The LA Kings will select second overall in the 2020 NHL Draft.
It’s no longer new news, but it still feels nice to say. Immediately following Friday’s Draft Lottery, Kings General Manager Rob Blake spoke with local and national media about his early thoughts and excitement about acquiring the second overall selection, plus some thoughts on positional fit and his approach to the selection. Blake’s comments can be found here, and watched below.
In a special episode of All The Kings Men Live, LA Kings President Luc Robitaille and Director of Scouting Mark Yannetti each joined the show to give their reactions to the selection.
“It’s one of those things, you’re trying to be cool but we’re pretty excited,” Robitaille said. “We trust Mark and his staff, they’ve always gone above and beyond on figuring out who’s [got] the best character, who’s the best player. You look at what was done early on…you look at the character we’ve brought into this organization, players that it meant something to play for the Kings. You look now, and what people are talking about with our organization and the pipeline we have. We know now this gives us the opportunity to get one more player that will come into our organization, it will mean something to be with the Kings.”
Robitaille spoke to the success that Yannetti has had when it’s come to the NHL Draft, adding not only talented players into the organization, but also the right character fits for the organization. The Kings President was confident that Yannetti and his team will use the additional time between the Lottery and the Draft to turn over every stone in finding the right fit at second overall.
“Knowing these guys, what they’re going to do when it gets to the final decision, they’ve got a long time so that means Mark’s going to work really hard, I know Mark,” Robitaille said. “You talk about there’s no stone unturned, trust me, there won’t be anything unturned in the entire plan in knowing which guy is the best. We’re going to get a player that’s going to really help our franchise, and I think that Kings fans should be really happy about that.”
Looking back at the history of this selection in the Kings organization, Robitaille pointed out that the last two second overall selections have served the organization well. Drew Doughty went on to win two Stanley Cups and a Norris Trophy, while Jimmy Carson was a dynamic scorer in his two seasons with the Kings, before serving as the centerpiece for the trade that brought Wayne Gretzky to LA.
“The last guy we got second overall helped us win the cup,” Robitaille said. “He was an instrumental player, he’s still a big piece, Drew is so important to our franchise. The guy before that who went second overall was Jimmy Carson, who helped us get Wayne Gretzky. So far, the LA Kings have been pretty fortunate [picking second overall].”
Yannetti also had his own segment on the show, where he spoke to the meaning of the pick on his side of things. He talked about the thought process of there being consensus number one overall selection here in this year’s draft, likening it to the 2008 Draft where Tampa Bay selected Steven Stamkos first overall, in a scenario where even the organization came out and said they’d select Stamkos there. Sitting at number two, the Kings took Doughty, which seems like it worked out for all parties.
“Without giving away trade secrets, if you finish first, it’s a pretty easy pick this year, right,” Yannetti said. “Now, finishing second is a wonderful thing, but it opens up a lot of work. It’s a lot of good work, but it’s nice because you don’t have to sit there and wait at three or wait at four or seven and hope this guy falls to us, you’re just crossing your fingers saying please don’t pick so and so at six. It allows us a certain amount of control over our own destiny.”
While the pause in the NHL season, and the cancellation of most if not all amateur seasons across the world, as well as the combine, has put a wrinkle into scouting for this year’s draft, Yannetti noted that “90 – 95 percent” of the heavy lifting would have already been completed before what would have been the combine. He noted that almost all the work with North American players would essentially have already been done, but it takes away an opportunity to meet with some of the European prospects on a more personal level.
“It’s a little piece of information you don’t have now,” Yannetti said. “The draft combine interviews, they’re kind of like window dressing for me. It’s a chance for Rob to meet some of the guys that he wouldn’t have met during the season face to face. It’s a chance to, especially the North Americans, that work has been done. Our scouting staff has been wired to watch certain conversations, to check certain boxes in terms of interviewing and vetting these guys. 90 – 95 percent of the heavy lifting is done before the combine. The one thing you miss, is it’s a little bit hard to get all of the Europeans done during the year. Christian Ruuttu does a great job, and I get over there with Christian and we talk to them, but that’s probably the biggest piece that would be missing with the Combine, is the Europeans.”
When looking at the remainder of the team’s selections, moves made around the Trade Deadline have stocked the Kings with three second round selections in 2020, plus additional picks in the third and fourth rounds. With extra picks in recent seasons, and positive selections at those slots, Yannetti said that it becomes a possibility to trade up if the right player was available, or to be more aggressive with selections, considering the depth already within the system. He mentioned Arthur Kaliyev as a possibility in a similar situation last year, but the team took a “calculated risk” and got their guy without spending draft capital.
“The stockpile of talent does a couple of things,” Yannetti said. “It allows us to maybe be a little more aggressive in some of the things that we’re doing, since you have a cushion to fall back on. For me, what it says is we’ve got a lot of good prospects, and a lot of guys to fill certain roles. Maybe, with the depth of our prospect pool, maybe you can argue that you do package some of those picks to get a higher level player, since we have a lot of good level players. Instead of blanketing three second picks, maybe you try to get a higher level guy and take two guys off the board and not worry about…in terms of depth we have a lot of prospects.”
Lastly, a couple additional links after Friday’s news –
– ESPN deemed the Kings a “Draft Lottery Winner”, with prospects analyst Chris Peters calling the Kings prospect pool “one of the deepest” in the NHL, while also noting that the player selected second overall could immediately jump to the top of that list. Down Goes Brown with The Athletic placed the Kings in the same category in his Winners/Losers recap.
– Blake discussed a group of “3-4 players” that would be heavily looked at with the second overall pick. Various outlets including ESPN, Sportnet, The Athletic and NHL.com had the Kings taking one of Quinton Byfield or Tim Stutzle in the first round. But there’s a lot more time for that later as things become clearer.
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