LA Kings Take Some Risks In 2010 NHL Entry Draft
June 28, 2010 10 Comments
DRAFT COVERAGE — Frozen Royalty concludes its coverage of the 2010 National Hockey League Entry Draft with a wrap-up of the Los Angeles Kings’ selections in rounds 2-7 on Saturday, June 26, 2010, along with other notes from draft weekend. Includes audio interviews.
LOS ANGELES — On the first day of the 2010 National Hockey League Entry Draft, held at Staples Center in Los Angeles, June 25-26, 2010, the Los Angeles Kings stepped out of their well-established comfort zone by selecting prospects who had the potential to make it to the NHL level later rather than sooner.
The second day was no different than Friday’s first round (see A Sign Of Progress For LA Kings: 2010 First Round Pick Derek Forbort), as the Kings continued to roll the dice in rounds 2-7 on four prospects who will need significant development time.
SECOND ROUND – Center Tyler Toffoli
In the second round, the Kings sent a second round pick (49th overall) and a fourth round selection (109th overall) to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Colorado’s second round pick (47th overall).
The 18-year old native of Toronto scored 37 goals and added 42 assists for 79 points with 54 penalty minutes in 65 regular season games this past season. He also tallied seven goals and six assists for 13 points with ten penalty minutes in twelve playoff games.
Toffoli, who was ranked 16th among North American skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau (CSB), scored 17 goals and contributed 29 assists for 46 points with 16 penalty minutes in 54 regular season games in the 2008-09 season. He also added two goals with six assists for eight points with four penalty minutes in seven playoff games and was named to the OHL All-Rookie Team that year.
In international play, Toffoli won the gold medal while representing Canada in the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Tournament, scoring three goals with five assists for eight points in four games.
“I’m really excited and I heard that there’s a [development] camp this week, so I’m really excited to get back here with all my gear and show the Kings what I can really do,” Toffoli told reporters after he was selected by the Kings.
Toffoli was a potential first round selection, but had to come back for day two of the draft before his name was called.
“It’s definitely hard waiting overnight [after the first round],” he noted. “It’s something you think about, being a first round pick. But I knew that, eventually, somebody’s going to really want me and, fortunately enough, it was Los Angeles and I’m really excited.”
“You never know what could happen on draft day,” he added. “I’m really happy to be drafted here.”
The likely reason Toffoli dropped to the second round is concerns about his conditioning.
“Tyler Toffoli—you’ll have to wait to see how things play out, but the knock on this kid was that he hadn’t started to take his conditioning as seriously as he could,” said Michael Futa, Kings Co-Director of Amateur Scouting. “When I was in the Ontario Hockey League, I think he had 120 points or 75 goals, somewhere along those lines, as a kid just scratching the surface with regard to the importance of conditioning.”
“My scout from Owen Sound is his head coach, the same guy who [turned the Kings onto winger Wayne Simmonds],” added Futa. “He coaches him in Ottawa and he just said that 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.”
Futa said that the Kings expect to get him on top of his conditioning and are not worried about his development, at least not at this time.
“When you talk about the development team we have and the program [Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi has] put together, this kid is tailor-made to come in,” Futa emphasized. “I think he scored 37 goals last year, he played on Team Canada’s Under-18 team and he’s been invited to Canada’s national junior team program.”
“We were thrilled to get him,” Futa added. “His hockey sense is off the charts, he’s an exception goal scorer with a great nose for the net. He’s a young kid who’s just getting it in terms of his conditioning.”THIRD ROUND – Jordan Weal
Weal, a native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, scored 35 goals and tallied 67 assists for 102 points with 54 penalty minutes in 72 games this past season. He ended the season ranked third in the WHL in scoring and second in assists. He was also the first 17-year-old to surpass the 100-point plateau in the WHL in more than ten years and is just the fifth player in major junior hockey to tally 100 points in the last ten years in just his second year of eligibility.
