LA Kings Select Gabe Vilardi with No. 11 Pick in 2017 NHL Draft

With the No. 11 selection in the opening round of this year’s NHL Draft, the LA Kings selected forward Gabe Vilardi from the 2017 Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires, where former Kings forward Warren Rychel is a part-owner of the OHL franchise.

Vilardi is 17-years-old at the moment (with an August birthday), tying him with Adrian Kempe as one of the youngest players LA has drafted. Standing 6-foot-3 at over 200lbs, Vilardi is projected to be a top-6 playmaking forward. He has strong legs and is known for his puck protection. Vilardi plays at both ends of the ice and is tough to play against down low.

“We were looking to upgrade our skill, and we did,” noted Kings Assistant General Mike Futa. “He’s a big kid with an incredible skill package and he’s a winner.”

During his debut in the OHL two seasons ago, he recorded 38 points (17 goals and 21 points) in 61 games played. Last year, he upped those totals dramatically, notching 29 goals and tallying 32 assists for 61 points in just 49 games. Despite missing time due to two separate injuries – knee and appendicitis – he still managed to lead his team in scoring.

Vilardi also was named a Memorial Cup All-Star for his performance in the tournament. And he is a huge fan of New York Islanders center John Tavares.

At the NHL Scouting Combine, just prior to the NHL Draft, Vilardi skipped the lower body fitness testing due to some soreness in his right hip and back. This was said to be due to some tiredness coming off the long playoff run. However, he did participate in the upper body and stationary bike tests. In the end, Vilardi posted the second-best fatigue index (33.8) among all prospects tested.

The Kingston, Ontario native is expected at Kings Development Camp next week and then he has also been invited to Team Canada’s World Junior Championship evaluation camp in mid-July.

Per NHL Draft analyst Steve Kournianos, “The Kings helped themselves immensely by drafting one of the best playmakers available. Let’s not forget than many pegged him to go as high as third or fourth overall. His set-up skills are sublime, but Windsor’s center depth forced him over to wing, where he showcased a heavy, accurate shot. He can also kill penalties, take big draws and orchestrate the power play. His skating looks kind of awkward, but this kid’s hockey sense more than makes up for it.”

Another scout, as quoted in the Future Considerations Scouting Guide, had this to say:

“High caliber playmaking ability. Possesses a number of offensive tolls to help his team get on the scoreboard. Lethal offensive zone vision and solid wrist shot keeps opponents guessing. Looked a little sluggish in my last viewing as his skating caused him to be behind a few plays. Fights hard for the puck still and has the power to drive hard to the net and score.”

We just caught up with Rychel, who selected Vilardi second overall in the OHL Draft a few years ago. He described him this way:

“Hockey rat, never comes off the ice, loves the game, very respectful, hard worker, strong on the puck, strongest player from offensive circles down in the CHL.”

From a scout who has watched Vilardiall season "Greatpick. RW who can score and has size. Was talked about in top 3 (1/2)

— Dennis Bernstein (@DennisTFP) June 24, 2017

More on Kings Vilardifrom frequent scout: "Maybe able to make NHL next year with their scoring woes. Tyler Toffolicomparable." (2/2)

— Dennis Bernstein (@DennisTFP) June 24, 2017

To clarify, next year means 2018-19, not this upcoming season.

OTHER NHL DRAFT RELATED CONTENT:

Blake and Yannetti on 2017 NHL Draft, Kings Philosophy, and Needs

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