July 31-in-31: LA Kings

by Julian Mongillo on July 14, 2019

 

 

Draft Review

The Kings entered the draft lottery in the number two spot with a 13.5% chance to receive the first overall pick. After the lottery, the Kings had secured the number five overall pick heading into the draft moving down three spots. Opting to become sellers last season after an underwhelming year the Los Angeles Kings stockpiled a plethora of draft picks via trades accumulating a total of nine selections in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. With the Kings looking for a youth movement and injection of speed and skill into their lineup they continued to restock the cupboards with top end prospects adding to an already very talented group of young guns in the system. The Kings organization is very center heavy and lacks wing depth specifically on the left side. Considering it is easy for a center to adjust to playing on the wing the lack of wingers can still be rectified within the organization. The Kings also have great defensive prospects but elected to continue to improve the back end by selecting four defensemen this year, as everyone knows good defenceman are at a premium. See the complete list of selections at this year’s draft below.

 

Round 1, 5th Overall – Alex Turcotte, C

One of the nine highly touted American born prospects that were selected in the first round was a product of the USNTDP Alex Turcotte. The young center is highly skilled and most known for his two-way game. He has elite defensive play at the early age of 18 years old and is also dominant in the faceoff circle. Turcotte has a good balance of skill and grit and is not afraid to play a tougher style game and get to the dirty areas to make plays or score goals. Turcotte made the best of a season that saw him miss several games due to injury and illness however, he still managed to put up 62 points in the 37 games in his draft year. Turcotte has committed to play for the University of Wisconsin next season meaning he will not be able to attend training camp this year as he will not have an NHL contract. He will likely see out the year in the NCAA until making the jump to pro hockey in 2020-2021. Although the Kings have great depth in the system at the center position the Kings were able to get a high-end talent and picking that high means positional needs may not hold the same make or break decisiveness as in the later rounds. It is also important to note that he immediately becomes one of the most highly rated prospects in the Kings center depth chart and also acts as a 1B option if former first-round pick Gabriel Vilardi is unable to continue his career due to a lingering back injury.

 

 

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Check out the profile on Turcotte for news and updates here. 

 

Round 1, 22nd Overall – Tobias Bjornfot, D

The King’s second selection in the first round was Swedish native Tobias Bjornfot. The young defenseman saw most of his playing time in the SuperElit playing for the Djurgadens IF J20 team. The blueliner has great skating ability and his edges and pivots make him an extremely mobile player allows him to defend well against skilled forwards. He was highly criticized for not progressing as much offensively as many may have hoped which saw him drop in projected rankings leading into the draft. The Kings still selected him in the first round knowing the defensive upside Bjornfot is capable of. His SHL coach Robert Ohlsson praises the young D-man on his leadership saying “He wants the responsibility of leading the team, and he relishes leading others, on top of his good two-way game.” (Credit https://www.habseyesontheprize.com/nhl-entry-draft-picks-2019/2019/5/28/18640344/tobias-bjornfot-2019-nhl-draft-prospect-profile-video-highlights-stats-scouting-report-analysis) He is the type of player that doesn’t make you jump out of your seats with his flashy style but does the little things right, reads the game well, and is the type of player any defenseman would want as a partner. At the bright young age of 18, the Swede will continue to develop and mature in the SHL and hopefully find his creative side to improve his offensive production and make him an even more complete player. With the Kings not in a rush to find capable defencemen to insert into their lineup because of the consistent development of other defensive prospects in the pipeline, the organization will be patient with Bjornfot and allow him to take the necessary time to develop properly into what they hope is a top four defenceman at his floor.

Check out the profile of Bjornfot for news and updates here. 

