More than three months after it was originally supposed to happen, the 2020 NHL Draft is finally upon us. Since the event was trimmed to just seven rounds back in 2005, the most picks the Kings have made in a single season over the past 15 years is ten (having done so in 2007, 2009, and 2014).
What makes this year’s festivities so remarkable isn’t the fact that Rob Blake and Mark Yannetti enter the Draft with 11 selections in hand, it’s the manner in which they are spread out. For example, at the 2019 Draft, which is considered by many to have the chance of being the Kings best Draft in the organization’s history, they selected five players in the first three rounds. This year they have six picks among the same grouping, including three in the second round.
In talking with multiple sources, it appears the Kings will most likely not be packaging some of those picks to move into the late first round. It’s not that they aren’t interested in doing so; but more that the cost is too prohibitive at the moment. From what we have been able to gather, the current cost to move into the No. 25-30 range would cost the Kings three assets — their picks No. 35 and 51, along with one additional asset. For now, that’s simply too much of a price to pay for an organization looking to put an exclamation point on an already fantastic rebuild over the past 18-24 months.
For those wondering why two to three assets is considered too much, think of it this way… to move up to 25 last year would have cost the club Arthur Kaliyev (33) and Sammy Fagemo (50).
Or, in previous years, it would have cost them Jaret Anderson-Dolan (41) and Akil Thomas (51).
Now, if somehow defenseman Jake Sanderson (USA) drops out of the top 20 tonight — something that is highly unlikely, as in less than 5%, maybe less than 2% — LA would certainly have to reconsider the market rate to move up and snag him.
Additionally, there are believed to be about five other names the team covets enough to at least consider spending the excessive price to move up. That list would include right-handed defenseman Braden Schneider (WHL), left-handed defenseman Kaiden Guhle (WHL), along with forwards Jacob Perreault (RW, OHL), Mavrik Bourque (C, QMJHL) and Dawson Mercer (C, QMJHL).
Again, all of those players are expected to go in the first round. Weird things happen every year. Simply take 2019 as a case in point, where Kaliyev was available to the Kings at the top of the second round. Anything is possible, even when it’s not considered highly likely.
In a perfect world, the Kings would take a defenseman at No. 35. The issue is, there very well could be another run on D in the first round (like last year). After Sanderson and Jamie Drysdale, there are mixed feelings around the league regarding the next 10-15 defensemen available. This will come into play for LA, and impact if they go defense at No. 35, or a forward. If there are a lot of blueliners left at 35, they’ll likely opt for a forward and save the defenseman for pick No. 51, where they’d be looking to get a value pick.
Overall, assuming the Draft plays out in a somewhat normal fashion later today, below is a group of forwards and defenseman we believe the Kings will be targeting with their trio of second round selections and pair of third rounders. It wouldn’t be that surprising if at least four of the five names they call are from this list.
At 35, we believe there are two defensemen the Kings are targeting and we think it comes from this list: Schneider (likely gone at 35, but they love him), Eemil Viro, Ryan O’Rourke, Eamon Powell, and Helge Grans. meanwhile, Brock Faber, Shakir Mukhamadullin, and Topi Niemela are the names to keep an eye on at No. 51.
Braden Schneider (RHD, WHL) – Could go in the first round. LA would take him at 35, may even move up to get him. A bit of a throwback player. Leadership qualities, very strong defender, high hockey IQ, versatile, can play on the power play, competes hard. Rank him higher than O’Rourke. Link to our previous profile on this player.
Eemil Viro (LHD, Liiga) – Really like him for LA at 35. Jack of all trades type blueliner. Do you want a dynamic player with a flaw or do you want a steady guy you can always count on? He doesn’t have any weaknesses. He’s a second pairing defenseman in the NHL. Some scouts hoped for a bit more improvement over the past year. His offensive creativity is average. Yet, he’s a solid, all around player.
Ryan O’Rourke (LHD, OHL) – Slotted to go around 25-40, he’s an all around good player, does everything well, higher level compete, leadership qualities. Read our full profile on this player.
