Stanley Cup awarded? Check.
Now, it’s time for another big event listed next on the hockey calendar…
Like last year, the 2022 NHL Entry Draft is once again expected to be a wild show. Twelve months ago, the league was still in the middle of the pandemic, so viewings of players were all over the board and many teams had divergent lists — even more so than normal. The crop of prospects for this time around is said to not be as deep as the 2023 group, yet we’ve seen plenty of times in the past where ‘weaker draft classes’ still produce some NHL gems. And we expect the same to be true this time around.
To help set the table, we’ve done some extensive homework to cull together a solid candidate pool from which the Kings may be drawing upon when selecting prospects with their 2022 picks.
WHAT THE KINGS HAVE TO WORK WITH IN ROUNDS 2-7
Round 1 – N/A
Round 2 – No. 51
Round 3 – No. 86 (from Pittsburgh)
Round 4 – No. 116
Round 5 – No. 148
Round 6 – No. 180
Round 7 – N/A
The Kings recently traded their 2022 first round pick for Kevin Fiala. They also traded their third round pick as a part of a package for Viktor Arvidsson last summer. However, they still have a third round pick via the Jeff Carter trade with Pittsburgh. It actually started out as a fourth rounder, but would upgrade to a third round pick should Carter play in at least 50 games during the 2021-22 season. He did, thus it’s now a third.
LA dealt their seventh round pick to Detroit at the most recent Trade Deadline in a move to acquire Troy Stecher, who served as a rental player while several of the Kings defensemen were out injured.
One year ago, we pointed out the Kings were likely to go with a quality over quantity approach. In fact, that’s exactly what ended up happening; as they came into the 2021 Draft weekend with seven picks, yet left with only four players.
That made perfect sense at the time because the Kings prospect pool was relatively full — perhaps even too full — so they only had room to add a few more potential players.
Things are different this time around. If you missed our most recent Kings Of The Podcast episode (the Draft Preview podcast posted here), we discussed how the Kings are expected to go with the opposite approach this time around. Two key things are happening right now to be mindful of – (a) prospects like Quinton Byfield, Arthur Kaliyev, Sean Durzi, Rasmus Kupari, etc. are beginning to graduate out, and more will continue to do so over the next 18 months (b) some prospects are being included in trades to improve the NHL roster. As these two things occur, it will ultimately shrink the current pool. To get in front of that, the Kings are expected to start adding ‘extra’ players back into the pool now.
With that said, it wouldn’t be surprising to see GM Rob Blake and Mark Yannetti trade back a few times to add some extra picks this year. Ideally, the team may be looking to come away from this Draft with about seven players. How do you do that with only five picks, and without a first rounder, as the festivities begin? They would accomplish that by trading back a few times and collecting the tax that comes with such moves. For example, if they move back from No. 51 to say No. 55, they may be able to pick up an extra fourth or fifth round pick in the process.
When it comes to the idea of moving up, the Kings are probably limited in what they can do early on. For example, we aren’t expecting them to try and move back into the first round, as the cost is almost certainly too high. For example, dealing a prospect (i.e. Sammy Fagemo, Akil Thomas, or Tyler Madden) and the No. 51 pick most likely wouldn’t even get them to No. 32.
If the Kings were to trade up from No. 51, they probably can’t move up more than about 10 spots max – and even that is really pushing it.
UPDATED: LA KINGS STRETCH CANDIDATES
While there is only a slim chance the Kings will trade up from No. 51, let’s at least give it some consideration.
The approximate combined values of pick Nos. 51 and 86 would move them up to around pick 40. Now, using a pick from next year instead of (or in addition to) No. 86 is always possible, but that hasn’t been Mark Yannetti’s preferred strategy in year’s past. There could be an exception here because in addition to holding all of their 2023 picks, LA also has an extra third round pick in next year’s Draft from the aforementioned Carter trade. So, they could theoretically use that 2023 pick to juice things up, if needed.
Should all the stars and moons align, below are three prime candidates to keep an eye on — with the most likely trade partners being teams picking 39 (Chicago), 40 (Detroit), 43 (Arizona), and 44 (Columbus).
Jack Hughes: center, 6-foot, 169 lbs. (NCAA, Northeastern) – No, not the New Jersey Devils selection from a few years ago. Nor are they even related. This Jack also played at the USNTDP, which can also be a bit confusing for some. He was a freshman at Northeastern this past season and is scheduled to attend Team USA’s World Junior camp later this month. His father is currently General Manager of the Montreal Canadiens.