 

Round 2, 33rd Overall – Arthur Kaliyev, RW

After sliding into the second round after being a projected middle first-round selection by many analysts leading up to the draft, the Los Angeles Kings ended Arthur Kaliyev’s slide by selecting him at number 33 overall. The young forward has spent his previous two seasons playing for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the OHL putting up 31 goals and 48 points in his rookie year, while helping his team to an OHL Championship. He quickly built on his rookie season a year later by putting up an astounding 51 goals and 102 points in 67 games at the age of 17 years-old. These type of numbers show the elite scoring threat that Kaliyev is capable of. He is an average skater but his shooting ability sets him apart from other payers. The right winger is the focal point on the Bulldogs power play on the half wall and can beat goalies with his wrist shot which is very accurate or his blast of a one-timer. He has shown signs of improvement from his rookie year in developing his playmaking ability and his creativity. The biggest knock against the 18-year-old forward is his defensive play (or lack thereof). Kaliyev is often criticized for lack of effort and indifferent attitude at times which may have been part of the reason leading to his slide in the draft. We have seen many players with lack of defensive effort with the great offensive ability still be successful players at the NHL level such as Phil Kessel and even Alexander Ovechkin before he was able to mature. The upside is immense for Kaliyev especially if the King’s organization can clean up his carefree attitude he is only 18 years old which means there is plenty of time for a player to mature and understand the game at a more complete level as he grows. With the Kings lack of wing depth, they give themselves the potential to fill a positional need with an elite scorer if all goes well.

 

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Check out the profile of Kaliyev for news and updates here.

 

Round 2, 50th Overall – Samuel Fagemo, LW

This was Fagemo’s second year being draft eligible although he was not selected last year. In order to move up to select Samuel Fagemo 50th overall, the Kings sent the number 64th and 126th overall pick to the Montreal Canadiens. The Kings Director of European Scouting Christian Ruutu had this to say regarding the Fagemo selection “Samuel was our guy in the seventh round last year. We wanted him in the seventh round, but we didn’t have a seventh-round pick” (Credit http://lakingsinsider.com/2019/07/11/fagemo-signs-three-year-elc-north-america-bound-in-2020-21/). The Kings trading up to make this pick shows the extent of the potential they see in the Swedish winger. He has proved himself in the SHL paying with Frolunda last season and was able to post 25 points in 49 games while winning both the SHL and Champions Hockey League title. His skating mechanics are often criticized because of his untraditional skating stride however, he still is able to show great speed. The 19-year-old has a shoot first mentality he is offensively gifted and can stick handle to elude defenders and has a lethal wrist shot that is very accurate. He uses his speed to drive wide on opponents and take the puck to the net. The right winger, although likes to shoot the puck, does have underrated passing ability. The 5-11 forward can sometimes get beat along the boards for pucks because of his size and is also a work in progress defensively because of his commitment to providing offense. The Kings will look for Fagemo to make strides to improve his defensive game to a point where he does not sacrifice offence for defence. With the Kings lack of wing depth especially on the left side, he will immediately become the highest ranked right winger in the LA system. He has recently signed his three year entry-level deal with the Kings that will see him play one more year in the SHL before making the jump to North America in 2020-2021. 

 

Round 3, 87th Overall – Lukas Parik, G

Selected higher than some may have suggested as he was projected to be taken in the fourth round, the Kings selected goaltender Lukas Parik of the Czech Republic with their lone third-round pick. The large 6-4 goaltender fits into the style of goaltender many teams look for when scouting, which is a large body that takes up most of the net. Parik plays a butterfly style and has a quick glove hand and good reaction time. His rebound control and athleticism are areas where improvements still need to be made. With goalie being one of the longest positions to develop and the Kings still retaining the services of franchise goalie Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen as the next man up, Parik has ample time to develop in the Kings pipeline. 

 

Round 4, 95th Overall – Jordan Spence, D

The Kings selected Jordan Spence with one of their picks in the fourth round. Known as an undersized defenceman listed at 5-10 the young blueliner has taken the QMJHL by storm last season as he posted 49 points including 43 assists which led all rookies in 68 games. Spence also claimed the QMJHL Rookie of the Year and QMJHL Defensive Rookie of the Year honours. While size is not Spence’s strong suit, his skating ability is where he is able to set himself apart from his defensive counterparts with his great speed and mobility being his primary way to close the gap and contain opponents. His offensive ability and passing is very good, however, both his wrist shot and slap shot lack strength and he will have to get stronger in order to improve those and be able to compete against the pro-level competition. Without many small puck-moving defencemen in the organization, the Kings can afford to be patient with Spence and hope the risk-reward for such a small player can pay dividends if developed correctly.

