The Los Angeles Kings were the first to make waves at the 2006 Entry Draft with the early trade of high-scoring forward Pavol Demitra to the Minnesota Wild for top prospect Patrick O’Sullivan and the 17th overall choice in the 2006 Draft. With his first selection at the helm, new General Manager Dean Lombardi drafted the first goaltender in the opening round for the Kings since Jamie Storr. The rest of Lombardi’s draft board focused on areas in need of depth – center and defense. The Kings continued to show their strength in being able to find prospects in all corners of the hockey world with choices ranging from the CHL and the USHL to Germany and the Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League.
Jonathan Bernier, G
1st round, No. 11 overall
The prior regime appeared to be scared off by the Jamie Storr experiment that went wrong. Bucking the trend to avoid goaltenders in the first round due to the reduction in the age for free agency, the Kings selected the top ranked North American goalie with their first selection, No. 11 overall and were the first to take a goaltender off the draft board.
Not yet 18 years of age, Jonathan Bernier was the starter in net for the MAINEiacs of Lewiston in the QMJHL this past season after spending a season as backup. Bernier finished third in the league in goals against average (2.70) and tied for second in save percentage (.908) among regular starters and led the MAINEiacs to a playoff berth before getting bounced in the first round. He is a hybrid classic butterfly and stand-up goaltender similar in style to Martin Brodeur.
With two more years of eligibility in the CHL, Bernier will continue his development at a steady pace before the Kings move him to Manchester. If past history of developing top drafted goaltenders has proved anything to the Kings, it is that organizations should handle them with care and not rush them into situations at too early of a stage in their development. The difference between the present and the past is the advanced farm system currently in place that was not at their disposal in 1994. Perhaps it is the right time for the Kings to test the strength of their farm system by adding a top goaltender prospect and prove that they have learned from the past.
Trevor Lewis, C
1st round, No. 17 overall
With the draft choice acquired in the trade of Demitra, the Kings selected Trevor Lewis out of the USHL. Lewis was a relative unknown coming into the 2005-06 season after being cut by Cedar Rapids of the USHL in 2004, playing through injuries during the 2004-05 season and being passed over during the 2005 draft. He reported to Des Moines in 2005-06 stronger than ever and has not looked back since.
“Not a lot of people know Trevor Lewis,” Director of Amateur Scouting, Al Murray, recently informed Hockey’s Future, “but the hockey people know him.” Lewis finished the season top three in the league in several offensive categories, including being named Player of the Year, Forward of the Year, the award for best combination of character and skill, and an invite to the US World Juniors tryout camp. This time around, Lewis was ranked as the 30th best North American skater by the Central Scouting Service for the 2006 Entry Draft. With the acquisition of an additional first round choice, the Kings jumped at the chance to take this fast-riser whom they had targeted high on their draft board all along.
“Lewis was a player that was very important to us,” Murray went on to say, “so it was great we could finalize that deal.”
Joe Ryan, D
2nd round, No. 48 overall
The QMJHL is traditionally known for offense, from both the forwards to the defenseman. So it comes as a bit of surprise for the Kings to find a physical, defensive defenseman out of the Q. Joe Ryan has spent the last several years with Quebec, punishing forwards and racking up the penalties minutes. But you cannot succeed in a league with the speed of the Q without also being able to hold your own getting up and down the ice. Ryan is not just a big body, but one that has the skating skills to keep up with the best forwards in any league.
Often compared to Adam Foote, Ryan also fills an area of need for the Kings on the blue line. However, Ryan is still years away from making a contribution to the NHL roster and has plenty of aspects of his game to work on.
In a pre-draft interview with Hockey’s Future, Ryan spoke briefly about some of those aspects. “I think I’m going to need a little more improvement. My footwork is kind of slow; I need to work on that this summer. And get a little stronger I think, physical. So I think it will be a little while before I go [to the NHL].”
Ryan still has some playing time ahead of him in the Q and eventually will be skating in Manchester in the next couple of years. He was selected with the compensatory pick granted the Kings for the loss of Jens Karlsson.