Tristan Luneau: defenseman, 6-foot-2, 189 lbs. (QMJHL, Gatineau) – He’s been invited to Team Canada’s World Junior camp later this month. In 2020, he was the first overall selection in the QMJHL Entry Draft. At one point he committed to play for coach Tony Granato and the University of Wisconsin, before ultimately deciding to develop his skills in the QMJHL. This past season, he posted 43 points in 63 games, the second most points among QMJHL defensemen eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft.
Matyas Sapovaliv: center, 6-foot-3, 183 lbs. (OHL, Saginaw) – After playing on a team with NHL legend Jaromir Jagr in Europe during the 2020-21 season, Sapovaliv came to North America to play junior hockey this past season. He finished the season fourth in rookie scoring and his two-way game reminds some people of Anze Kopitar. Scouts say he could be a serious points producer at the pro level, displaying soft hands and a notable hockey IQ. Later his month, he’ll attend Czechia’s World Junior evaluation camp. In a fun tidbit, the Kings have never drafted a player off a Saginaw roster.
LA KINGS ROUND 2 PREDICTIONS
As in years past, we’ve put together a collection of the most likely names LA will be considering in each round. Players are listed in alphabetical order, not by ranking.
Mattias Havelid: RH defenseman, 5-foot-9, 165 lbs. (Sweden) – Clearly the size stands out when teams are typically looking for larger bodies on the blueline. His father is Niclas Havelid, former Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Atlanta Thrashers defender. Those bloodlines will at least allow a few teams to give him the benefit of the doubt. Mattias is a skilled, mobile, offensive d-man with a good shot from the offensive zone blueline. Has been invited to Sweden’s World Junior camp later this month.
Aleks Kaskimaki: 6-foot, 196 lbs. (Finland) – Playmaking winger who plays the game honestly and has skating ability. Scouts often note that he doesn’t display any issues with effort. Has been invited to Finland’s World Junior evaluation camp later this month.
Paul Ludwinski: center, 5-foot-11, 184 lbs. (OHL, Kingston) – As a first-year OHL player this past season, his campaign built throughout the year and reached a crescendo when he was named OHL Rookie of the Month in April, after posting 10 points in 8 games. He’s a speedy, energetic winger who possesses impressive skating. Like many OHL players, he was a little slow getting out of the gates this past season after the league was shut down for all of 2020-21. Now, with the rust off, he could put up some bigger numbers in his sophomore campaign. Kings scouts would have seen quite a bit of Ludwinski, as he played on the same team as LA prospect Martin Chromiak. Here’s a fascinating stat pack… in the regular season, Chromiak led the Fronts with 44 goals. Ludwinski had 17. Come playoff time, the two tied for the team lead with seven goals each in 11 post-season contests.
Cameron Lund: center, 6-foot-2, 192 lbs. (USHL, Green Bay) – Listed as a center, he’s more likely a winger. Big kid with impressive skating and individual skill set. His release is what separates him and powers his ability to score. He’s shown a willingness to engage in hard areas on rush and takes the puck to high traffic areas. His tools are that of a first round player, however his overall game is not there yet. He’ll need to work on consistency — which is not all that uncommon for young players — especially regarding his positional play and details. As one scout noted to us, his body is still quite young and he “has potential to grow into a huge young man with talent.” Coming off a season in which he played for a team that didn’t find much success and their coach lost his job, he’s now headed to a great development situation with one of the young coaches in NCAA hockey at Northeastern (where he’ll join LA prospect Ben Meehan). While there, he’ll need to learn how to compete and learn the in-game details to have his impressive aforementioned tools translate. Has been invited to Team USA’s World Junior evaluation camp later this month.
Calle Odelius: LH defenseman, 6-foot, 188 lbs. (Sweden) – Skating appears to be easy for him. He’s mobile while moving the puck up ice. Offense could be a bit limited as he progresses into an NHL player.
Noah Warren: RH defenseman, 6-foot-5, 224 lbs. (QMJHL, Gatineau) – You don’t see the Kings pluck players out of the Quebec junior league very often. For a kid this size, it’s worth paying attention to. He’s still only 17 years old, which would make him one of the youngest players to ever be drafted by Los Angeles (he turns 18 next week, though, so not quite as young as Jacob Moverare in 2017). From McKeen’s scouting notes, “He closes gaps quickly with his reach and quickness, however he hits hard, and he hits to intimidate too. As a transitional defender, he is very difficult to maneuver around, and when he takes away space, he often finishes his checks hard.”
