The Kings have completely rebuilt their franchise up front with draft picks, but the questions remain on how long it takes this group to grow together to become a contender. One day, pundits may look back to the 2005-2008 drafts as the reason for all their success - if the assets are managed with care. The core of the team is built around Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar and if they can have some success at developing defencemen and goaltenders, the sky is the limit for this organization. The change in philosophy on how prospects are evaluated and developed under the guidance of Dean Lombardi and his hockey operations staff is the main reason for optimism. The salary cap and the restriction it puts on an organization's ability to buy players increases the value of evaluating prospects. That being said, the Kings may be on the forefront with a new way to determine which prospects are more likely to develop into NHL players for the long term. The Kings arguably have the most talent and depth in terms of prospects in the NHL, so now it is up to player development and the prospects themselves to fulfill that potential.
Up front, the Kings are fortunate to have Oscar Moller, Wayne Simmonds and Teddy Purcell make the jump to the NHL earlier than expected. Right behind them and knocking on the door are Trevor Lewis and Brian Boyle, who both could be ready for full time duty in the NHL next season. With a strong group of forwards ahead of them it will give Bud Holloway, Geordie Wudrick, Rob Czarnik and Bryan Cameron the time to develop without being rushed. Former 2004 first-round pick Lauri Tukonen has gone back to Finland after three seasons in the AHL, as he did not progress at the level that his talent suggests.
With Jack Johnson being a permanent fixture on the blue line, the focus is now on developing the next wave of defencemen. It starts with rookie Drew Doughty, who has impressed many with his ability to process information at an elite level so early in his career. Some thought that taking Thomas Hickey fourth overall in 2007 was too high, but I was not one of them. He has all the intangibles to be a top-three defenceman. The other two are rugged Colten Teubert (who takes pleasure in inflicting pain and intimidation to his opponents) and the smart and savvy Russian Vyacheslav Voynov. Towering pivot Brian Boyle has played some defence and could be a dominating force if he can make the difficult transition so late in his development.
The goaltending position looks the most promising with likes of Jonathan Bernier, Jeff Zatkoff and Jon Quick (who has had solid rookie season in the NHL thus far). The evolution of Quick may allow the Kings to be more patient with the rest of their netminders and it could pay dividends in the future. Bernier and Zatkoff are expected to continue their development and play another year in AHL or ECHL next season. Both netminders at times look dominant and unbeatable this season so the healthy competitive battle in the future will be a boon for the Kings.
1. Drew Doughty - Defence, 19 (1st round 2nd overall 2008)
Currently with LA (NHL)
His offensive instincts, passing ability and hockey sense are at an elite NHL level and he has the capability to become a premier threat. He is a strong skater with a burst to lead the rush out of his zone and has surprising quickness and agility for a stocky defenceman. His main weapon is his heavy accurate wrist shot, which goes along with a heavy right-handed slapshot from the point. He rarely telegraphs his shot and he makes good decisions on the point with the puck once he has gained the zone and he always manages to get the puck on net. Once he figures out all the little nuances of the game - like keeping his head on a swivel, moving his feet and getting his stick in the lanes - he should be fine. He logs a tremendous amount of ice time, is on the ice in all crucial situations and shows poise. He must work on his off-ice conditioning, as he can get a little heavy which will hurt his endurance and cause more breakdowns at the NHL level. Overall, he is accountable on and off the ice, a clutch performer in the playoffs and is coachable with All-Star potential written all over him.
2. Jonathan Bernier – Goalie, 20 (1st round 11th overall 2006)
Currently with Manchester (AHL)
The highly-talented netminder played four seasons in QMJHL and is a rookie in the AHL despite only being 20. He's an athletic and mobile netminder who has proven his ability to shut down elite opponents and steal games for his team. He's extremely athletic and has the ability to make the tough stop look easy when everything breaks down in front of him. A compact netminder with consistent fundamentals, he remains square to the shooter, maintains his angles and plays the percentages in his hybrid style. Most importantly, he has shown the poise and competitiveness to become an elite goaltender at the next level. He has looked good in his rookie season so far, with a 19-19-3 record with his 2.44 goals-against average and .911 save percentage. The crease could get real crowded if Bernier has a good camp and preseason next year, as that may cause a trade. He has the ability to play at the NHL level but it might be better if he played another full season in the AHL. His brief taste at the NHL only spurned his desire to get back their full time and Bernier is considered the goaltender of the future.
