November 31-in-31: Los Angeles Kings

Julian Mongillo

2020-11-14

Los Angeles Kings logo courtesy of stmed.net

Los Angeles Kings logo courtesy of stmed.net

 

Draft Review

After being bumped down in the draft lottery in the 2018-2019 season and receiving the fifth overall selection to take Alex Turcotte, the Kings were big winners in the lottery this year moving up to second overall. That is now two years in a row that the team has held a top-five selection, which will drastically speed up the teams rebuild. The team has been in full out rebuild mode for a few years now and have been able to put together arguably the best prospect pool throughout the entire league. 

 

The team began Day 1 of the draft with a total of 11 picks in their arsenal including three second-round picks and another two in both the third and fourth round. By the end of the day, the team would add a total of nine new prospects to their pipeline. However, the buzz around the team wasn’t about the number of drafts picks they owned but rather which player they would be selecting at number two overall. With consensus number one Alexis Lafreniere going first overall the Kings had a decision to make between Sudbury Wolves forward Quinton Byfield and DEL standout Tim Stutzle. 

 

The Kings decided to select the 6-4 center Quinton Byfield second overall. This selection was a ground-breaking one making Byfield the highest selected player of color in NHL history. By selecting a potential franchise player the Kings’ future outlook is significantly brighter without even having gotten to Day Two of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

 

Round 1, 2nd Overall – Quinton Byfield, C

The aforementioned Byfield is the type of player that can turn a team around in quick succession. Although there was a push from Stutzle’s play that made the decision at this spot very difficult the upside that Byfield possesses is off the charts. 

 

The Newmarket, Ontario native dominated the OHL with the Sudbury Wolves last season with 82 points in 45 games played, scoring 32 goals. His big frame allows him to protect the puck well and drive the net hard and his advanced skillset compliments that with his scoring ability in tight. Although he is 6-4 he does not skate like it. He is a strong skater who has a combination of speed, agility, and good edges making him lethal offensively and defensively reliable. 

 

 

The fact that Byfield is only 18-years-old is even more intriguing. He is still growing meaning he could be even taller than his already measured height and still fill into his frame making him even stronger. Byfield immediately becomes the best prospect in the Kings system and with the team having a player in Anze Kopitar to mentor the young forward, he can reach new heights in his development. 

 

Byfield did not have to wait long to get his first NHL contract signing it ten days after being selected by the club. He received a three-year max entry-level deal with a base salary of $925,000 with performance bonuses making the contract worth a total of $10.725 million. Skies the limit for his potential in the NHL and there is no doubt he will be given the chance to make the team when training camps begin. Despite his high upside, it is likely he will return to junior to dominate for another year before making the jump to the pros. 

 

Round 2, 35th Overall – Helge Grans, D

Sweden is notorious for producing top-end talent on defense and the Kings may have gotten just that selecting Grans with their first, second-round selection. He is known as an offensive defenseman but, the thing that makes him so unique is the fact that he does not fit the mold of what an offensive defenseman in the NHL is today. The 18-year-old stands at 6-3 and 198lbs. with lots of room to grow. 

 

Grans is a smooth skater and can fly around the ice very well for a larger body. He is smart defensively and his reach helps him close gaps and pick out passes in the defensive zone. His good hands and skating ability allow him to skate the puck out of his own zone with ease and his big frame makes it hard to knock him off it when he’s in full flight. 

 

 

He averaged a point per game with the Malmo Redhawks U20 SuperElit League last season, before joining the Redhawks Men’s League team registering three points in 21 games. Now playing for the Redhawks men’s team to begin the 2020-2021 season Grans is off to a good start with 6 points in 11 games and should see an increased role from last season. 

 

The blueliner still has to improve in his decision making and ability to see the ice, while also improving in his own zone. He has the skillset to become a real threat at the NHL level on both ends of the rink. Despite still having some refining to do Grans has the potential to be a complete defenseman. With lots of defensive depth in the Kings’ system, he has a lot of time to round out his skills before making the jump to North America.