Ranked 30th by CSB among North American skaters, Weal scored 16 goals and contributed 54 assists for 70 points with 26 penalty minutes in 65 regular season games during the 2008-09 season and was named a finalist for the 2009 WHL Rookie of the Year Award. He also won the gold medal playing for Canada in the 2009 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Tournament and he represented Canada at the 2010 Under-18 World Championship tournament.
“Weal ended up third or fourth in the Western Hockey League in scoring,” said Futa. “He’s probably a little ahead of [Kings’ 2009 draft pick] Brandon Kozun at this time, just from an age standpoint. Kozun is a little older, but a similar player.”
“Weal is dynamic offensively,” added Futa. “He’s a little smaller, but he plays hard and is an offensive dynamo. He meets the criteria if you’re going to take a small player, he has to do some special things. Like Kozun and [Kings forward prospect Andrei] Loktionov, this kid fits the bill.”
“[I’m] small and quick,” said Weal. “Great offensive abilities, but I really take pride in my [play in] the defensive zone as well. I’m a guy who doesn’t like to get scored on very much and I really take a lot of pride in that.”
“I’m really shifty and I can see the ice really well. I think I really make the players around me a lot better.”
Weal looked like he was going to burst from the excitement after hearing his name called.
“You think about this moment your whole life and it finally comes true,” he beamed. “All that hard work is finally starting to pay off. But it’s the start of a new beginning. I have to realize that it’s not done now. I have to keep working and keep training to be able to make it to the next level.”
Weal said that he intends to make an impression right off the bat at the Kings Development Camp this week.
“We’ve got the camp coming up,” he said. “I’m going to show them what I can do. Hopefully, I can make a first impression. I’m going to come in this year and try to make the team. But if I don’t, that’s all right. I’ll be that much closer to it next year. I’ll go back to Regina, be a big part of my team there, keep improving as a player and as a person.”
Noting that Weal is a smaller player like Kozun, physical play will be an obstacle that he must overcome.
“My greatest weakness is probably my strength, since I’m a smaller guy,” Weal admitted. “Being a smaller guy, it’s tough battling against 200-pound guys every day, but you’ve got to find ways around that.”
But Weal stressed that having to battle the big guys all the time just inspires him more.
“One of my greatest strengths [is] finding a way around [his size disadvantage] with my determination, second efforts to get to the net, to get that puck and having a never-give-up attitude when it comes to battling against those bigger guys,” he said. “[Playing in the NHL will] be a step up, but my whole life, people have always been saying that you can’t do it at the next level because you’re not big enough, you’re just going to get pushed around.”
“I’m going to train hard and I have been training hard,” he added. “I’m going to come into this year ready to go and show them what I can do.”
Weal also noted that he could use a bit more speed.
“I could probably add a little more top-end speed, straight-away speed, pulling away from guys,” he said. “I’m quick down low in corners down low in tight turns. It’s something I’ve really been working on in the summer. It’s starting to get a lot better.”
But on the plus side of the ledger, he has the offensive skill to be a serious threat, at least to this point in his career.
“I have a lot of skill and my vision is really good,” said Weal. “I really have the ability to make players around me better. I’ve been labelled as a playmaker the last few years, but I feel like I’m a goal scorer as well.”
Also in the third round, the Kings sent the 79th overall pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for the Maple Leafs’ third round selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
FOURTH ROUND – No selection
FIFTH ROUND – Kevin Gravel
The Kings used their fifth round pick to select defenseman Kevin Gravel 148th overall.
The 6-4. 185-pound native of Marquette, Michigan scored three goals and added three assists for six points with 36 penalty minutes in 53 games with the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League (USHL) this past season.
The 18-year-old also scored three goals and tallied eleven assists for 14 points with 29 penalty minutes in 58 games with the Marquette Rangers of the North American Hockey League in the 2008-09 season.
Gravel, who was ranked 70th among North American skaters by CSB, also represented the United States in the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Tournament.