Eamon Powell (RHD, USA) – New age defenseman. Slightly undersized (not small), hybrid blueliner. Speed and quickness, but more defense first. Very efficient player, skates well. Has all the tools to jump to the next level. Reads the play well and is smart on both sides of the puck. Expect his offensive game to grow at Boston College. A wiry 5-foot-11, not stout like Justin Faulk. The game slows down around him, people start to watch him. He’s deliberate in his 5×5 game, yet when he gets the puck on his stick he becomes more assertive on the breakout. More likely a third round guy.
Helge Grans (RHD, Superelit) – Should be in the ballpark of 25-40 range. He is underdeveloped still, which is good. Has only played D about 3 years. Good frame and has room to fill out more. Skill on PP, but not solid defending down low and his shot is average. Very talented, doesn’t defend well, really good skater, good size.
Brock Faber (RHD, USA) – Don’t see him as Kings pick at 35. Now, will he still be there for pick Nos. 51 or 60? He’s an elite skater, very efficient puck mover. Great competitor, very athletic. Efficiency and reliability are two common words used to describe him. Has minimal offense in his game, more of a defensive defenseman. Matt Roy and Mikey Anderson aren’t necessarily offensive generating defensemen either, yet they’re pretty valuable (i.e. Anderson could be a second round pick if you did things over). Faber is a high-end character addition to any team.
Shakir Mukhamadullin (LHD) – This is a top-15 player, it’s the Russian factor. If the Kings draft him, he’s coming over and they have a plan. More than likely he’d have to be at 51, not 35.
Topi Niemela (RHD, Liiga) – Could be gone in the first round. If he played in the OHL, he would be a much bigger name coming into the Draft. Smooth skater, solid positional defender. Another guy who we don’t see in play for LA at 35, but is almost surely in the conversation at 51. He might run the powerplay and could just as likely end up being a third pairing guy. Size is a little below average. Still, a very good powerplay guy.
Jomi Jurmo (LHD, Liiga) – He’s probably gone before the Kings can take him. Don’t see him as a second round option for LA, would have to be in the third round. Elite skating; there may not be a better skating defenseman in the draft. With the blend of skating and size, you’re looking at a near-perfect blend. From goal line to red line, he skates nearly as fast as people pass it. Even though he’s nearly 6-foot-4, he still has room to go. Jurmo has good tools, but still a bit immature and the toolbox may not be as good as the tools. We have a full scouting report up on Jurmo here.
Justin Barron (RHD, QMJHL) – Even with his previous blood clot hurt issues that impacted his stock, a lot would have to go wrong for him at the Draft for him to be in a position where LA could take him. This wouldn’t be the Kings pick at 35 or 51, so we’re talking No. 60 and we just don’t see him lasting that long.
William Wallinder (LHD, Superelit) – Has every tool in the box. He isn’t Victor Hedman, as some have tried to suggest. Has elite skating (effortlessly), is athletic, with a nice shot, and everything a team looks for physically. Average hockey IQ. If he puts it all together, he’d be rated much higher. Extreme diversity in scouting opinions on this player. We put together a full profile on him here. Most likely will not be taken by LA.
Jeremie Poirier (LHD, QMJHL) – Another third round candidate for LA. however he will most likely go in the top 60. He may be the ultimate wild card in the Draft. Has almost everything a team would look for. As good as an offensive guy you will find on the backend. However, he just doesn’t play defense at the level needed. If he puts it all together, he’s a homerun. If it doesn’t come together, he is a big-time bust. Look for one of the teams with multiple picks in the second round to take a chance on him. Maybe LA rolls the dice at No. 60, wouldn’t bet on it.
Yan Kuznetsov (LHD, NCAA) – Good player, big, solid skater, hasn’t reached his full potential. Offensive game is a little better than advertised, decent puck mover. So hard to be a 17-year old defensive player in college. Youngest player in college last season. A huge young man, very driven. Smart kid. Very solid defensively. Solid puck movement. Competes hard, but isn’t highly physical despite size. Not an offensive guy, yet does shoot the puck well. Against his age group in December, showed more with puck. Kings like him. However, we project him going earlier than where the Kings will have a chance to get him. If he’s somehow there at 60, very well could be LA’s pick.
Lukas Cormier (LHD, QMJHL) – Same as Poirier. He won’t be the pick at 35 or 51, so they’ll miss out on him because he’ll be gone by the time they get to pick No. 60.