 

Round 4, 119th Overall – Kim Nousiainen, D

The Kings used their other fourth-round pick to select another undersized defenceman much like Jordan Spence in the hopes that they get ahead of the trend of finding puck-moving defenceman. The young Finnish D-man is offensively gifted and very quick skater which is what is expected as he is only listed at 5-9. He was one of the best defensemen in the Finnish junior leagues and posted 28 points in 32 games. His offensive-minded style does leave him exposed at times and will have to continue to work on his defensive game and put on some muscle to continue to see improvements. He will play in the Finnish Liiga with KalPa this season graduating him form the junior level. There is always a risk when making selections in the draft, however, there is some extra risk with Nousiainen because of his size, but the potential is definitely there for the 18-year-old and he does have the abilities to progress into a rewarding pick this late in the draft. 

 

Round 6, 157th Overall – Braden Doyle, D

At only 17 years of age, Doyle is defenseman with raw talent. He has little experience as he has been playing for Lawrence Academy where he was able to score 29 points in 28 games. The D-man is 6-0 168 lbs. and is still developing mentally and physically which makes him a great selection for a Kings team who is selecting many young, mobile puck, moving defenseman who they can afford to be patient with because of the amount of defenseman ahead of them within the organizational depth chart. He is committed to Boston University in 2020-2021 and has a lot of development time ahead of him before he’s close to being ready for pro hockey.

 

Round 7, 188th Overall – Andre Lee, LW

With the final pick, the Kings selected a big Swedish power forward in Andre Lee (not to be confused with New York Islanders captain Anders Lee). The 6-5 left winger has spent most of his career in the Swedish junior leagues recently moved to play in North America last season for Sioux Falls Stampede where he posted 35 points in 61 games. Lee has troubles with his skating speed which is expected for such a big body but does provide a lot of energy and a great net-front presence and hard shot. He is committed to the University of Massachusetts Lowell next season and will be a long term project for the Kings His playing style fits the identity of the old Los Angeles Kings mould however there is still room for large players like Lee in the league. He will have to improve in several aspects of his skating ability and there will be some growing pains but there plenty of time to develop the 18-year-old forward.

 

Development Camp:

The Los Angeles Kings Development Camp has come and gone in which most of the Kings prospects attended including all nine prospects selected at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. With many potential impact prospects having taken part many players were determined to make a splash with the hopes of making a great early impression within the organization, as lineup spots are inevitably expected to be made available at the start of the season for a rebuilding Kings team. See below for notable omissions, standout prospects, and a list of the full 2019 Development Camp roster.

Credit: http://lakingsinsider.com/2019/06/25/development-camp-roster-schedule/

 

 Standouts, Omissions and Notes:

 

  • Gabriel Vilardi did not participate in the camp and has still yet to return to the ice due to ongoing back issues. The Kings have done a good job creating depth at the center ice position in their prospect pool in the case that Vilardi is unable to return to hockey due to the injury. His status for next season remains unknown.

 

 

 

  • Another notable omission at camp this year was defenceman Kale Clague. He has developed well in his first year playing pro with the Ontario Reign in the AHL and will be among the few defensemen expected to battle for a spot on the Kings blue line this season.

 

 

  • Multiple defensemen stood out for their play including OHL teammates Sean Durzi and Markus Phillips and United States native Mikey Anderson. Durzi was able to show off his speed and ability to jump in the rush to create offense. Fellow teammate Markus Phillips who is attending his second camp with the Kings has demonstrated his progression to moving towards a defence first style of play and ability to move pucks up the ice leading to smooth breakouts. Anderson displayed his complete all-around style of defence and leadership qualities and ability to perform at a high level in any given situation. All three players were part of the starting lineups in the Team White vs. Team Black scrimmages and Durzi and Phillips were paired together. All are poised to start their pro careers this year likely at the AHL level. 

