After the draft, Michael Futa, the Kings’ co-director of amateur scouting, gave his impressions of what happened and his thoughts on the Kings’ five picks…
Question: Could you talk about your impressions of the draft?
FUTA: “You have to put it all together, and we’re ecstatic. I know how much Dean talks about getting players in certain layers. We had the defenseman we took yesterday [Derek Forbort] far ahead of where we picked him. He had kind of given us the go-ahead, in the past couple years when we’ve been re-stocking shelves, when you’re looking for players who you hope can step in a little quicker. This year, there was not as much of an urgency. We were able to take a guy who might spend four years in school, or take a European that we’re not so worried about whether Max Kitsyn is there tomorrow. The time is now for us to be able to make moves like that.
“Tyler Toffoli, you’ll have to wait to see how things play out with the kid. The knock on this kid was that he hadn’t really started to take his conditioning as seriously as he could. I think if you go back at look at his minor-midget days, when I was in the Ontario Hockey League, I think he had 120 points, 75 goals, along those lines, as a kid who was just kind of scratching the service in regards to the importance of conditioning. Now when you talk about the development team that we have, and the program that Dean has put together, this kid is tailor-made to come in. I think he scored 37 goals last year. He played on Team Canada’s under-18 team. He has been invited to Team Canada’s national junior team program. My scout from Owen Sound is his head coach, the same guy who was the guy on Wayne Simmonds. There’s always that tributary that leads back to the right river. He coaches him in Ottawa, and he said this kid is just scratching the surface, when you start to look at the intangibles and the work ethic. I’m assuming that’s why he dropped to where we got him. We were thrilled to get the guy. His hockey sense is off the charts. He’s an exceptional goal scorer, great nose for the net, and he’s just a young kid who is still just getting it, as far as the conditioning.”
Question: Is there a risk with Kitsyn (not leaving the KHL)?
FUTA: “I don’t think there’s much of a risk. This kid has made a commitment, similar to our Loktionov situation. He has made a commitment where he wants to come over and play major-junior hockey. He has a contract right now. He’s working through it. I think there’s a good chance, and if he starts the season in the KHL, we’re not worried about it. There’s a good chance that he will, at some point, end up playing major junior, whether it’s this year or next year. We’re not going to put any pressure on him. He’s a young kid. As long as he’s getting regular ice time, playing against men, we know his goal is the same as these other young kids, like Voynov and Loktionov, to be playing over here. So we’re not worried about the risk of whether he will be here. We’re worried about getting him in the best development situation.”
Question: Is there less pressure, drafting for after an 100-point season compared to an 80-point season?
FUTA: “There’s never any less pressure when you’re working for Dean Lombardi. (laughs) You can remove all point totals and just rephrase your question. The same amount of hours went in, whether we had a five-foot walk to the podium or when you’re backing up to 19th. To have a boss like that, who never lets you have your guard down, for Mark and myself, the work ethic that is expected is off the charts. In Ontario, we’d be getting out of the office in time for Letterman. Here, I don’t even know what time we got out. We’re still looking at kids we have bunched in areas where we’re at, to see if we’re going to move up or down. We put the same amount of energy into them as we did Drew Doughty. That being said, Drew wasn’t available in this year’s draft, but it’s such an imperfect science. You try to put in what you know about their families, what you learn about the practice habits and what you learn from their coaches, and it’s the same thing.
“I think we’re very fortunate, with our staff. We have Brent (McEwen), who was a general manager in the Western League. We have Tony (Gasparini), whose father and himself are so dialed into the USHL. Myself, in the USHL. Denis Fugere had that kind of job in the Quebec League. You’ve got Todd Woodcroft, who was an assistant general manger in the KHL, and you’ve got Mark Yannetti, who is Mr. Everything. It’s not tooting anybody’s horn. I just think we’re very fortunate to have people who can get a lot of extra work done. It may not always work out, but it’s never going to be for a lack of getting resources and meeting the right people to find out what makes these kids tick.”
Question: In terms of quantity, this is probably your smallest group…
FUTA: “Dean is always saying, `You guys get so many swings, eventually you’re going to get a player right.’ (laughs) But it’s the reality of it. That’s his m.o., to give you a lot of opportunities. I think you kind of saw us cut back on the 19-year-olds, as opposed to now, where we would take a shot at a 19-year-old that we were real comfortable with, as opposed to the option of 29 other teams beating you to training camp. Now there’s a confidence that you can move picks back, and your reserve list is stronger and you can be more selective in what positions you need to hit. That being said, we invited two kids immediately after (the draft) to training camp. We’re still waiting to see if they’re coming. We invited two kids to our development camp that we had rated as fifth- or sixth-round prospects. So everybody’s list is different, but along those lines, I think we’re even more comfortable with leaving with that amount of players, knowing that we’ve still got a couple extra swings coming at different moments. So we’re very excited about it, and again, Dean has made it quite clear, in a year when people are kind of moving money for cap space and stuff like that, that we’ve got to be prepared. There’s going to be years when we don’t have a ton of picks, and we just have to be prepared. We just have to do the same due diligence that we would if we had 14. His m.o. is, `Get two players.’ If he gives us two picks, the margin for error is really low.”
Question: How does Jordan Weal compare to Toffoli?
FUTA: “A little smaller. I think he ended up third or fourth in the Western Hockey League in scoring. I would say that he’s maybe a little further ahead of Brandon Kozun at this time, just from an age standpoint. Kozun is a little older, but a similar player. Dynamic, offensive kid, a little smaller, plays hard, very strong. He’s an offensive dynamo. He kind of meets the criteria, if you’re going to take a smaller player — he’s not a really small player — but when you’re going to take a smaller player, they have to do some special things, as do Kozun and Loktionov. This kid fits the bill here.”