Unrealized potential theme of LA Kings’ 2007 Draft class

By Andrew Knoll
Photo: Taken 61st overall by the Kings in 2007, Wayne Simmonds has played in over 280 NHL games and so far has experienced the most success of any of the 10 players the Kings drafted in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

The Kings continued to be heavy on selections in 2007, making ten picks that were evenly distributed by position. Los Angeles took five forwards, four defensemen and a goalie. Three of their 10 selections are still with the organization, while a pair of others enjoyed some success in a Los Angeles uniform before moving along to other clubs.

Even though the Kings have received no mileage out of their top selection, Thomas Hickey at fourth overall, this could be considered a relatively successful draft. Four of the 10 players have already made their NHL debut and one has firmly established himself as a pro forward, logging 285 NHL games and counting.

Thomas Hickey, D, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)-1st Round, 4th Overall
Status: Bust
Games Played in NHL: 0

Of the top 20 selections in the 2007 NHL draft, only Hickey, Logan MacMillan (selected by Anaheim 19th overall, now with Calgary) and Angelo Esposito (selected 20th overall by Pittsburgh, now with Dallas) have yet to make their NHL debut. At fourth overall, Hickey was an off-the-board selection, who has proven thus far that even a considerably lower pick would have been a squandered selection. He has been leapfrogged by relative unknowns within the organization such as Slava Voynov, Alec Martinez, and Jake Muzzin. Despite showing a bit more readiness this preseason, the Kings have repeatedly passed him over for a call-up and with good reason.

Billed as a skilled puck mover, Hickey has not overwhelmed anyone with his point totals for stretches, let alone seasons. Playing within an organization that values being hard to play against, Hickey has shown a game that lacks any semblance of competitive fire or physical sacrifice.

Oscar Moller, RW, Chilliwack Bruins (WHL) -2nd Round, 52nd Overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 87

Moller sharpened his skills in North America, spending two seasons in the WHL. Ironically, after a tumultuous tenure with the Kings and Monarchs, he has now returned to Sweden to play for Skellefteå AIK of the SEL. Moller played half-seasons with the Kings in each of his first two years after his departure from the WHL, ostensibly putting himself on the fast track to being an NHL regular. However, he fell out of favor with then Kings coach Terry Murray. Moller seemed to be a little short on skill to establish himself in a top-six scoring role and too undersized for Murray to play him in a bottom-six role.

Having not fit the Kings identity, Moller spent time with the Monarchs until his entry-level contract expired. While the Kings still hold his NHL rights, Moller has taken his game back to the motherland, where he has put up 22 points in 38 games. Moller may be a smaller player but he never shies away from traffic, stick-handles effectively through congested areas of the ice, and owns an accurate shot. If he thrives during this stint in Sweden, he may well return to the NHL, though likely not to Los Angeles where current coach Darryl Sutter also emphasizes size and toughness.

Wayne Simmonds, RW, Owen Sound Attack (OHL) – 2nd Round, 61st Overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 285

While this Los Angeles draft may be best remembered for a flop at the top, Simmonds remains perhaps the prime example of the high-value, low-profile selections that have made the Kings front office shrewd. The hard-working winger stood on the cusp of a breakout season split between Owen Sound and Sault St. Marie after his draft year, but to that point had not done too much to justify his standing. Simmonds made the jump from junior to the NHL and immediately established himself as a promising energy player with scoring upside for the Kings. He also proved to be a winger who elevated his play in important situations.

Simmonds was a fan favorite in Los Angeles, particularly during the 2009-10 season in which he scored a career-high 40 points. A restricted free agent this past summer, he was dealt along with prospect Brayden Schenn to Philadelphia in exchange for Mike Richards and has played primarily on the Flyers’ second line. He is on pace to shatter his career high for goals in a season and likely surpass his career high for points as well. He plays in all situations with the Flyers and seems to have found an even more comfortable hockey home.

Bryan Cameron, RW, Belleville Bulls (OHL) – 3rd Round, 82nd Overall
Status: Prospect (CGY)
NHL Games Played: 0

Cameron played two more seasons with Belleville and an overage season with the Barrie Colts in which noticeable improvements over the respectable totals of his draft year. Having finished his junior career without a contract offer, he signed with the Calgary Flames and spent last season with their AHL affiliate, the Abbotsford Heat.