SIXTH ROUND – Maxim Kitsyn
In the sixth round, the Kings sent a sixth round pick (169th overall) and a seventh round selection (199th overall) to the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for a sixth round selection (158th overall). With that pick, the Kings chose left wing Maxim Kitsyn, ranked sixth among international skaters by CSB.The 18-year-old, 6-2. 194-pound native of Novokuznetsk, Russia, scored a goal and added an assist with twelve penalty minutes in 21 games with Novokuznetsk Metallurg of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in Russia.
Kitsyn also scored five goals and contributed two assists for seven points with 26 penalty minutes in 31 games in the 2008-09 season.
Kitsyn represented Russia at the 2010 World Junior Championships, tallying three assists in six games. He also won the silver medal playing for Russia in the 2008 Ivan Hlinka Tournament.
To the surprise of just about everyone, Kitsyn made the trip from Russia, despite not being projected as a higher-round pick.
Kitsyn’s agent talked about the kind of player his client is.
“He’s a goal scorer, a power forward,” said agent and interpreter Alexander Tuijnych, who also represents Kings defenseman prospect Viatcheslav Voynov. “He uses his body around the net and is quick with a very good shot. He could play in LA in a couple of years.”
“He had a so-so season because of injury,” added Tuijnych. “He did not play for two months. But after the World Junior Championships, he was a top goal scorer in the Russian junior division. So he’s experienced.”
One obstacle to him coming to Los Angeles to play hockey is that he is still under contract to his KHL team.
“He’s got a contract for three more years with Metallurg Novokuznetsk, Tuijnych explained.” “He’s already played for this team for two years. We’ve discussed with the president and coach of the team the possibility of him playing in [Canadian] major junior hockey. Perhaps by December, after the World Junior Championship.”
“I want to play [in major junior], but it is difficult,” Kitsyn said in heavily accented English.
Although there is a red flag flying around the head of just about every Russian player in terms of not only getting them to come to North America, but to stay here rather than bolt back to the KHL at the first small sign that their careers may be hitting a snag, the Kings do not have those concerns about Kitsyn.
“This kid has made a commitment, similar to our situation with Loktionov situation where he wants to come over and play major junior hockey,” Futa explained. “He has a contract as such and, right now, he’s working through it. I think if he starts the season in the KHL, we’re not worried about it.”
“There’s a good chance, at some point, that he’ll end up playing major junior,” Futa added. “Whether it’s this year or next year, we’re not worried about it, we’re not going to put any pressure on him. He’s a young kid. As long as he’s getting regular ice, playing against men—we know his goal is just like Voynoy and Loktinov, he’ll be over here playing.”
“We’re not worrying about the risk of whether he’ll be here. We’re worried about getting him in the best development situation.”
As reported here on Frozen Royalty following Saturday’s first round, the Kings’ draft strategy clearly changed from going after players who could potentially contribute at the NHL level within one or two years as opposed to longer-term projects. Indeed, each of the Kings’ 2010 draft picks is expected to be two or three years away, such as in the case of first round selection Derek Forbort, and, in all likelihood, the rest will require even more time to develop.
But the Kings are just fine with that.
“The past few years, when we had been re-stocking shelves, you’re looking for players you’re hoping can step in a little quicker,” Futa noted. “This year, that was not as urgent. We’re able to take a guy who’s going to spend four years in school,” Futa continued. “We’re able to take a European—we’re not so worried about Maxim Kitsyn being there tomorrow. So the time is now to be able to make moves like that.”
“You saw us cut back on the 19-year-olds that we were real comfortable with [in prior drafts],” Futa elaborated. “Now there’s a confidence you can move picks back and your reserve list is stronger. You can be more selective at the positions you need to hit.”
Another difference in the Kings’ draft philosophy was that they took some risks in this year’s draft.
Indeed, when you look at their draft picks, Toffoli’s work ethic in terms of his conditioning appears to be an issue and then there’s the risk of whether or not Kitsyn will ever make it out of Russia.
