The Los Angeles Kings 2002 draft has received positive reviews by NHL draft pundits. It is a draft unlike any in recent memory for the Kings in that skill seemed to be the priority rather than size, and they picked the best player available with every pick rather than fill glaring holes in the system.
The Los Angeles Kings kicked off the 2002 draft by grabbing a pair of Russians, defenseman Denis Grebeshkov (Round 1, #18) and left wing Sergei Anshakov (Round 2, #50). Grebeshkov is a highly regarded offensive defenseman. He has average size (6’1, 193 pounds) and is an excellent skater who likes to move the puck up the ice. While he projects as a power play quarterback, he is defensively responsible and is a smart player. He has been tagged by some with the “soft” label, but Kings Director of Amateur Scouting, Al Murray, calls Grebeshkov a “physical player”. Denis will likely stay in Russia for two more years before coming to America to play for the Kings. The Kings said they were looking for the best player available, and the Hockey News ranked Grebeshkov #18. Left-winger Sergei Anshakov was the Kings second round pick. Anshakov is a rangy 6’2, 183 pound scorer with virtually no physical game, but is regarded as a tireless worker. The Kings like his potential and most draft experts agree that Anshakov is a player whose best hockey is ahead of him. He was ranked 18th by the Red Line Report.
The Kings third pick was right-wing Peter Kanko. Kanko is only 5’10, but weighs a solid 195 pounds and is another superb skater. The 18 year-old native of Prilbra, Czech Republic, was rated 15th by Red Line Report and is considered by many as a steal in round 3 (#66). Kanko played 61 games for Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League, recording 60 points (28-32=60) and 54 penalty minutes.
The Kings went with another 6’1 defenseman in round 4. Aaron Rome (# 104) played in 70 games last season with Swift Current of the Western Hockey League. The 203-pound blueliner from Brandon, Manitoba, registered 31 points (7-24=31) and 168 penalty minutes last year.
The Kings rounded out their draft by taking 6-1, 185-pound left winger Mark Rooneem (4th round, # 115) from Kamloops (WHL); 6-0, 190-pound right winger Greg Hogeboom (5th round, #152l) from the University of Miami-Ohio (CCHA); 6-3, 200-pound defenseman Joel Andresen (5th round, # 157) from St. Albert (AJHL); 5-11, 185-pound right winger Ryan Murphy (6th round, # 185) from Boston College (Hockey E.); 6-1, 185-pound defenseman Mikhael Lyubushin (7th round, # 215) from the Soviet Wings (Russia Elite); 5-11, 176-pound center/winger Tuukka Pulliainen (8th round, # 248) from Tuto (Finnish League); and 5-10, 165-pound forward Connor James (9th round, # 279) from the University of Denver (CCHA).
This kind of draft is a great sign for the Kings. It has been a long time since the Kings were comfortable enough with their system to grab the best player available with each selection. They picked no goalie and didn’t seem to feel they had a glaring need at any pick. That is a feather in the cap of the Kings scouting system, when just a few years ago they seemed to select positions they lacked in the draft that they needed on the NHL level. This was a wise draft and while certain writers, like yours truly, tried to guess picks by filling needs, the Kings were able to comfortably select quality players without the pressure of filling weak positions in their system.