31 in 31 Series, July: Los Angeles Kings
The Kings were not meant to make any big wave at the 2018 draft, holding the 20th overall selection but they still managed to do so by announcing the imminent signing of elite Russian forward Ilya Kovalchuk to a three year deal on June 23rd. Focussing back on the draft itself, the Californians went the speed and skills way with almost their entire picks. Forwards Rasmus Kupari and Akil Thomas were both regarded as higher picks then their respective 20th and 51st ultimate ranks and might qualify for steals within the next three to four year when looking back at the 2018 NHL draft. With their third pick, the Kings also made some interesting choice by opting for Bulat Shafigullin 82nd overall, a Russian forward who played most of 2017-18 in the MHL, a junior Russian league, and teared it offensively. While the regular playing time and offensive production in the NHL are still many steps ahead of them, it will be very interesting to see how these top-three-rounds selections will turn into.
The Kings then selected Aidan Dudas in the fourth round, 113rd overall, a rather small but fearless center. In the fifth round, with the 144th overall pick, The Kings opted for a 6-1 goalie from Slovakia, David Hrenak, a St. Cloud State University product. Talking again at the 165th rank, Los Angeles selected Johan Södergran, a 6-2 winger. Ten ranks later, the Kings concluded their draft with the 175th pick, Jacob Ingham, a Barrie native 6-3 goalie who played with Mississauga Steelheads last season
Round 1 – 20th Overall: Rasmus Kupari, C
The 6-1 speedy center will be a prospect to look at for the next two seasons or so. Once he adds the muscles and adapt to the North American rinks and style, he might reach the higher levels of hockey in a fashion way, but those two steps he has to accomplish are no easy ones and he remains a prospect with some risks in the long run. It would be interesting to add to his case that Kärpät HC coach in the Liiga, Mikko Manner is talking of Rasmus Kupari as a ”mix of Jesse Puljujärvi and Sebastian Aho”. His speed is not the only threat in Kupari’s arsenal as he possesses a puck control and shot release that are already very close if not already at the NHL’s level.
Round 2 – 51st Overall: Akil Thomas, C
Don’t be fooled by his size (5-11, 177) – yes Akil Thomas is a highly skilled skater with great offensive abilities, but he’s also a pretty efficient and tireless fore-checker, which makes him an interesting candidate to have a long NHL career despite his 51st overall selection at this year’s amateur draft. Wearing the ”A” at only 17 years old with the OHL Niagara Ice Dogs, his leadership attributes should also be a great help in his path towards the pro levels. Of course Thomas doesn’t come with the NHL certainty of a Svechnikov, Wahlstrom, Zadina, etc. But if you’re looking for a low risk, high rewards player to have on a deep dynasty format league, Akil is your man. Thomas scored 81 points in 68 games in the OHL last season and added 11 points in 10 playoffs contests.
Round 3 – 82nd Overall: Bulat Shafigullin, LW
Let’s get you interested in this third round selection right away by mentioning the fact he had a better points-per-game ratio than Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov at same age in the Russian MHL. Now, the 6-1 Left Wing has a long and difficult way ahead of him if he even hopes to match Kucherov’s NHL statistics, but it’s still something to look at. His lack of international play so far puts him at risk in the long term also, but the talent seems to be there. Shafigullin deploys very high scoring skills but will need to work on his passing game and will definitely need to improve on his vision on smaller North American rinks, if he ever make the trip oversea.
Round 4 – 113th Overall: Aidan Dudas, C
Another speedy centers made his way among the Kings’ draftees. Dudas knows how to skate, but can also battle for the puck in both physical and slick ways. With 65 pints in 68 OHL games last season, the Parry Sound, CAN native also represented Canada at the U-18 WJC and Hlinka Memorial. Another season in the OHL will tell us a little about his professional hockey potential and fantasy upside.
Round 5 – 144th Overall: David Hrenak, G
After an interesting first season in North America, registering a 2.24 GAA and .923 save percentage with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL, the Slovakia native kept it up in the NCAA while playing for the St. Cloud State University and showing a 2.11 GAA and .919 save percentage in 25 games.
Round 6 – 165th Overall: Johan Södergran, RW
At 6-2 and 205 lbs, the right winger already has the size and a little bit of experience playing with men as he scored 33 points in 37 games in the Sweden SuperElit league, but then failed to registered a single point in 20 games in the SHL last season. He’s a long project, but he’s also seen as a very mature player and wouldn’t be the first player to erupt from the latest rounds and become an NHLer. Södergran displays a smooth skating and is highly capable to physically fight for the puck anywhere on the ice.
Round 6 – 175th Overall: Jacob Ingham, G
Showing a great size at 6-3, 191 lbs, Ingham will enter the Kings’ prospects family with very little to lose and very little pressure to crack an NHL lineup, being a 6th round selection. Last season, he compiled a 3.65 GAA and .880 save percentage in the OHL.
Development Camp Notes
For sure, Gabriel Vilardi was the main attraction at this summer’s development camp in El Segundo, CA, but Jaret Anderson-Dolan was among the most notable performers right at the beginning with great speed and high-pace making moves. Rasmus Kupari also showed his tremendous skating abilities and sixth rounder Johan Södergran impressed as a surprisingly mature and skilled player. Vilardi’s experience with the organization was greatly appreciated by first timers such as Akil Thomas and Kupari.
Kale Clague also showed why he shouldn’t be forgotten when trying to predict the Kings’ opening day roster with great puck moving and transition game forces. Next step for the young Kings will be the rookie camp and there are strong possibilities that a rookie tournament happens between prospects from the Kings, Golden Knights, Coyotes, Avalanche, Sharks and Ducks somewhere in mid-September.
Here’s a look at the LA Kings’ 2018 development camp roster, including invitees, from lakingsinsider.com
Main image courtesy of stmed.net