Jeff Zatkoff, G
3rd round, No. 74 overall
With the first of two third round selections, the Kings took their second netminder of the draft in Jeff Zatkoff of Miami University. Passed over in the 2005 draft, Zatkoff would exact his revenge on the hockey world. He made headlines during the Red Hawks monumental run to the NCAA tournament while platooning with Charlie Effinger in net. With a goals-against average below 2.00 for the majority of the season, Zatkoff finished at 2.08 with a remarkable save percentage of .928, tied for best in college hockey amongst freshmen. Zatkoff was recognized as the third ranked North American goalie by CSS, but has been widely billed by the Kings as their No. 2 choice in net on the draft board behind Bernier.
Zatkoff will return to Miami University in the fall and continue to platoon the duties in net with Effinger. With most goaltender roster spots filled in the professional ranks for the Kings, choosing a college goaltender, whom can be left in the NCAA to develop for another three years provides the Kings with the flexibility of keeping him within the farm system without driving other prospects like Munce or Taylor out of a job.
Bud Holloway, RW
3rd round, No. 86 overall
The Kings acquired the No. 86 overall pick from Philadelphia (originally, Nashville’s selection) in the trade that also netted Jeremy Roenick. With it, the Kings selected Bud Holloway out of the WHL. Holloway has garnered significant praise from his coach with the Seattle Thunderbirds for playing at such a young age and for his attention to both sides of the ice.
Holloway is a two-way threat from the right wing position and plays with a high degree of tenacity and grit. While not an offensive wizard, he can still be relied upon to find the back of the net enough times to make him a threat. His 21 goals in 72 games during the 2005-06 season was good enough for second on his team and tied for the team lead in plus/minus as +8. Holloway compares favorably in stature and skill to fellow Kings prospect Marty Guerin.
Niclas Andersen, D
4th round, No. 114 overall
The Kings appeared to have found a late round gem in last year’s draft with the selection of physical defenseman Patrik Hersley out of Sweden. Looking to replicate that good fortune, Los Angeles selected another gritty defenseman from Sweden in the fourth round.
Niclas Andersen has the body and style to play in North America within the next couple of seasons. Continuing with the trend in Kings drafts over the last several years, Andersen is also known for quality skating skills. Al Murray explained, “If you can go out and get the really good offensive-defensemen, then you have to make sure your defensive guys can be able to skate if they’re going to be physical guys. You can kind of think about Mattias Norstrom as far as Andersen’s style goes.”
While the Kings might be lacking in quality offensive defensemen, the system is replete with physical defensemen whom can skate and Andersen adds to the total.
David Meckler, C
5th round, No. 134 overall
The selection of David Meckler in the fifth round might turn out to be the steal of the Kings draft. Like Lewis, Meckler was passed over in the 2005 draft and chose to leave the USHL to attend Yale. Discovered to have a wrist injury that was hidden from the media during his 2005-06 season, his draft status declined as a result with only ten points in 31 games.
The Kings, after discovering the injury, took up interest in Meckler’s abilities that were not necessarily shining through because of the injury. They jumped at the chance to select Meckler in hopes that he will recover from his injury and continue his development. In this, the Kings hoped to have selected a highly-talented forward at a premium, making this selection in the fifth round worth keeping an eye on.
Martin Nolet, D
5th round, No. 144 overall
Martin Nolet has the distinction of being the only player selected in the 2006 draft from the Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League. The fact that the Kings located this raw defenseman is a testament to the breadth of their scouting department. Nolet will be attending the University of Massachusetts in the fall and is considered a “tweener” type defenseman – not defensive enough to play a stay-at-home roll and not skilled enough to be considered an offensive defenseman.
Murray explained this further, “He’s a 6’3 guy, who’s a very good skater. He’s got a little bit of time left to put his stamp on whether he wants to be a offensive or defensive defenseman. He’s a good skater who can move the puck and he’s somewhat physical. He’ll have four years to develop at a good NCAA school. We thought he was well worth the gamble.”
Constantin Braun, LW
6th round, No. 164 overall
Drawing upon another scouting resource, the Kings went to the German professional leagues to locate their final selection of the draft. Constantin Braun was found playing for one of AEG’s (the Kings’ parent corporation) European hockey clubs. He has a large 6’3 frame that can stand to fill out a bit more as he matures, but he skates well and has a good enough shot to take a chance on in the late rounds. Additionally, Lombardi is known for great success drafting out of the German leagues while General Manager of the San Jose Sharks, so this selection should come as no surprise.
Jeff Dahlia and Kevin Forbes contributed to this article. Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.