The Los Angeles Kings could stand to benefit from trading away their first-round pick this year, in the hopes of significantly speeding up a reshaping of their roster. The team presently holds the eighth pick for the upcoming 2021 NHL Entry Draft, six spots later than the second pick they boasted last year. While not as great of a position as what they held in 2020, that spot in the selection process still allows for a team to have a solid opportunity at nabbing a high-end prospect.
Should the Kings use their pick instead of trade it, that player would be joining what’s considered to be the NHL’s top prospect pools, one built through playing through a number of losing seasons and coming away with several high draft picks. Team management has also been pretty shrewd when it comes to making draft selections and most of those prospects are progressing along to the point they’ll be playing for the team soon.
So, indeed, the future does look bright for the Kings and they have a pretty enviable prospect pipeline that is poised to add additional talent to their NHL squad. However, where championships are concerned, it’s too great of a burden to place on prospects. Such players take time to develop and some Kings fans want success right now. A few players have even expressed they’re growing weary of the patience mantra, and television ratings are even on a steep decline. It would be rather distressing if teams are able to welcome full-capacity crowds back to their arenas next season and the Kings still have trouble filling theirs.
General Manager Rob Blake seems very open to making moves in the offseason, having admitted that the current roster can’t push the L.A to the playoffs as it is.
“We want to get better,” Blake said last month. “There’s a reason you put yourselves in a position to get better. We are going to continue to see young guys filter into the lineup and see them develop, that’s not going to change. But, we will take the necessary steps to get better.”
“It wasn’t this year, obviously,” he said in relation to making the playoffs. “We need to add to it. You do get a full season of gaining experience for some of our younger players, but we need to add to our roster to get better.
“Yes. That’s our goal [making the playoffs]. 100%.”
— Parker (@parbuir) June 10, 2021
John Hoven of Mayor’sManor recently reported the Kings are in the market for a pair of top-six forwards. The Kings will need to make moves now as opposed to later or they will risk falling out of favor among fans of the various Los Angeles sports franchises. A few hours away in Nevada, the Vegas Golden Knights are the current favorites for the 2021 Stanley Cup. listed at 6/5 favorites, and Blake would likely hope his team could be in a similar position come this time next year. Odds on various outcomes as it pertains to the NHL can be secured from platforms such as BetMGM.
Should Blake look to aid the roster rebuild via trade, he will have to give up some of his assets to land a few big names. A package including said top prospects is certainly feasible, although Quinton Byfield is understood to be out of the conversation at the moment. The likes of Alex Turcotte, Gabe Vilardi, and Arthur Kaliyev are a few more of their prized prospects — and if the Kings want to keep them, then their first-round pick could come into play.
No one likes the idea of trading away a first-round pick, and the Kings doing just that too many times during the Cup years had something to do with the team’s decline. Yet, if there was a time to do it, perhaps it could be a good move this year. The draft class does have some top talent, yet those are usually players who need a few years to develop. Only a few players at very top of the board appear to be ready to establish themselves in the NHL this coming season.
It’s universally agreed the Kings aren’t short on blue-chip prospects — a stark contrast from just a few years ago — so things are different in that sense too.
There’s always danger in trading a first-round pick. They learned the hard way after doing so in 2015 when they gave it up as part of the Milan Lucic trade.
On the flip side, a first-round pick isn’t guaranteed to even make it to the NHL, so the Kings may want to take the risk and give up that opportunity at No. 8 in exchange for proven talent.
“I think we’re still evolving,” head coach Todd McLellan also said in May. “We’re in the process of taking young prospects and honing their game for the NHL. There’s a young group [of prospects] coming in based on their offensive talent, and that’s great because we need it. We should evolve into a better offensive team over time, but we can’t give up the defensive side.
“Early in the year, we were a frustrating team to play against because we checked well and didn’t give up much through the neutral zone. Our power-play was very dangerous and our penalty kill was good. We were also getting some really good goaltending early, and our team felt that our goalies could steal some games. A lot of those comments give us the reassurance that we’re doing the right things.”
RESEARCHED AND WRITTEN BY: Dan Adkisson