Kings 2010 draft preview

By Josh Deitell

Top 10 prospects

1. Brayden Schenn, C
2. Jonathan Bernier, G
3. Thomas Hickey, D
4. Vyacheslav Voynov, D
5. Colten Teubert, D
6. Andrei Loktionov, C
7. Davis Drewiske, D
8. Martin Jones, G
9. Scott Parse, LW
10. Jeff Zatkoff, G

The Los Angeles Kings hold the 19th overall pick in the draft.

Team Needs

Goal No. 1 for Dean Lombardi this offseason will be to add an elite sniper to the Kings roster. This is not a new need for the Kings, but one they have been unable to address. With the club now firmly in playoff mode, acquiring an elite talent who is a threat in all situations has to be an immediate priority if the Kings hope to get further than the first round of the playoffs next season, where their inability to score goals at even strength was crippling. How Lombardi goes about addressing the issue is still in question, but he has shown a propensity in the past to swing big deals at the draft.

The Kings may also look at the possibility of adding a supporting offensive defenseman, which would allow the team better puck-moving ability from the back end. Though Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson admirably handled the load this year, they could use some support, as during key power plays down the stretch and in the playoffs, the two sometimes played the point for the entire two minutes. Waiver acquisition Randy Jones was brought in to play a two-way game, but despite his flashes of offensive ability, his defensive lapses make him a liability. If Lombardi feels that one of Vyacheslav Voynov or Thomas Hickey will be ready for a full-time roster spot this season, the Kings may be able to address this issue from within and invest their resources elsewhere.

Organizational Strengths

Since taking over, Lombardi has taken measures to shore up the blue line. The only ‘home grown’ defenseman currently on the roster, Drew Doughty, was selected second overall in 2008, and provides the team with an elite offensive and defensive presence for nearly 25 minutes a night. He was a Norris Trophy finalist this year and he’ll only get better with time. The supporting cast is comprised of warrior Matt Greene, who was acquired in a trade with the Oilers, developing two-way blueliner Jack Johnson, who the Kings picked up in a deal with the Hurricanes, and proven winners Rob Scuderi and Sean O’Donnell, who were both added from free agency. Free-agent additions Peter Harrold and Davis Drewiske are safe utility defensemen who have filled in admirably when called upon. Considering the team also has a variety of intriguing prospects, the Kings defensive unit as a whole looks to be rounding out nicely. 

In goal, Jonathan Quick took the reins last year as full-time starter and continued his solid play through this season. Jonathan Bernier took the AHL by storm in 2009-10, winning the Aldege "Baz" Bastien Memorial Award given to the AHL’s top goaltender. The two competitive netminders will push each other for the starting job next year, a situation that should elicit a high level of play from both of them. Talented prospects Jeff Zatkoff and Martin Jones act as insurance policies for the future, so goaltending is not a need.

Despite the need for an elite scorer, the Kings have an impressive amount of depth up front, with seven different forwards breaking the 15-goal mark this year; Washington and Chicago were the only teams to boast eight or more. Prospects Brayden Schenn, Andrei Loktionov, and Oscar Moller will challenge for roster spots next season, giving the team more offensively-charged options. The team also has a variety of character players in the system, such as two-way forwards Brad Richardson and Trevor Lewis, pest Richard Clune, enforcer Kevin Westgarth, and scrapper/goal scorer Kyle Clifford.

Organizational Weaknesses

The Kings organization does not have a winger who can be called a clear-cut first line player, either by current status or projection. Ryan Smyth was an important offensive player for the Kings at the start of this season, but after missing time with injury, he faded down the stretch, and was further hurt at the World Championships in May. While he is an integral piece to the team, he is not a dependable option. Justin Williams is similar to Smyth, in that he is capable of being a key player, but is not a sure bet to contribute for a full season due to injury concerns. Dustin Brown and Wayne Simmonds are gritty, skilled, and young, but they are both guilty of trying to do too much with the puck at times, leading to questionable decisions. Both players will be valuable contributors in the future, but they’ll both likely top out as second liners. On the youth front, despite the recent success of NHL wingers Brad Richardson and Scott Parse, as well as junior winger Brandon Kozun, none of the three project as definite top-six forwards. An established 40-goal winger who could provide the team with consistent production would provide the team with stability up front and take pressure off the rest of the roster.

There’s also the issue of wing depth beyond the current roster, but with some of the Kings centers able to adapt to a wing role, youngsters such as Moller, Schenn, Loktionov, and Trevor Lewis could collectively correct this problem.

Draft Tendencies

The Kings main tendency is going against the grain, especially with top draft choices. Except for obvious picks in Brayden Schenn and Drew Doughty, the Kings have developed a reputation for making off the board selections. The trend started in 2006 with the selection of Trevor Lewis with the 17th overall pick, who despite having a great 2005-06 season was ranked 61st overall by International Scouting Services and 30th among NA skaters by NHL Central Scouting. They followed up that shocker by selecting Thomas Hickey fourth overall in the 2007 draft, rated 17th by ISS and 26th among skaters by CSS. Their second-round pick in the same year, Wayne Simmonds, was not even ranked by CSS. This tendency has been illustrated most recently in 2009 second round pick Kyle Clifford, a late rister who was ranked 182nd by CSS. Don’t be surprised to see the Kings use their top picks in a manner that leaves pundits scratching their heads.

As far as a preference of league, the club used nine of their 10 picks in the last draft on CHL players, and 22 of their 29 picks over the last three years in all. Couple that with the Kings orchestration of the moves of Robbie Czarnik, David Meckler, and T.J. Fast from college hockey to the CHL in recent years, and it becomes clear that the Kings like the Canadian junior hockey system. The Kings have gone against this tendency a few times in recent drafts, notably in 2008 when they picked Vyacheslav Voynov and Andrei Loktionov from Russian juniors, but that was likely because both players were enthusiastic about coming to North America immediately and cooperative with the Kings desires regarding where they should play.

Picks in 2010

Round: Pick
1: 19th
2: 49th
2: 59th (acquired from Philadelphia along with Denis Gauthier for Patrik Hersley and Ned Lukacevic)
3: 70th (acquired from New York Rangers for Brian Boyle)
3: 79th
4: 109th
5: 148th (acquired from San Jose along with a fourth-round pick in 2009 for a fourth-round pick in 2008)
6: 169th
7: 199th

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result at No. 19: Beau Bennett, RW, Penticton Vees (BCHL)

Though the 18-year-old sniper from Gardena, California still has a lot of filling out and maturing to do, he has one attribute that just can’t be taught: he knows what to do with the puck when he gets it. His vision and finishing ability resulted in 41 goals, 79 assists, and 120 points in 59 BCHL games, good for first in the league in points and assists and second in goals. With a glut of talented prospects in the system, the Kings can afford to be patient with the young forward, who is headed to Denver of the WCHA and will likely need to spend a few years there putting on muscle and rounding out his game before he can be considered a legitimate professional option. It may take some time, but Bennett has the creativity and puck skills required of a top-six player and could develop into a legitimate NHL sniper, something the Kings system is sorely lacking.