After he posted 15 points in 60 games as a fourth-liner, Cameron has not played for the Heat since. Despite some extra seasoning and success, it seems like Cameron’s career is meandering at best. He was reassigned to the ECHL late last season and at no point he has shown a whole lot of encouraging signs since.

Alec Martinez, D, Miami University-Ohio (NCAA) – 4th Round, 95th Overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 87

Martinez quietly ascended through the ranks of the Kings organization. Although he started the season in the AHL with the surprising Jake Muzzin playing as Los Angeles’ sixth defenseman, Muzzin’s struggles opened a door for Martinez. He broke through and established himself as a regular on the Kings’ third pairing and second power-play unit, playing 60 games in 2010-2011. Martinez proved himself as a reliable puck-mover with quick skating, solid instincts and sound defensive positioning.

This season an injury and the emergence of Slava Voynov has limited Martinez to 23 games and a newfound role as Los Angeles’ seventh blueliner. Even so, for a fourth rounder, Martinez has already paid dividends and appears to have cemented himself as an NHL-caliber defenseman.

Dwight King, C/LW, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL) – 4th Round, 109th Overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 6

King was a favorite of outgoing coach Terry Murray for his competitiveness and size As Los Angeles experimented with a revolving door of left wings, King got a cup of coffee and a chance to skate with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown last season. During the current campaign, he has played 42 games and registered 24 points with the Kings’ AHL affiliate in Manchester, where he has been a fixture in the lineup and a leader in the locker room.

At this point, it has become difficult to project King’s future. His production has been steady over the past two seasons. King definitely has NHL size and his physique has matured nicely. Even so, he seems to be a bit of a forgotten man in the Kings organization at the moment, and it may take some level of specialization for him to stick at the NHL level. Until he finds his niche, King will remain an asset to the Monarchs at the AHL level.

Linden Rowat, G, Regina Pats (WHL) – 5th Round, 124th Overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Rowat highlighted his resume with accomplishments that included a WHL All-Star selection and a second-place finish in Goaltender of the Year voting after his draft year. Overall, however, he has not shown linear progress toward an NHL career.

He had a very brief stint with the Kings ECHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign, before joining the University of Alberta. He has yet to emerge strongly at any level beyond junior. While he is young enough to get his hockey career back on track and continue it in some capacity, there is little if any indication that he will ever make an impact at the NHL level.

Joshua Turnbull, C, Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL) – 5th Round, 137th Overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Turnbull went on to the University of Wisconsin where he posted a ho-hum 39 points in four seasons, 20 of which came in his senior year. Viewed as an energetic player, Turnbull never really developed his offensive game in college. Injuries may well have stunted his growth as a player, he missed significant time as both a sophomore and a junior.

Now out of college, Turnbull has been competing sparingly in the ECHL this season. He had a strong start with the Utah Grizzlies, notching three points in four games. However, injury has once again sidelined him and he has not played since October. At this point, his somewhat limited upside and difficulty staying healthy appear to be severe limitations on Turnbull’s potential to reach the big show.

Josh Kidd, D, Erie Otters (OHL) – 7th Round, 184th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Kidd was drafted as a big hitter with a projectable frame and a heavy shot. He proved the old adage that a small guy has to prove he can play while a big guy has to prove that he cannot. Kidd spent parts of two seasons with the Manchester Monarchs, recording 10 points in 43 games and skating at a plus-six.

He has attended the University of New Brunswick for the past three seasons, not yet tapping his offensive potential or establishing himself as a player with pro promise. While he has size to spare and the kind of old-school attitude that is highly coveted when effective, Kidd’s NHL aspirations seem lofty at this point.

Matt Fillier, LW, St. John’s Fog Devils (QMJHL) – 7th Round, 188th Overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Fillier played an overage season in the QMJHL with Montreal Juniors before attending the University of New Brunswick for the past three seasons as a teammate of Kidd.

Drafted as an agitator and a middle-weight fighter, Fillier was in a similar mold to Kings prospect Rich Clune. The L.A. brass has not seemed overly keen on that style of player, preferring instead to have a handful of skill players who can also fight and a big enforcer in Kevin Westgarth cycling in and out of the lineup.