-going negotiations to re-sign and General Manager Dean Lombardi has shown a tendency to interpet protracted contract negotiations as a sign of unwillingness on the part of the player to be in Los Angeles for the long-term.  Colten Teubert had a rocky season after being selected in the first round in 2008 and must show marked improvement and better discretion.  Outside of these two, the Kings do not have a young punishing defenseman and could use their first-round selection to add another option to the group.

Draft Tendencies

Lombardi entered the last draft with 15 total picks, but after packaging a number of them to move around in the draft and into future drafts, only nine selections were actually used.  Likewise, Lombardi enters this draft with 14 total picks and is not likely to use them all.  With 10 of the 14 picks in the fourth round or later, expect Lombardi to package picks to move up where desired or into the 2010 draft.  In terms of actual selections, Lombardi tends to stick to major junior hockey players and rarely strays into the European leagues or the NCAA.  Lombardi has a tendency to select gritty, team-oriented players, which has resulted in a roster of solid but unspectacular forwards.

Do not be surprised to see him make a splash at the draft for someone currently on an NHL roster that can take the team to the next level in their pursuit of the playoffs.  Either way, Lombardi will explore every option to its fullest and keep everyone guessing as to what he will do when the time comes to make their selection.  He uses his scouting background to his advantage to find players that fit his mold for how an NHL roster should look.  While finding an all-star in the draft is always a positive, there is something to be said about finding the right player to fill a long-term need and not necessarily the highest scorer.  No matter what, expect to see Los Angeles involved in a number of trades.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result: No. 5 Jared Cowen, D

If the Kings do keep this pick, but make a trade with other assets, the trade is likely to involve one or more defensemen, making this selection a must to replenish the lost parts on their blueline.  If the Kings do trade this pick, either Brayden Schenn or Cowen could go in this spot.  The Kings could take a forward with this selection, but as none at No. 5 overall are expected to contribute on an NHL roster this year, it is more likely that the Kings will find a forward through trade and use this pick on a defenseman.