In previous years, these would be huge red flags that would have made the Kings look to other prospects with stronger character. But not this year.
“[Dean Lombardi] talks about a culture change,” Futa stressed. “We feel we’ve brought enough guys in, like last year in Kyle Clifford and Brayden Schenn, those culture-changing kind of players are in the system with the young guys. Now you can take a kid who’s maybe a little edgy.”
“You have a strong enough core group—there’s some good leadership with your young guys there,” Futa elaborated. “If there’s a guy who’s a little off the track, you’re not worried that he’s going to [take others off the track, too].
For prospects such as Toffoli and even more, Kitsyn, think “higher risk, higher reward.”
“We’ve got NHL players with great leadership skills, so I think the culture is in place. You just have to bring in kids to keep the system strong.”
In all, the Kings selected five players in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the smallest draft class since Lombardi took over as general manager. But that does not mean preparation for the draft was any easier for the Kings.
“We put the same amount of effort into [all of their draft picks in terms of scouting] as we did [with 2008 draft pick] Drew Doughty,” said Futa. “It’s such an imperfect science. When you start to put in what you learn about their families, what you learn about their practice habits, what you learn from their coaches, it’s the same thing.”
“There’s never any less pressure when you’re working for Dean Lombardi,” added Futa. “The same amount of hours were put in when we had a five-foot walk to the podium as when you’re back at 19. To have a boss like that, who never lets you let your guard down, the work ethic is off the charts. In Ontario (Canada), we’d be getting out in time [to watch the David Letterman Show]. I don’t know what time that would be here.”DRAFT NOTES…
The NHL and the Kings drew 11,052 fans to Staples Center for the first round on Friday, June 25, as the NHL held its draft in the State of California for the first time.
Indeed, the turnout was impressive with the upper concourse seats mostly filled and the few seats in the lower bowl not controlled by the NHL filled as well.
“That’s pretty amazing,” said Lombardi. “Nobody was sure what the turnout would be. [11,052 fans] is a lot. It looked like more than [that], quite frankly. That’s a good show.”
“You’re always a little nervous when you host it,” added Lombardi. “If nobody shows up, the NHL is going to go, ‘oh boy.’ But everything’s gone pretty well.”
A big problem with the NHL draft is that it really drags on unless there are a considerable number of trades in the first round.“For the fans, it’s kind of boring,” Lombardi admitted. “This draft was kind of quiet, too. [Prior to the draft, Jason Arnott, Dan Hamhuis and Nathan Horton were traded] and it’s ‘holy smoke! What’s going on here?’ By yesterday afternoon, it was completely dead for me. I was amazed. ‘What am I missing here?’ Today, there was one hockey trade and really not a lot of movement in the first round.”
“Sorry that we couldn’t put on a show. Pretty boring at times, isn’t it? Our fans are probably wondering ‘what’s the big deal about this?’”
Taking Lombardi’s statement about the draft a step further…the draft, especially the first round, is not just boring for the fans. Rather, it is just as boring for the media and others, too, unless, as stated earlier, there are a lot of trades going on to keep things moving.
The NHL would do well to find a way to speed up the first round.
Lombardi also pointed out that having the draft here in Los Angeles helps the Kings down the road.
“A lot of those teams come in and they don’t get to see what’s happened here in Downtown [Los Angeles],” he noted. “A lot of those guys are former players who think of this area as being pretty beat up. A lot of these teams never really got the chance to walk around and see what Downtown’s like and how far it’s come.”
“It’s good in a lot of areas,” he added. “I think, too, the more you do that and kids come and see this, it helps in your recruiting because this is pretty good. The weather and now you’ve got a real Downtown.”
“But they’ve got to come here to win first. Then they can enjoy that.”
Raw Audio Interviews (unedited)
Tyler Toffoli (questions from the media were inaudible and were removed; 1:18)
Jordan Weal (12:33)
Maxim Kitsyn and agent Alexander Tuijnych (7:03)
Michael Futa (8:36)
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