If the Kings slide back a few spots from pick No. 51
Tomas Hamara: LH defenseman, 6-foot, 185 lbs. (Finland) – Stocky defender with average height. He utilizes a long stick with reach to gain advantages on opponents and protect his defensive zone.
Topi Ronni: center, 6-foot-2, 181 lbs. (Finland) – Brings good size, as a playmaking pivot with plenty of bite and deception in his game already. Has been invited to Finland’s World Junior evaluation camp later this month.
Adam Sykora: left wing, 5-foot-10, 172 lbs. (Slovakia) – Very well could be the pick if the Kings are selecting late in the second round. He’s an energy-type player who scouts note is fun the watch. His effort is always on display. To show where his skill level is at even at such a young age, he played for Slovakia at the recent World Championships. Our pre-Draft notes on Sykora can be found here.
LA KINGS ROUND 3 CANDIDATES
Jordan Gustafson: center, 5-foot-10, 178 lbs. (WHL, Seattle) – One of the rare Western Hockey League players to draw consideration here, Gustafson brings an element of physicality to the action around him. From McKeen’s, “The main draw with Gustafson is his strong two-way acumen and pro-ready game. A highly intelligent pivot, Gustafson is one of those draft eligible players who does so many little things well. While he’s not a dynamic puck carrier or skater, the puck seems to consistently gravitate to Gustafson in the offensive zone.”
Christian Kyrou: RH defenseman, 5-foot-10, 172 lbs. (OHL, Erie) – Led all defensemen on his team this year with 18 goals, tied for second most in the OHL. Has been invited to Canada’s World Junior evaluation camp later this month. Younger brother of St. Louis Blues center Jordan Kyrou. More from Future Considerations, “An exciting, offensive-minded defender who loves to push the envelope and jump into the rush every chance he can get. He was one of the more dynamic offensive defenders in the OHL during the season, showcasing his strong offensive instincts and skating ability.”
Kasper Kulonummi: RH defenseman, 6-foot, 178 lbs. (Finland) – Has been invited to Finland’s World Junior evaluation camp later this month.
Miko Matikka: right wing, 6-foot-3, 187 lbs. (Finland) – Is committed to play at the University of Denver next season.
Viktor Neuchev: left wing, 6-foot-2, 165 lbs. (Russia)
Otto Salin: RH defenseman, 5-foot-10, 178 lbs. (Finland) – Has been invited to Finland’s World Junior evaluation camp later this month.
Danil Zhilkin: center, 6-foot-1, 196 lbs. (OHL, Guelph) – If nothing else, the Kings previously drafted Dustin Brown out of Guelph. That turned out OK. From Elite Prospects, “In some games, Zhilkin showed that he could anticipate the rotation of players on the ice and plan his moves accordingly, an ability that lead to us bumping his hockey sense grade as high as a seven for parts of the season, a mark that would place him among the smartest players in the draft.”
If they pick up an extra late third round or early fourth round pick
Simon Forsmark: defenseman, 6-foot-2, 191 lbs. (Sweden)
Elias Salomonsson: defenseman, 6-foot-1, 183 lbs. (Sweden)
Matthew Seminoff: right wing, 5-foot-11, 180 lbs. (WHL, Kamloops) – From Hockey Prospect, “Hard working winger. Matthew Seminoff has one of the most relentless motors in this draft class. He’s a pest on the forecheck and forces mistakes from even some of the better defensemen in the WHL.”
Gleb Trikozov: left wing, 6-foot-1, 185 lbs. (Russia)
LA KINGS ROUND 4 CANDIDATES
Michael Buchinger: defenseman, 6-foot, 181 lbs. (OHL, Guelph) – Once upon a time, the Kings selected Guelph defenseman Drew Doughty. So, there’s at least that connection to fall back on. From Future Considerations, “A mobile, two-way defenseman who possesses great four-way mobility. With the puck on his stick he plays a calm game and reads the ice extremely well, he rarely wastes energy with his movements.”
Kirill Dolzhenkov: right wing, 6-foot-6, 234 lbs. (Russia) – This player will likely be gone by this point, but if he’s still hanging around, we could see LA giving him strong consideration.
Artem Duda: defenseman, 6-foot-1, 187 lbs. (Russia)
Jani Nyman: right wing, 6-foot-4, 217 lbs. (Finland) – Has been invited to Finland’s World Junior evaluation camp later this month.