 

  • Johan Sodergran built off his impressive performance at last years camp and again put his strong play on display after inking a three-year entry-level contract back in June. Sodergran has good skating and is very strong on the puck. He has an underrated shot and the Swede also potted two goals in the last scrimmage of camp where he was a dominant presence on the ice. Simply put Sodergran said to LA insiders “I’m trying to be a power forward, using my skating ability and try to make good passes and try to score some goals, That’s pretty much it – to be a powerful forward”. Credit http://lakingsinsider.com/2019/06/26/development-camp-notebook-tuesday-wednesday-recaps-impressions-photos/

 

  • Other notable standouts this year include a forward group of Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Blake Lizotte and Rasmus Kupari. There is a lot of speed and high-end skill in this group and all had good showings. Lizotte who got a brief taste of NHL hockey making his debut last year will be the most likely of this group to force his way into the Kings opening roster. Dolan and Kupari who have yet to taste pro hockey will also present their cases to make the Kings roster out of camp however their waiver exempt status and depth at the center ice position for the Kings will likely see them start in the AHL. 

 

  • Other prospects now on the radar include Turcotte and Kaliyev who are both the new offensive toys that were selected at this years NHL Entry Draft also showed off their skills but are a few years away from becoming impact players and will require further development time.  Joseph Gareffa, Jonathan Yantsis, and Billy Constantinou were also attendees who have received praise for their play and hold the best chance to score an entry-level deal before the season begins. 

 

Off-season Moves

Qualified:

 

  • Cal Petersen (G)
  • Sheldon Rempal (LW/RW)
  • Adrian Kempe (C/LW)
  • Michael Amadio (C/RW)
  • Matt Roy (D)
  • Daniel Brickley (D)

 

 

Re-signed:

  • Alex Iafallo (C/LW) Two years – $4.85MM  

 

Incoming:

  • Martin Frk (RW) Two years – $700K
  • Joakim Ryan (D) One year – $725K
  • Mario Kempe (C/LW) One year – $700K 
  • Samuel Fagemo (LW/RW) Three-year ELC – $925K

 

Outgoing:

  • Phillipe Maillet (C) – UFA. Signed with Washington.
  • Zack Mitchell (C) – Signed with Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk of KHL.
  • Pavel Jenys (C) – Signed with HC Kometa Brno of Czech Extraliga.
  • Nikita Scherbak (LW/RW) – Signed with Avangard Omsk of KHL.
  • Jonny Brodzinski (RW) – UFA. Signed with San Jose.
  • Brendan Leipsic (LW) – Not extended qualifying offer. Signed with Washington.
  • Dion Phaneuf (D) – Buyout, currently UFA.
  • Alex Lintuniemi (D) – Not extended qualifying offer. Signed with Carolina.
  • Peter Budaj (G) – Retirement.

 

Impact of Signings

There is not much to be expected from the new arrivals this season as most of these moves were depth signings in order to fill out the organization’s depth and provide NHL experience. These acquisitions will likely protect younger players from being thrown into the NHL before they’re ready and hindering their development. There is no doubt that the Kings are amidst a rebuild and they want to create good players in-house through drafting and development. The off-season moves in the departures of several bubble player’s means opportunities for prospects to be called up and prove their worth. The buyout of Phaneuf clearly shows the organizations willingness to create opportunity and create internal competition for NHL roster spots while simultaneously creating a culture that rewards players for their hard work at each level of the game. These depth signings and players within the organization could also play a role early on in the season until the trade deadline where they are moved for assets and allow the younger core players a chance to taste the NHL.

Keep in mind the players who are waiver exempt who may appear to be NHL ready but will begin the year in the AHL due to their contract status:

    • Mikey Anderson
    • Jaret Anderson-Dolan
    • Kale Clague
    • Blake Lizotte
    • Carl Grundstrom
    • Austin Wagner
    • Sean Walker
    • Sean Durzi
    • Johan Sodergran
    • Rasmus Kupari
    • Gabriel Vilardi
    • Nikolai Prokhorkin
    • Matt Luff
    • Sheldon Rempal
    • Daniel Brickley
    • Markus Phillips
    • Cal Petersen

 

 


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Feel free to follow me at @JulzHockeyNewz for more updates on LA Kings prospects and all things hockey.