It’s December 26th, and that can only mean one thing – it’s time to start the World Junior Championship. This annual tournament features the best young prospects in all of hockey and is a showcase event for recently drafted players, as well as dozens of first round hopefuls for next June.
Specific to the LA Kings, only three of their drafted players are participating – which is a far cry from Dean Lombardi’s early years with the team, where his picks were well represented among all the top countries with a legitimate chance at competing for a gold medal. However, this year’s trio is actually just a two-some, but we’ll get to that in a moment…
Adrian Kempe – 6-foot-1, 190 lb. forward, first round pick in 2014 (29th overall), plays for MODO in the Swedish Hockey League, representing Team Sweden at WJC
Alex Lintuniemi – 6-foot-3, 215 lb. defenseman, second round pick in 2014 (60th overall), plays for OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, representing Team Finland at WJC
Dominik Kubalik – 6-foot-1, 185 lb. forward, seventh round pick in 2013 (191st overall), played for OHL’s Kitchener Rangers last season (after being traded by (Sudbury Wolves), this year he is playing for Plzen HC in the Czech League, representing – and captaining – the Czech Republic at WJC
Notably absent from this list is defenseman Roland McKeown, the Kings other second round pick (50th overall) last June – and the player they selected with the pick acquired from Vancouver in exchange for Linden Vey. He was the captain of Canada’s under-18 team and invited to their summer evaluation camp for the WJC squad, but after a slow start, won’t be part of the team. To read his take on the situation (as well as comments from a few Kings scouts), see here.
It is also worth noting that Kubalik really doesn’t fit into the Kings future plans. He was traded last season in the OHL, in part because of reported attitude problems, which didn’t get better. He took his talents overseas this season, and from what we’ve gathered, it would be considered an extreme long shot at this point for him to be offered a contract before the June 1 deadline. On the flip side, the Kings brass is very high on Kempe, Lintuniemi, and McKeown.
Watch Lintuniemi and Finland take on Team USA, live on the NHL Network, beginning at noon today. Other games will be shown over the next two weeks, so check your listings.
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