Ian Moore (RHD, High School) – Along with Kaiser (below), one of the top two high school defensemen among this Draft class. He is in the USHL this year, prior to going to Harvard next season. Smart and athletic, he skates well. Tall, yet physically weak at this time. Big upside on Moore due to skill and offense. Great skater, takes chances offensively. His game with the puck needs some work. Will the Kings finally take a New Englander? We’d say there is an outside chance for LA to take him in the third round, it would more likely be in the fourth if he’s selected by Los Angeles.
Wyatt Kaiser (LHD, High School-MN) – He’s a puck moving dman who skates very well and should improve dramatically at Minnesota-Duluth (the former home of Mikey Anderson). Covers all three zones and has superior vision, along with elite hockey sense. If LA takes him, they would most likely use one of their two picks in the fourth round on him. It’s also a one or the other situation. Meaning, if they take Moore, we wouldn’t expect them to take Kaiser too.
Lukas Reichel (LW, Eisbaren Berlin DEL) – Skilled, smart, playing in a men’s league despite being behind the curve physically. Very smart, moves the puck extremely well, reads the play well. He’s an above average skater, has an above average hockey IQ. He will most likely be gone on day one of the Draft. If the Kings trade up for a player in the late first round, this is one of the two or three guys they’ll be targeting.
Jake Neighbours (LW, WHL) – If he was a better skater, he’d be a top 15 pick. Gives a team everything they need – competes, plays hard, smart offensively, generates offense. He plays the game with a physical component that you don’t see much of anymore. He’s an excellent passer and knows how to move through traffic. We believe he’s definitely in consideration at 35.
Brendan Brisson (C, USHL) – Highly skilled offensive center who shoots the puck extremely well and is dangerous on the powerplay. His one-timer is NHL level. A creative player who needs to round out his game without the puck defensively and learn to compete in all areas of the ice. Listed as a center, yet he might be a winger at the pro level. LA would look to take him in the late second, but he’ll most likely be gone at that point.
Ridly Greig (C, WHL) – He’s one of those handful of players the Kings would be interested in, yet he’ll probably be gone before LA gets to pick No. 35. He’s a speedy two-way forward. His dad is a scout for the Flyers. Makes good decisions with the puck and has a physical edge that can make opponents nervous. His lack of success at the faceoff circle could force a move to wing in the years ahead.
Daniel Torgersson (LW, Frolunda J20) – Don’t see him as a candidate at No. 35, yet could come into play as the Draft moves along. Hard worker, solid on the penalty kill, moves up ice with speed and can snipe from the top of the circles. He also has a net-front presence, adding another dimension to his skill set. A better version of Austin Wagner or Trevor Lewis.
John-Jason Peterka (RW, Munchen DEL) – Doubt he drops to No. 35. However, stranger things have happened. He’s a versatile top six winger who can play both sides of the puck. He’s an offensively minded player first, though. Case in point: posted 6 points in 7 games at the most recent U-20 World Juniors and eight points in five games at last year’s under-18 tourney.
Tyson Foerster (RW, OHL) – After moving from a depth guy in Barrie to earning top line responsibilities, his stock continued to soar. It also didn’t hurt that he was names Player of the Game for his team at the 2020 CHL Top Prospects Game. This is an offensively minded forward who will battle for the puck, then set up a teammate or bury a goal for himself.
Hendrix Lapierre (C, QMJHL) – Great hand-eye coordination and can stick-handle with the best of them. His IQ, vision, and play making abilities have him likely to go in the first 50 picks. He could even go early in the first round, which would put him well out of reach for LA.
Ozzy Wiesblatt (RW, WHL) – Great back story, as he lived in a car with his mom. He’s a hard worker and for his size, he’s a monster hitter. In fact, he doesn’t just hit people, he clobbers them. Good skater; quicker than he is fast. More of a playmaker than a shooter. Look for the Kings to jump on him if he’s there at No. 60 or 66.
Alex Laferriere (RW, USHL) – Was a top rookie in the USHL. Lead prep school in scoring a year ago. Highly skilled winger who was very small just 20 months ago, now he’s about 6-foot. Great hands and instincts offensively. Long term project type with top six potential. Not uncommon for his age group, he still has a lot of work to do defensively and in the weight room. If LA takes him, he would most likely be a late third round pick at the earliest.
