Bringing you a little blog to help coup with the Sunday scaries that are most likely setting in right about now. God knows they hit me already...
Los Angeles did a good job restocking the kingdom at the 2019 NHL Draft and took home two potential game changers in the first round.
BTW - how about those weird dances they made the draftees do after getting picked? Funny and brutal. Haha.
Round 1, 5th Overall: Alex Turcotte (18), C, 5'11" 185 lbs, Shoots: L
Easy choice for Blake and co. when Alex Turcotte fell to the #5 spot. He's projected to be a top-six center and compared to Brad Marchand for his pest/agitating and ability to be physical, which is always a plus. USNTDP U18 coach John Wroblewski described him as "sandpaper and silk" and a guy that possesses high hockey IQ.
He's regarded as not having one particular standout trait, but, rather, an all-round/well-rounded game with no major weaknesses. He has a strong 200-foot game and can run the PP. Equipped with good vision to find and setup teammates, Turcotte find the back of the net for himself. Alex Tanguay described him as:
"Let's put him as a mixture between Jonathan Toews and Brayden Point."
The Kings have been weak down the middle and are in desperate need of development in this position - as some centers drafted end up transitioning to wing as they adapt to the speed and skill of the pro game. Having Turcotte become a true center, with a scoring touch, would be major.
He missed time due to a hip injury and mononucleosis, but still managed to amass 62 points in 37 games with USNTDP. Pretty nasty.
He's committed to the University of Wisconsin, but many folks feel he'll spend a year or two there before turning pro.
Round 1, 22nd Overall: Tobias Bjornfot (18), D, 6', 203 lbs, Shoots: L
While some people were bummed on this pick (as they felt they could have gotten him later), I love it. I'm also bias because I'm a defenseman, too. Regardless, I think this is a seriously solid pickup.
This was considered a "safe" pick by most experts and an example to me of a part of the game that is often overlooked: leadership and simplicity.
The game is changing so rapidly that many people are caught up in speed and scoring - rightfully so, since you need to score to win and you need speed in the evolving NHL; however, you need guys within that locker room to get everyone one the same page. Blake and Kings brass were apparently drawn to Bjornfot's character and his ability to captain the Sweden's U-18 team to gold in 2018.
He apparently won't dazzle with his shot, but he makes up for it with his skating (something the Kings were adamant about this year with their picks) and defensive ability. I love that second part in particular. There's been a huge shift in balance and offensive prowess that has really taken center stage - with many blue liners playing more like forwards than defenders. I like the idea of getting a defensive-minded guy who keeps things simple and is more concerned with shutting down his opponents than scoring goals. That mentality can only be a good thing when you're on a team that was 10th worst in the league for goals against with 259...
I think Jewels From The Crown
summed up the Swedish defenseman nicely with the below blurb. Check out the quote from his SHL coach in the column, too. Good stuff.
"Not flashy or showy like others in the league, Björnfot is content to simply get the job done. And for a team with rumored locker room and culture issues, a little humility can certainly go a long way—especially with management. The Swede appears to have a pretty high hockey IQ, so perhaps one day he can be the next Willie Mitchell: a solid, quiet leader who did his job and was the backbone of the team’s successes in 2012 and 2014."
I think if they can keep building up the front end for scoring and let the defense focus on their job, things will be a lot better.
For the remaining prospects, I thought it would be good post links from LAKINGSINSIDER.com - as they have fantastic breakdowns of each guy.
Round 2, 33rd Overall: Arthur Kaliyev (18), RW, 6'2" 190 lbs, Shoots: L
This dude is going to be interesting...Surprising he fell this far. He's a natural goal scorer with an nasty shot, but I read he has a "quite" playing style. That apparently translates to him disappearing from the opposition/play and then reappearing to score. Sounds like he's a ghost (in a good way) I mean...if that's his game, that's his game. It's worked for him so far. If he can get to the NHL level and do it there and find success, without hurting the then team, then it's all good.
Round 2, 50th Overall: Samuel Fagemo,(19), LW'RW, 5'11", 194 lbs, Shoots: L
Round 3, 87th Overall: Lukas Parik,(18), G, 6'4", 185 lbs, Catches: L
Round 4, 95th Overall: Jordan Spence (18), D, 5'10", 165 lbs, Shoots: R
Round 6, 157th Overall: Braden Doyle (17), D, 6', 168 lbs, Shoots: L
Round 7, 188th Overall: Andre Lee (18), C/LW, 6' 5", 205 lbs, Shoots: L
Overall Draft Grade: A
I think the Kings pretty much nailed it this year. It's a good mix of kids and a HUGE pickup with Turcotte - who addresses an organizational need at center.
I think they stuck to their plan of scooping up strong skaters with guys like Bjornfot, Spence and Lee, etc. Along with guys who can score like Turcotte, Kaliyev and Fagemo. Obviously the latter being sorely needed, but recognizing the need to be able to keep up in the modern game - which will only continue to get faster.
Now the next chapter begins...hoping the organ-I-zation can help give these guys the tools, and the players' own responsibility, to develop into NHL talent, or serviceable pieces that can be used as trade bait.
With the draft over, everything shifts to free agency, but I can't imagine the Kings will be very active in terms of bringing pieces in. We know they need to shed some salaries if doable and I would imagine picks and prospects will be the return.
Interestingly enough, Blake alluded to some of this in an interview where he said the below when asked about what work is on the horizon for LA in terms of free agency:
"Work's been ongoing in getting these players signed, getting this draft signed, but as far as expecting a move in free agency, I'm not sure there's any real need on our aspect right now. We've got our forwards and D in place."
And so the kids will truly get their shot, which is good. I don't think the Kings of 2019-20 will be the Kings of 2018-19. Too many good players and vets to let that happen again and with the change behind the bench and a fresh mentality, I hope they can get going in the right direction.
Read the rest of Blake's interview here
, where he covers everything from the draft, development camp, Leipsic, Lintuniemi, Kempe and beyond.