The 32-in-32 Series is an annual event here at DobberProspects! Every day in August we will be bringing you a complete breakdown of a team’s Draft, and insights into their off-season movements thus far. Following this up in August, we will dive into every team’s prospect depth chart with fantasy insights and implications for the upcoming seasons. Check back often, because we plan on filling your hockey withdrawal needs all off-season long!
For the second consecutive year, Los Angeles went without a pick in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft and were left mining for gold mostly outside of the top-64 picks. Rob Blake and Co. did well to address the need to replenish the system with limited assets after cashing out on a few young players in moves to reap value and to upgrade the main roster.
Sean Durzi was traded for a second-round pick from the Arizona Coyotes to free up a roster spot while creating salary cap space. Rasmus Kupari and Gabriel Vilardi were sent to Winnipeg in the deal that sent Pierre-Luc Dubois to Los Angeles. And Helge Grans was sent to Philadelphia in the move that got Cal Petersen’s contract off the books. Along with these moves, they left several prospects unqualified for RFA status, leaving them to hit unrestricted free agency early. This has allowed them to both optimize salary cap space and get some breathing room under the maximum contract limit, which created an exceptional amount of organizational flexibility.
As the Kings enter their competitive window, these types of moves could become a more frequent occurrence as teams are always trying to optimize their rosters and garner value from every corner of the organization. This is something Blake has done well over the last few seasons, and the 2023 offseason has been no different.
Round Two, 54th Overall – Jakub Dvorak, LD
The greatest challenge in building a contender is adding players who can be the X-Factor to get you over the hump at critical moments. But a competent supporting cast is equally important in building a sustained window. Jakub Dvorak brings an intriguing blend of size and vision into what could be a future staple on a pairing with stud prospect Brandt Clarke. A responsible defender with a 6-4 frame, Dvorak’s surprisingly dynamic ability to see the ice and commit to a responsible first pass to start a breakout will mesh well with the style the Kings are looking to play in the coming years.
Round Three, 78th Overall – Koehn Ziemmer
Ziemmer is exactly the kind of player to swing for in the third round if you’re looking to take a shot for the fences. After a spectacular season saw him put up 41 goals and 89 points through 68 games, Ziemmer is looking like another gem unearthed by Blake and Co. He fits the new age Kings mould of playing quickly and deadly along the perimeter and around the net and will almost certainly make an impact. He fits the mantra of a strong supporting member of the cast and if he can form a chemistry with the other assassins in the lineup, watch out. LA may have just found another stud.
Round Four, 118th Overall – Hampton Slukynsky
Slukynsky was an odd selection for the Kings, as he has spent most of his time playing at the high-school level. In 2022-23, he posted a strong 1.47 goals-against-average and a 0.941 save percentage. This earned him a few looks with the U.S. National Training and Development Program and one start for Team USA at the Under-18 World Championships. His 6-1 frame and aggressive style complement each other, while his athleticism covers the bottom portion of the net. Outside of Erik Portillo, the Kings are thin on younger goalies with the ceiling of an NHL starter, and that is what they hope they found in Slukynsky.
Round Five, 150th Overall – Matthew Mania
Mania is a high-risk defender who creates chaos and is an upside swing for the Kings in the later part of the draft. He reads the play well and makes informed decisions to activate off the rush to create a threatening attack for his forwards. With Helge Grans out of the organization, along with Spence and Clarke looking to graduate to the NHL, the right side of the defence group looked a little thin. Mania will bring the upside left behind by those moving on or graduating, so the reward far outweighs the risk at this point in time.
Round Six, 182nd Overall – Ryan Conmy
Conmy followed the increasingly popular path of playing in the USHL for his draft year and thrived with 33 goals and 62 points in 60 games for the Sioux City Musketeers. He looks dangerous in all offensive situations, especially from along the perimeter where he can subtly sift his way to the middle to create a dual-threat opportunity. While USHL production as a draft-eligible player can show a murky picture for a player’s projectability, the upside is well worth the risk in round six, rounding out a draft with incredible upside for the organization moving forward.
C – Pierre-Luc Dubois (Trade)
LW – Mikhail Maltsev (UFA)
RW – Trevor Lewis (UFA)
RW – Hayden Hodgson (Trade)
LD – Andreas Englund (UFA)
LD – Joe Hicketts (UFA)
LD – Kevin Connaughton (Trade)
RD – Steven Santini (UFA)
G – Cam Talbot (UFA)
G – David Rittich (UFA)
C – Rasmus Kupari (Traded)
C – Gabriel Vilardi (Traded)
C – Lias Andersson (Unqualified)
C – Nate Schnarr (Unqualified)
LW – Alex Iafallo (Traded)
LD – Alex Edler (UFA)
RD – Sean Durzi (Traded)
RD – Helge Grans (Traded)
G – Joonas Korpisalo (UFA)
G – Matt Villalta (Unqualified)
G – Jacob Ingham (Unqualified)
C – Pierre-Luc Dubois (Acquired RFA Rights)
C – Anze Kopitar (Extension)
C – Jaret Anderson-Dolan (Unqualified, then re-signed)
C – Akil Thomas (RFA)
C – Tyler Madden (RFA)
RW – Samuel Fagemo (RFA)
LD – Vladislav Gavrikov (UFA)
LD – Tobias Bjornfot (RFA)
WIth lots of purging and turnover in the Kings organization, there will be plenty of new faces in the lineup with both the Kings and the Reign. With Durzi and Grans gone, the logjam on the right side of the defence has been temporarily alleviated, although there still remain questions in goal with the departure of Korpisalo, who was replaced by Talbot and Rittich. Blake and Co. are betting on the further growth of their younger stars like Byfield, Kaliyev, Fiala and to take the next step alongside newcomer Dubois. It might be a risky bet sending out a ton of depth in a year where LA is expected to enter their window of contention, but with plenty left in the pipeline, this just paves the way for other overlooked players among the likes of Akil Thomas, JAD, Madden etc to have a shot at making the opening night roster. For a team spending to the cap ceiling, they will need all the cost-effective bottom-six players they can get to have the depth necessary to make a deep run into the playoffs. Many question marks remain, but reinforcements have already bolstered the lineup, alleviating some of the offseason pressure.
Kings’ development camp began on the fifth of July where the top prospects from the organization took part while some older prospects flashed their experience to make an impression on the organization.
Aatu Jamsen, Kasper Simontaival and Otto Salin made the trip over to take part in camp, and all three looked like potential impact players by flashing their skill sets. Simontaival, however, had a few moments where he looked to have issues with the smaller ice surface, but that is an easily fixable issue and can only help playing in North America as time progresses.
Brandt Clarke was one of the bigger stars taking part in camp and looked every bit of it. From playing consistently with Jakub Dvorak and seemingly being involved in every play, Clarke’s stock seems poised to skyrocket in the coming months if it has not already.
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