3. Jonathan Quick – Goalie, 23 (3rd round 72nd overall 2005)
Currently with LA/Manchester (NHL/AHL)
He has the ability to make crucial saves to give his team a chance to win. Quick shows good overall technique and generally has good rebound control. Has good size at 6 foot 1 and 200 pounds and has adjusted to playing more games than he did in previous years in college. It remains to be seen whether he can maintain his consistency with a longer schedule and work load. His work ethic and poise has allowed him to ascend quickly through the ranks as second year pro. He communicates well with his defencemen and can handle the puck to assist them against the forecheck. As a rookie pro netminder in 2007-2008, Quick played in ECHL and the AHL. He had a very respectable record (23-11-1) along with decent numbers with a 2.79 goals-against average and .905 save percentage in the ECHL. In the AHL, he posted an 11-8 record and a 2.32 GAA with a great .922 save percentage. This season, Quick started in the AHL playing 14 games before getting a shot at the NHL where he has taken over the No. 1 role. All eyes will be on Quick at the beginning of next season to see shows the signs of taking his game to another level.
4. Thomas Hickey – Defence, 20 (1st round 4th overall 2007)
Currently with Seattle (WHL)
He's the most underappreciated player going into the 2007 draft, perhaps due to a combination of his size (at 5 foot 11 and 185 pounds) and the fact he plays in Seattle with little press. The first thing you notice is his hockey sense and skating ability, as Hickey reads the play quickly and puts himself in a positive position. Despite his size, he plays with an edge and showed his toughness going toe to toe with Vancouver Giants tough guy Garet Hunt. He has good puck skills and can make nice breakout passes to create time and space for his teammates. He has the ability to quarterback the power play with poise and delivers a consistent playable shot from the point. He is strong in his own zone, works hard to maintain body position and keeps the proper angles while getting his stick in passing lanes. He put up 174 points in 257 games in the last four years in the WHL. In international competition, he played on the top shutdown duo with Luke Schenn at the WJC for Canada and captained Canada to gold the following year in 2009 (paired with Kings draft pick Colten Teubert), so Kings fans have something to look forward to.
5. Oscar Moller – Right Wing, 20 (2nd round 52nd overall 2007)
Currently with LA (NHL)
He surprised many by earning a roster spot in the NHL and playing well as a rookie before taking a quick break to captain the Team Sweden at the WJC to a silver medal. Although smaller in stature, the 5 foot 11 and 180 pound winger proved he could succeed in the tougher style of game by playing in the WHL the last two seasons. In 131 games in the WHL, he posted 152 points with Chilliwack and played well in the postseason with six points in nine games. He has very good puck skills and can make nice passes to create time and space. His footspeed is better and that should improve once he gets stronger, but he is very quick and agile. The one thing that stands out is his quick accurate wrist and snap shot. He is a dangerous sniper on the power play and is responsible defensively. His WHL plus minus was impressive considering he faced the top lines on a one-line expansion squad. He should be a solid pro, as he has the intangibles and leadership needed and he just needs to take small steps in development.
6. Wayne Simmonds – Right Wing, 20 (2nd round 61st overall 2007)
Currently with LA (NHL)
The skinny 6 foot 2 and 185 pound winger has the work ethic and desire every team needs in their lineup. He shows good hockey sense and vision with and without the puck and can handle making decisions quickly. He has dangerous skating ability due to his quickness and agility while causing mismatches with his foot speed. He is a good shooter, especially on the rush and has a quick and accurate wrist shot but could use a little more zip. He has good character, leadership and moxie considering he is not the biggest player. He hustles hard on defence and uses his speed to disrupt passing lanes and jump on pucks. His WJC experience will help his development and his willingness to play a role does not get overlooked. He put up big offensive numbers in the OHL despite changing teams part way through last season - with 75 points in 60 games along with 111 penalty minutes. The fact he is a rookie in the NHL after only playing two seasons in the OHL is surprising and it shows his level of hockey sense and ability to learn and adapt.
7. Teddy Purcell - Right Wing, 23 (Free Agent 2007)
Currently with Manchester (AHL)
He has taken a strange path to this point in his young hockey career, going from the SJAHL to USHL for two seasons and only playing one season in the NCAA before turning pro. He has always produced offence wherever he played, with 138 points in 113 games in the USHL and 43 points in 40 games as a freshman at the University of Maine. He took the AHL by storm as a rookie last year, with 83 points in 67 games. He got a 10-game stint in the NHL for his efforts and did not look out of place. At 6 foot 3, he certainly has the size but needs to gain some strength on his 203 pound frame. He has shown the hockey sense, vision and puck skills to play at the NHL speed and tempo he thinks the game quickly and makes good decisions with the puck. He is an excellent playmaker, uses his linemates well is dangerous on the power play. He is a solid skater but could use an extra gear for separation and a quicker jump off the mark. He does not play a physical style, but has enough size to box defenders from the puck. He has a good quick wrist and slap shot and his right handed shot is useful on the power play. Like all young players, he must continue to work on his defensive game.
