With the conclusion of the 2014 NHL playoffs, and a second Stanley Cup in three years, the LA Kings enter today’s NHL Draft with momentum on their side. This two-day event is a way for General Managers to build their team – similar to how the Kings added Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, and a slew of other key contributors.
As a penalty for trying to circumvent the salary cap, the New Jersey Devils first round pick – initially to be forfeited outright – will now be 30th and cannot be traded, meaning the LA Kings first pick will happen at pick number 29 (if they don’t trade it).
Here is a full list of the Kings picks:
- 1st round (29th overall)
- 2nd round (60rd overall)
- 3rd round (90th overall)
- 4th round (120th overall)
- 5th round (150th overall)
- 6th round (157th overall – acquired from Carolina in the Kevin Westgarth deal)
- 6th round (180th overall)
- 7th round (209th overall -acquired from New York in the Dan Carcillo trade)
- 7th round (210th overall)
In possession of a first round pick for only the second time in the past four years, the hope for the Kings is to find a higher end skilled player, similar to when Tanner Pearson was picked 30th overall in 2012.
While the draft philosophy for most teams is to pick the best player available, there are areas the Kings may try to address this weekend.
The Kings defensive pipeline is looking thin nowadays, something Dean Lombardi addressed by acquiring Brayden McNabb at the trade deadline. While McNabb is poised to contend for a roster spot in LA next season, beyond him there is a lack of a top-end defenders in the system.
One possible target is Kingston defenseman Roland McKeown. Known as a two-way defenseman, McKeown plays a smart game and is a very smooth skater. Ranked anywhere from the late-middle to end of the first round, McKeown is the type of defenseman that the NHL is trending towards – those that can do it all and add versatility to a team’s back end. As an 18-year-old this season, McKeown put up 43 points in 62 regular season games to go with an impressive +38 rating.
If the Kings opt for a forward, Saskatoon Blade winger Nikita Scherbak is a likely option. Somewhat similar to Valentin Zykov, Scherbak is a Russian winger who came to Canada to play in the CHL and both play similar games. Scherbak is a strong player who isn’t shy physically, and is capable of setting up plays or finishing them. By season’s end, Scherbak tallied 69 points in 54 games, good enough to lead his team. Also keep an eye on Conner Bleackley of the Red Deer Rebels and John Quenneville of the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Sources tell us, there is about a 40% chance the Kings will trade out of their pick. If the player they want isn’t there, trading down won’t be an issue.
Later in the draft, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Kings nab a goaltender. Currently, the Kings have four goalies throughout the organization. With Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones as the NHL goalies next year, JF Berube and Patrik Bartosak will be the 1-2 combo for the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs. That means the team won’t have any goalies in the junior ranks, something the Kings have consistently had since Dean Lombardi took over as GM. With the importance of the position, look for the team to keep the cupboards stocked with a mid-to-late round selection of a netminder. If they don’t like what’s available, they do have the luxury of holding off until next year.
Zach Nagelvoort, a 6’2″ goalie from the University of Michigan is an example of someone possibly available in the later portions of the draft. After fellow Wolverine goaltender Steven Racine went down to injury versus UNH early in the season, Nagelvoort stepped in and secured the starting role the rest of the season. The 20 year old netminder has been passed over twice but has shown he can compete at a high level and has plenty of room to grow.
Prospect wise, the Kings are deep down the middle, with Linden Vey, Nick Shore, and Nick Dowd all set to play center in Manchester this upcoming season.
On the wing, there are some players beginning to emerge, such as Michael Mersch and the caught-in-limbo Nikolai Prokhorkin (who is not expected to be at Development Camp next month), but the overall depth could use some strength. With the current makeup of the Kings’ roster, the scouting staff can take risks by drafting project players, similar to the pick of Justin Auger in the 4th round in the 2013 draft.
The Kings are also in the market for a defensive-minded defenseman to play with Slava Voynov. From what we’ve learned, they are comfortable going into next season with McNabb in that role. However, if one does land in there lap this weekend, they are open to trading prospects from Manchester to get the right player. One thing is certain though, unlike past years, they don’t feel the need to overpay to get just any player. They have a specific mold they are looking for and won’t settle for a B to C player just to fill a hole.
We will have extensive coverage live for the Draft floor in Philadelphia all weekend.
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