Emil Heineman (LW, Superelit) – Was the was the top scorer in the J20 Superelit’s North Division, posting 21 goals and 35 points. A nice package of size, speed, and skill. We’d be a bit surprised if he went as early as No. 35. However, he’s in the mix after that point.
Roby Jarventie (LW, Mestis) – Has started to move up the rankings the past few months after a strong preseason overseas, as well as playing in several LIIGA games. He’s still a bit underdeveloped, yet he’s offensively minded and the puck seems to find him. His game should become even better as he fills out physically.
William Cuylle (LW, OHL) – Rare combination of mass and finesse. He will hit a player at open ice and then out muscle the next two defenders to fire off a deadly shot. This cool cat is, again, most likely not the player they’ll target with their first selection on Wednesday, yet he’s in play from the hop.
Jean-Luc Foudy (C, OHL) – He’s the Poirier of forwards. Skating is top-5 in the draft. He makes people miss with how shift he can be, excellent at getting his first three steps going, analytics support his strengths. Expect him to be taken by an NHL team in the second round.
Sam Colangelo (RW, USHL) – Was very good this past season. One of top scorers in USHL despite not having top powerplay time on a loaded team. Big body that’s skates well, with an NHL level release. Ability to make plays in the dirty areas. Will be in a great development situation at Northeastern. Huge upside. Keep an eye on this kid.
Theo Niederbach (C, Frolunda J20) – More likely in the late third round, early fourth round for Los Angeles. Highly doubtful he’s even there at that point. He can play wing or center, and his speed can be deceptive. When he decides to crank it up, watch out – you’re not stopping him.
Avid readers know all about the Kings depth in goal (and if you don’t, you should – read here). After adding prospects such as Lukas Parik and Jacob Ingham in recent years, don’t look for LA to spend too much draft capital on a goalie this year. That said, there isn’t much depth to the 2020 pool of netminders, so any run on goalies could force their hand. Thus, the Kings could — maybe — use a third round pick on somebody to man the crease. We’d just peg it as a longshot. More likely, look for the Kings to hone in on one of the goalies below in the late fourth or fifth round. It’s worth noting… Each of these guys listed are ranked differently, so just because he’s the only guy left in the third round, doesn’t automatically mean the Kings will select him.
Joel Blomqvist (G, Karpat U21) – A standout in Finland’s top junior league, he’s 6-foot-1 and typically plays upright and not crouched over. Last season, he posted a .931 save percentage.
Jan Bednar (G, Extraliga) – Tallest of the group, listed at 6-foot-4, the Czech born netminder is a nice mix of size and quickness.
Calle Clang (G, Superelit) – Swedish born netminder who has primarily played a backup role thus far when suiting up for his native country in international tournaments. However, he has seen a lot of rubber when playing for his regular team and has no problems gobbling up the rebounds.
Will Cranley (G, OHL) – He’s the second tallest of this group, measuring 6-foot-3 and utilizing a standup butterfly style. Plays deep in his crease, and was a backup for Jim Fox’s Ottawa 67’s the past two seasons. Despite recording a pedestrian .894 SV% last season, he will most likely be taken by another team before LA looks to select a goalie.
Do not look for the Kings to trade a roster player or top-15 prospect to move around in the Draft. It would take something pretty signifcant to move the needle on a deal of either type, and nothing appears to be even a remote possibility as of this writing.
RANDOM NAMES TO WATCH
Zayde Wisdom (RW, OHL) – Intelligent player with a soft touch, also packs a heavy shot. Not the quickest skater, he does everything else well. If he’s somehow still there at pick No. 97, look for LA to give him some consideration. He’s a power forward with an NHL level shot.
Ole Bjorgvik-Holm (LHD, OHL) – An import player, this past season he often played with Thomas Harley, selected by Dallas in the first round at last year’s Draft. Holm is the stay at home guy who gives his partner room to do their thing. He has good mobility and can play either side of the puck. Could he enter the picture in the fifth or sixth round? It’s conceivable.
Ethan Edwards (LHD, AJHL) – Another possibility when you get really deep into the Draft. He was previously selected by the Portland Winterhawks, however word is he’s headed to Michigan instead. Has an active stick, a good shot, and plays with confidence.
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