A trade! 2013 seventh round draft pick Dominik Kubalik has been sent to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Arizona’s fifth round pick in 2019. The 23-year-old Kubalik, who has a high degree of skill and has shown good finishing ability internationally and in upper-level European leagues, did not demonstrate much interest in committing to the LA Kings and hadn’t participated in training camp since September, 2013. (He did not attend development camp that year.)
An import forward with OHL-Sudbury when he was drafted by Los Angeles, Kubalik has developed well beyond his 67-game, 17-goal, 34-point 2012-13 season. Currently leading Switzerland’s National League A with 43 points (18-25=43) in 37 games with Ambri-Piotta, Kubalik also found offensive success in the Czech Extraliga with HC Plzen before joining the NLA midway through last season. He followed up a two-goal Olympic performance with eight points in eight games with the Czech Republic at the World Championship and then signed a two-year contract with his Ambri that contained an NHL out clause. He had been slotted fairly high up the Kings’ lineup board as shown at the 2017 State of the Franchise forum, but did not report to training camp in 2017 or 2018. No check-ins throughout this span gave off any encouraging omens that he’d ever be wearing team colors.
This isn’t really anything that should make you raise more than an eyebrow as of now. The team had Kubalik fairly high in a reserve listing shared at last year’s State of the Franchise meeting, but I’m yet to see much of any indication that the forward who turns 23 in August has fully committed to the organization or to playing hockey in North America again. Drafted in the seventh round in 2013 out of OHL-Sudbury, Kubalik has emerged as an intriguing young scorer in the Czech and Swiss leagues, and last season split time between Ambri and CZE-Plzen, where he was on loan, totaling 26 goals and 51 points in 45 games. He also added two goals for the Czech Republic at the Olympics, and led the Czech team with eight points (3-5=8) at the World Championship. That sounds very interesting, but having watched him against higher competition at the Olympics, and having followed his career, it’s still not quite clear what the Kings have there. I didn’t notice a ton of touches other than when he scored in PyeongChang, but given some impressive scoring rates in Europe, he’s absolutely worth bringing over at the appropriate time, should the team and player come to an agreement.
So! On one hand, that’s essentially a fifth round pick at the cost of a seventh round pick from six years ago. Nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, Chicago thought highly enough of Kubalik to acquire him in advance of his out clause – and in doing so paid a tangible price even though they, like Los Angeles, currently operate with a thrifty mindset towards trading draft picks.
Blackhawks say Dominik Kubalik will finish the season in Switzerland, where he leads the National League in scoring.
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) January 24, 2019
The Europe-based Kings prospects with unclear NHL futures often lumped together have been Kubalik and Russian forwards Nikolai Prokhorkin and Alexander Dergachyov. The Kings have been on Prokhorkin’s trail again this season and are holding a contract open for him; his current contract with SKA St. Petersburg expires after this season. While he is interested in certain protections, Prokhorkin, 25, has given the Kings assurances that he won’t sign a new contract with SKA after the season. He has 19 goals and 34 points in 35 KHL games this year.
While the Kings had also previously kept a contract spot open for Dergachyov, it wasn’t quite clear whether the 6-foot-5, 220-pound power forward fit with the overall organizational bent towards speed, skill and pace. The 22-year-old remains unsigned and has five goals and seven points in 27 games with SKA.
With the trade, Los Angeles now has eight draft picks in 2019: their own picks in each round, plus Arizona’s fifth round pick.
–Lead photo via Harry How/Getty Images