Elias Pettersson: defenseman, 6-foot-2, 185 lbs. (Sweden) – Yep, same name.
AMERICAN BORN CANDIDATES
While we’re expecting a heavy dose of Canadian and European selections in the second and third round, there are still a bevy of American born players that could surface among the Kings later picks. Here are seven of the most likely, including a few high school players too:
Seamus Casey: defenseman, 5-foot-10, 173 lbs. (USNTDP U-18) – Highly skilled puck mover. Skating is his biggest asset; can beat opposing players with quickness and speed. Finds options quickly. Solid defender with skating and stick. He ran the second power play this past season, yet still put up impressive points. Some scouts will view his size and lack of physicality as an issue defensively. However, he’s headed to Michigan in the fall and will likely get stronger. Has been invited to Team USA’s World Junior evaluation camp later this month.
Kenny Connors: forward, 6-foot-1, 190 lbs. (USHL, Dubuque Fighting Saints) – Had a great second year in USHL. Was the top defensive center in league yet played a nearly point-per-game pace. He’s smart, competitive, and great on the penalty kill. Overall, scouts tell us he’s shown significant improvement this year and he’s an easy player to like because he impacts all 200 feet of the ice. High character kid that is going to be in a good development situation at U-Mass. Consider him a sleeper pick and very underrated. Has also been invited to Team USA’s World Junior evaluation camp later this month.
Jack Devine: forward, 5-foot-11, 177 lbs. (University of Denver) – Smart, offensive player. Has very good hands and a nice release. Has that natural feel for the game and his instincts for the game are pro level. Skating is a bit of an issue, as he lacks strength and appears to break down occasionally. Just looking at stats, this past season was a tough year for him. He was playing in college hockey’s top conference, yet he still found a way to impact games, despite limited opportunity and mins. Has been invited to Team USA’s World Junior evaluation camp later this month.
Michael Fisher: defenseman, 6-foot-2, 198 lbs. (Massachusetts High School) – There might not be a better skating rear guard in Draft. He’s an athletic defenseman that occasionally dominated at his level of prep-school play. Can move pucks, but projects more of a skating defensive d-man. Very raw at this point in time. Scouts say to expect him slotted in all over the place, as teams will have him anywhere from the second to seventh round on their lists. Will his skating and tools translate at the highest level? Opinion on that will ultimately determine who and where he’s taken.
Adam Ingram: forward, 6-foot-2, 161 lbs. (USHL, Youngstown) – He’s sort of come out of nowhere this past season. A tall and lanky winger with a great release and skill set, he’s dangerous with the puck on his stick in offense situations. Had a great first-half and below average second-half this season. He’s on the weaker-side physically at the moment and it showed down the stretch. His game without the puck needs some work; something fairly common with mid-to-late round picks. His game is a bit raw, yet he’s headed to St Cloud State next and they have an outstanding development track record. Even so, he’ll still need to get stronger before he can ever play pro hockey.
Dominic James: center, 5-foot-11, 165 lbs. (Univ. of Minnesota-Duluth) – Plays fast and hard, always on pucks and under sticks. He’s tough to play against. Keeps improving too, as he gained strength this past summer. His game without the puck and ability to disrupt on the forecheck, as well as defensively, is rather impressive. Energy-type player that has enough skill to contribute, primarily due to the fact he attacks the net. It’s no big secret that Duluth has success with guys like this. Has also been invited to Team USA’s World Junior evaluation camp later this month.
Ben MacDonald: forward, 6-foot-0, 180 lbs. (Massachusetts High School) – Good all around player who makes players around him better. He impacts both ends of the ice and creates a lot of plays with the puck. Skates well, plays quick, and was one of the better prep players this past season. Despite being physically weak and underdeveloped, he has a good sense and feel for the game. He’s headed to the BCHL next year, prior to joining Harvard in 2023-24. His dad won the Hobey Baker Award.
LA KINGS PREDICTIONS: GOALTENDERS
We are not expecting the Kings to select a goaltender with one of their current selections at the 2022 NHL Draft. If they do, it will most likely come via an extra pick they were able to acquire in rounds 5-7. Even then, we’d say the likelihood is less than 20% they’ll add a netminder from the 2022 Draft class.
For a look at the Kings current goaltending depth chart, see our in-depth rankings and scouting notes here.
If you missed our NHL Draft Predictions article last year, it’s linked below for easy reference.
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