 

Round 2, 45th Overall – Brock Faber, D

Despite being one of the youngest players in this year’s draft class, Faber was selected after the Kings traded up from the 51st overall pick to grab him at 45th overall surrendering an additional fourth-round pick in the transaction. This pick goes to show you that the Kings didn’t want to risk missing on Faber and were focused on taking the best player available to them, not on filling positional needs. The American defenseman is another blueliner who is very mobile and skates well. His transitions are very smooth and he is able to contain his opponents well because of it. He prides himself on his defensive play and is able to lock down the defensive zone. 

 

 

A product of the USDP, Faber does not shine offensively with only 12 points in 46 games for the U.S National U18 team. However, he shows his importance on the ice with a plus 10 rating in 19 games in the USHL last season. The 18-year-old will be a freshman at the University of Minnesota where he will begin his NCAA career (once the season is running) and will make a push to make the U20 World Championship roster for the United States to showcase his abilities. 

 

Round 3, 65th Overall – Kasper Simontaival, RW

Don’t let his 5-9 and 172lbs. frame fool you, the Finnish forward plays a bigger game than his size would suggest. He has an elite skill set and can play a complete two-way game. His high-end hockey IQ and vision allow his playmaking ability to shine. Besides his playmaking, Simontaival has a toolkit that involves a lethal wrist shot that is as powerful as it is accurate, to go along with some of the best hands in this entire draft class.

 

He is a speedy skater and can be used in penalty kill situations and is defensively responsible, which makes him even more intriguing. Although he has a lot of upside to his game he will need to work on not cheating to produce on offense, which will likely come as he continues to round out his game in Finland. 

 

He was a star for the Tappara U20 team with 25 goals and 57 points in 48 games played. He is too good to return to the U20 league and has seen limited time in the Liiga appearing in four games last season and four this season. His play may not be ready for the highest stage in Finland and has since been loaned to TUTO of the Mestis League, which is the second-highest men’s hockey division in Finland.

 

Round 3, 82nd Overall – Alex Laferriere, RW

The Kings weren’t able to snag Alexis Lafreniere at the number two overall spot, so they had to settle for Alex LAFERRIERE in the third round. Laferriere is also another smaller framed winger at 6-0 that can play a bigger more physical game despite his size. He is not afraid to get to the dirtier areas of the ice and get to the front of the net to score his goals. The New Jersey native is a creative forward who can also score goals with his quick release and a wicked shot. His speed allows him to be effective off the rush and he is reliable at both ends of the rink.

 

His skating does need to improve specifically his acceleration and edgework. He led the Des Moines Buccaneers in scoring last season in the USHL with 45 points in 42 games played and is committed to the University of Harvard to continue his hockey career.  The 19-year-old winger plays the right side which is a position that lacks depth in the Kings’ organization which could cause him to get an opportunity sooner than other prospects would.

 

Round 4, 111th Overall – Juho Markkanen, G

The left-handed catching goaltender was born in Edmonton, Alberta but is currently on loan in Finland for Kettera of the Mestis League. Markkanen boasts a 2.77 goals-against average and a .890 save percentage in six starts. Goaltenders are an even bigger hit or miss in the later rounds of drafts, but what makes Markkanen stand out is his athleticism. The 6-2 netminder has a big frame allowing him to cover more of the net complimenting his strong rebound control and reflexes. 

 

He has secured a three-year deal with SaiPa of the Liiga, meaning the Kings will have ample time to see how he develops before giving him the opportunity to make his way to North America. He will be able to get starting reps through his contract tenure in Finland while continuing to fill out his frame and become more durable to be able to endure a full 82-game season.

 

Round 5, 127th Overall – Martin Chromiak, RW

There is quite a divide with how scouts viewed the Slovakian winger heading into the draft. After coming over to the OHL midway through last season to join the Kingston Frontenacs, Chromiak registered 33 points in 28 games. Some may credit his production to playing with 2022 draft-eligible phenom Shane Wright, but Chromiak has a strong skill set of his own. 

 

 

His shot is one of his best assets and his one-timer is very good making him valuable in power play situations. Although he is not a big body, he is able to establish a forecheck and go to the net to provide offense. As another one of the younger players in this draft class, Chromiak would benefit from another year in the OHL (when/if the season begins) to be able to improve some of his skating attributes and defensive zone play. 