8. Trevor Lewis – Centre, 22 (1st round 17th overall 2006)
Currently with Manchester (AHL)
At 6 foot 1 and 200 pounds he has the size and skills to one become a nice addition to the Kings lineup. He has good puck skills along with the vision and hockey sense to play at the NHL level. Lewis is a fast skater with quickness and agility to change the game, especially in transition. He is decent on defence, but like all players he must to work on the nuances of play without the puck. He needs to play with a more assertive nature, which should come when he gets stronger physically. He has jumped to a couple teams and leagues over the past four years after he decided to forgo the NCAA route. He played the last two seasons in the USHL for Des Moines, where he had 97 points over 108 games. He then came to play in the Ontario Hockey League with Owen Sound with a more pro-style schedule and game. He had 73 points in 62 games and 51 penalty minutes in Owen Sound back in 2006-2007. He did have a disappointing WJC for Team USA, despite the team winning a bronze medal. In the AHL last season, he had 28 points in 76 games with a plus-3 rating and has improved his offensive production by almost double. He will most likely need another year development before he is ready to step into a regular duty in LA.
9. Vyacheslav Voynov – Defence, 19 (2nd round 32nd overall 2008)
Currently with Manchester (AHL)
A smart defenceman that uses puck possession and efficient puck movement more than brawn. The fact he is still only 19 playing at the AHL level says a lot about his moxie and level of hockey sense. At six feet and 190 pounds, Voynov will need to add some additional strength and power to his frame to be effective in one on one battles. He skates well enough to avoid full contact when he has the puck and his quickness and agility serve him well along the wall. His passing ability and vision make him able to hit forwards at full speed through the neutral zone. He gets his shot away fairly quickly and Voynov is beginning to learn that it is more important to get the puck on net than to waste time looking for the perfect play. Away from the puck, he is improving on maintaining good body with an active stick since he does not have the ice. As long as he keeps his feet moving and his head on a swivel, Voynov should not let his current size be a detriment. Once he matures, Voynov could develop into a good puck moving defenceman.
10. Brian Boyle – Centre/Defence, 24 (1st round 26th overall 2003)
Currently with Manchester (AHL)
The mammoth 6 foot 6 and 225 pound centre has decent speed and quickness and has not had too many issues adjusting to the AHL game. When he wants to, he can knock somebody out of the game with a thundering hit – but it's something that does not happen often enough. He has the puck skills and hockey sense to contribute offensively five on five and especially on the power play. The question will be how long will it take for Boyle to adjust to the NHL game and will he have enough speed and agility to make use of his size effectively. He showed offensive promise as he finished up his college career with 140 points in 159 games despite playing quite a few games on defence. He had an impressive rookie season in the AHL, where he posted 31 goals and 31 assists in 70 games along with 87 penalty minutes. He got a call up to the NHL last year and did not look out of place, scoring four goals while adding an assist in eight games. If he can find his consistency and play with greater urgency and physical presence, he could be on the Kings roster next year.
11. Colten Teubert – Defence, 19 (1st round 13th overall 2008)
Currently with Regina (WHL)
If you are looking for a throwback defensive defenceman that plays a mean, tough and intimidating style, then he is your guy. He does not show the instincts or hockey sense needed to contribute offensively at the pro level, will keep his game simple and use his defence partner to be effective. Overall, he is a decent skater who can recover defensively and his quickness and agility are improving, which will help him keep pace with the speedy forwards. He has great strength and balance on his skates and is hard to move once planted in front of the net or shielding the puck. His play away from the puck is his bread and butter, as he hustles and works hard to break to the right position and maintain gap control. On occasion, he can get caught out of position trying to make a thunderous hit but he is learning to pick his spots better and maintain control. He will need some fine-tuning when it comes to plugging gaps and measuring the speed of oncoming rushers before he makes the jump to the AHL. At times, Teubert will take some bad penalties but his teammates appreciate his toughness and sacrifice for the team since he blocks shots and gets his nose dirty. If the Kings are patient and let him develop, he could be a very reliable blueliner that will help them win some wars in the postseason.
