If the consensus is that this year’s draft isn’t anything special – or not “sexy,” as the question was phrased – Los Angeles Kings Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Yannetti isn’t buying it.
“I think it’s convenient when people say ‘it’s not a sexy draft,’” he said. “Next year’s draft is always the best. ‘It’s unbelievable how loaded next year’s draft is.’ If I’m being politically correct, I say it’s a defense mechanism for a lot of people.”
Defense mechanism or not, this year’s draft doesn’t contain the same heavy hitters and star-in-waiting types as the 2013 draft had in Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones, and the 2015 draft will have in heavily hyped forwards in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.
This year’s draft is “one of the most difficult in recent memory to evaluate,” as Adam Kimmelman of NHL.com wrote earlier this week. There isn’t much consensus on who could go first overall – the smart money is on Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad, if the Florida Panthers retain the pick – and the conventional thinking is that any team with a top-four pick will receive a high quality prospect.
Because many are writing that the trades, and not the players selected, are likely to be the centerpiece of attention tonight and tomorrow, and because the Kings are mostly set from a salary cap and roster standpoint, does that mean Los Angeles will experience one of the less “adventurous” weekends?
“You never know. There are just things that happen at the draft that you just never expect,” Vice President of Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel Michael Futa said. “I mean, honestly, when you look at things from a technical standpoint, it’s easy to say, ‘You know what? Solly (Jeff Solomon) did a great job. We identified the guys. We got our team signed. It’s all good. There’s no cap space.’ But you never know when something’s going to come up that’s going to make you better and get you thinking about it. So I mean in other cases, I mean what I’m hearing, it’s crazy talk about trades. But we’re never idle. If there’s a chance to get us better and make sure that we’ve got a shot at having a Cup every year, it’s something that we’ve identified as staff, and we’re talking about.”
With the 29th overall pick tonight, the Kings will look to do what they’ve done through several recent NHL Drafts – find value where there is value to be found. When they drafted 30th overall 11 days after winning the Stanley Cup in 2012, they selected Tanner Pearson. Only five players on the current roster were selected by the Kings in the first round: Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Trevor Lewis, Drew Doughty and Pearson. Instead, it’s the picks in the later rounds that have admirably filled out the roster and provided key pieces in both Los Angeles Stanley Cup runs. Kyle Clifford, Tyler Toffoli and Slava Voynov were second round picks. Jonathan Quick was chosen in the third round. Dwight King and Alec Martinez were fourth round selections in 2007.
The Kings are slotted to pick 29th in the first round tonight. As it stands now, they’ll have eight additional picks when the draft continues at 10:00 a.m. Saturday.
“The plain and simple thing is there are players who are going to play in the NHL in this draft, and there are players from the first round to the seventh round who are going to help their teams achieve playoffs and win,” Yannetti said. “So by saying ‘it’s not sexy,’ guys try to lessen their responsibilities to find the guys. It’s not a bad draft. You’ve got to find ‘em. So you can’t go Doughty-Pietrangelo. So you can’t do that this year. Stamkos. But take a look at this draft – there are some really good players in all perceived rounds.”