 

Round 5, 139th Overall – Ben Meehan, D

The Kings choosing to trade up to select this blueliner shows that they view Meehan as more than just a late-round flier pick. The Massachusettes native may have slid further down draft boards than he was worthy of, due to injuries dwindling his playing time last season. Despite missing much of the season Meehan still posted 18 points for the low-scoring Cedar Rapids Roughriders of the USHL in 25 games. 

 

He is a player who always skates with a purpose whether it be to take an opponent out of a play or retrieve a puck and transition to offense. He has strong puck carrying abilities and is very poised at both ends of the ice. He can maneuver well along the opponent’s blue line and generate scoring chances with his ability to find shooting lanes. He is committed to playing at the University of Massachusetts Lowell if the NCAA can find a way to carry out this season. 

 

Round 7, 189th Overall – Aatu Jamsen, RW

To wrap up the Kings 2020 NHL Entry Draft they selected another Finnish winger with their round seven lottery ticket. The 18-year-old forward is 6-2 but only 157lbs. and still needs to strengthen his frame. He is a forward who is filled with raw talent and offensive upside but needs to have his skating refined and mature in his hockey sense and decision making. Fortunately for Jamsen, the Kings are in no rush to bring him over and can afford to give him the proper time to mature. He is off to a hot start this season with 28 points in 16 games for the U20 Pelicans in his native Finland.

 

Offseason Moves

The Kings are one of the few teams with lots of cap room to play with heading into the free agency period but were not big spenders when free agency opened. Given the plethora of young talent in the pipeline, it is likely the Kings play out one more year before adding any big-name free agents into the mix. Although most of the Kings’ offseason moves came on draft day, they also focused on bringing back their restricted free agents. In this process, they had to say goodbye to some familiar faces in the organization and let their unrestricted free agents hit the open market, in order to make room to keep the younger players with the team. 

 

With minimal new additions to the roster, that did not stop the team from improving by making a few trades to bring in some NHL ready players. Prior to the draft, the Kings traded forward Brad Morrison to the Chicago Blackhawks for blueliner Olli Maatta. The Kings also made another deal on draft day acquiring former seventh overall selection Lias Andersson from the New York Rangers for a 2020 second-round selection (60th overall). 

 

Incoming: Olli Maatta (D), Lias Andersson (C/LW), Mark Alt (D), Troy Grosenick (G), 

Outgoing: Paul LaDue (D), Tim Schaller (LW), Cole Kehler (G), Nikolai Prokhorkin (C/LW), Kevin Poulin (G), Chaz Reddekopp (D), Sheldon Rempal (RW), Joakim Ryan (D), Trevor Lewis (RW), Ben Hutton (D)

Re-Signed RFA’s: Matt Luff (RW), Mikey Eyssimont (C), Austin Wagner (RW/LW), Carl Grundstrom (LW), Sean Walker (D), Austin Strand (D), Bokondji Imama (LW)

 

Players like Matt Luff and Austin Wagner should have their eyes on an NHL roster spot after re-signing with the team. They have been between both the NHL and AHL through the past three seasons and were both extended as restricted free agents. This may be their last opportunity to prove they’re ready for the NHL and if they don’t make that statement soon they may be surpassed on the depth chart by some of the rising prospects.

 

Sean Walker was also extended this offseason because of a strong 2019-2020 campaign after previously splitting time between the AHL and the NHL. His 24 points in 70 games last season earned him a new four-year extension with an average annual value of $2,650,000 million. This basically seals his spot as one of the Kings starting six defensemen for the 2020-2021 season.

 

Maatta for Morrison Swap

The Maatta for Morrison deal seems like a clear win for the Kings. Morrison has yet to appear in an NHL game in his career, spending his time in the pros between the ECHL and AHL. At 23 years-old he may still be a serviceable player, but with so many young centers in the organization, he was expendable. 

 

The Kings get back a 26-year-old defenseman who plays an all-around game and is under contract until the end of the 2021-2022 season. Maata is a player who can provide help in all situations and although the Kings aren’t cap-strapped comes at a good salary value ($3,333,225 million) for what he can provide. The Finnish rearguard has put up 124 points in 427 career games, while also accumulating 78 games of playoff experience. This acquisition looks like it can be a good move to get an experienced player to help mentor and shelter the young defenseman coming through the ranks in the coming years. 

 

Lias Andersson Acquisition

The Kings made another significant trade to acquire