12. Jeff Zatkoff - Goalie, 21 (3rd round 74th overall 2006)
Currently with Ontario/Manchester (ECHL/AHL)
A lanky goaltender at 6 foot 2 and 180 pounds, he has shown the potential to become an NHL netminder if he stays on this developmental path. He had put up great numbers in his three years at Miami with a record of 55-21-5 along with a 1.96 goals against average and a .927 save percentage. He shows good mechanics, positioning and moves well laterally post to post and is very tough to beat downstairs. He has good athletic ability and has the agility and flexibility to make tough saves. His rebound control is very good but he needs to work on his shot recovery. He will need to add strength and power to his frame as the more games played will result in mental lapses due to fatigue. Currently he is playing in the ECHL as he needs to play more games than if he was in the AHL this season. He will need a couple years in the AHL to mature as a netminder, so that gives the Kings time to sort out their depth.
Los Angeles Kings - NHL Entry Draft Record (1997 - 2003)
When looking at the drafting and developing record of a NHL organization it becomes an interesting blend of statistics and circumstances with perhaps some luck thrown in for good measure. Most of the time the General Manager receives kudos for a teams fortunes at the draft table when in reality it is usually never the case in today's NHL. For the most part there are three aspects that make the whole process work; first is the amateur scouting department's ability to evaluate and project talent which may be the most challenging of all. Next the organizations player development department must attempt to mold the prospects by giving the players tools to enhance his talents. Perhaps most importantly is the prospects responsibility to pay the price and sacrifice which generally requires a tremendous work ethic. If one of these aspects fails then the likelihood of a prospect turning into an asset to his organization and having a NHL career becomes remote.
The reason for the analyzing the years from 1997 to 2003 is to first give each NHL organization five years to develop their prospects as players from different leagues evolve differently. Secondly the years from 1997-2003 are the players that should be the building blocks of the core of your team as they will be in the 23-29 year old age range. What makes each organization unique is what they do with the picks they have as management will often trade draft choices for immediate help on their NHL and AHL teams. Now some players may be real late bloomers and eventually make the criteria set in this analysis down the road but at this stage it is fascinating to see the results.
Criteria of NHL games played that deem a player has been drafted and developed successfully.
||Forwards - Defenceman
||125-200 NHL Games required
||51-100 NHL Games Played
||100 NHL Games required
||25-50 NHL Games Played
|Pending Player - Represents a player who has a legitimate chance to make criteria
Los Angeles Kings 1997-2003
Total: 7yrs – 71 draft picks – 15 NHL Players = 21.1% success rate
Success in the first three rounds (1997-2003)
1st rnd Draft Choices: 10 total picks
Matt Zultek 1997 (1/15), Jens Karlsson 2001 (1/18)
7yrs – 10 draft picks – 7 NHL Players = 70.0% success rate
2nd rnd Draft Choices: 8 total picks
Scott Barney, Justin Papineau, Andrei Shefer, Jaroslav Bednar, Sergei Anshakov, Konstantin Pushkarev
7yrs - 8 draft picks – 2 NHL Players = 25.0% success rate
3rd rnd Choices: 8 total picks
Ryan Munce, Petr Kanko, Henrik Juntunen, Yanick Lehoux, Jason Crain, Corey Campbell, Alexei Volkov
7yrs – 8 draft picks – 1 NHL Players = 12.5% success rate
Total: 7yrs – 26 draft picks – 10 NHL Players = 38.4% success rate in first 3 rounds
First Three Rounds - Developed vs. Prospects/NA vs. Euro
Developed players: (5) North American, (5) European
Undeveloped Prospects: (5) North American, (8) European
Success in the last six round (1997-2003)
4th rnd to 9th rnd Choices: 45 total picks
7yrs – 45 draft picks – 5 NHL Players = 11.1% success rate
Shane Malloy provides hockey prospect insight and analysis on his Prospect Insider feature on TSN.ca, Canada's leading sports website. Many sports networks, hockey magazines and major newspapers have drawn upon his expertise and knowledge. His passion for the game and involvement in grass roots hockey from the junior hockey to the National Hockey League is evident. He is currently a host and hockey event reporter on XM Sirius Satellite Radio (Home Ice 204) where he co-hosts a hockey radio show on Hockey Prospects and the Business of Hockey.
Prior to joining TSN, Malloy was the columnist-covering prospects for NHL.com for two years and a NHL and prospect columnist Fox Sports.com for six years.
This document is the intellectual property of Shane Malloy and cannot be used or duplicated in anyway without expressed written consent. Any use of this document without the expressed written consent of Shane Malloy will result in public exposure and legal prosecution.