DRAFT COVERAGE: Frozen Royalty was at the headquarters of the Los Angeles Kings at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California to cover the first round of the 2009 National Hockey League Entry Draft; includes interviews with Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi, Kings scouts and their first round draft selection. Also includes audio interviews.
EL SEGUNDO, CA — If you passed out during the major snoozefest otherwise known as the first round of the 2009 National Hockey League Entry Draft, held on Friday evening in Montreal, chances are you were not alone.
Indeed, watching this year’s first round of the NHL draft was about as entertaining as watching paint dry. Maybe less.
Even for a hockey junkie like myself, I’m leaning towards the paint.
Last year, there were several trades during the first round, which obviously made it more interesting, including one involving the Los Angeles Kings to open the evening’s festivities.
This year, the Anaheim Ducks stole the spotlight early by sending star defenseman Chris Pronger and Ryan Dingle to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for forward Joffrey Lupul, defenseman Luca Sbisa, first round picks in 2009 and 2010 and a conditional third round pick in 2010 or 2011—a rather lopsided deal in favor of the Ducks.
But outside of that trade, there were only a few minor deals and the first round went pretty much as predicted. In fact, the first round was so predictable and so uneventful that it was almost painful to watch because of the boredom factor.
Nevertheless, there was news to report…
The Kings were the subject of a myriad of rumors going into the draft, primarily because they have a lot of space under the salary cap and are known to be looking for a scoring left winger. But Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi knew before the first round began that he would be holding onto the fifth overall pick and would not be trading down for lower first round picks.
“It really got quiet at the end of last night,” said Lombardi. “I knew early that I couldn’t move up, so that eliminated that. Then it was just a question of moving down and the offers to move down weren’t enough.”
Trading down in the first round was a smart move prior to this year, but not now.
“Maybe two years ago, it would’ve been attractive to acquire more picks but we’re at a different stage,” Lombardi explained. “It makes more sense to take what we feel is the better player, so that wasn’t that hard a decision.”
The Kings figure to look for an opportunity to trade up in the second round.
“I would say the second day, like we did last year, we’ll try to move up, maybe pinpoint some guys that are higher on the list and package some picks,” said Lombardi. “It all depends on how the list falls for everybody but we will try to be active.”
Back to that fifth overall pick…
Schenn, 17, was ranked fifth on most published prospect rankings and was widely expected to be selected fifth by the Kings.
The 6-0, 198-pound native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan played in 70 regular season games in the 2008-09 season, scoring 32 goals and adding 56 assists for 88 points, ranking him seventh in the WHL in overall scoring. His 32 goals tied him for second on his team and 23rd in the WHL in goals.
Schenn earned a +20 plus/minus rating and was named WHL and CHL Player of the Week in January after scoring a goal and adding six assists for seven points in two games. He was also awarded the H.L. (Krug) Crawford Memorial Medal for his athletic achievement in western Manitoba.
In twelve playoff games, Schenn scored eight goals with ten assists for 18 points with twelve penalty minutes, helping lead the Wheat Kings to the WHL Eastern Conference finals (Brandon was eliminated by the Calgary Hitmen).
In 2007-08, Schenn, led the Wheat Kings with 28 goals and 43 assists for 71 points in 66 regular season games en route to being named the WHL Rookie of the Year. His 71 points ranked first among all WHL rookies, while he was second among league freshman in goals and assists. He was the first 16-year-old since 1971 to lead Brandon in scoring.
In international play, Schenn has won two gold medals representing Team Canada in 2008, first at the 2008 Under-18 World Championships and the second as an alternate captain at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. Schenn won a bronze medal for Canada West at the 2008 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and has been invited to Canada’s 2009 World Junior selection camp in December.
“The one thing about this guy is that his number one attribute is his competitiveness,” said Lombardi. “He’s a playoff-type player. I know that’s what [Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian] Burke saw in him [more on Burke later] and that’s certainly what we liked about him.”
“He’s a good player, but this is a kid in the playoffs when they were playing the Calgary Hitmen where his shoulder went out and he refused to quit,” added Lombardi. “He tried to play with one shoulder and refused to leave the bench. When you talk about a competitor that’s pretty attractive.”
Schenn said he was thrilled to join the Kings.
“It’s real exciting,” Schenn beamed. “A long day for me. There’s no better feeling than to get my name called and it happened to be LA. I’m happy to be part of the organization They’re going in the right direction so I’m real excited.”
“I feel great,” he said. “It feels great to be a part of an organization that is going forward. They are going in the right direction, which is the main thing and they have some good young guys like [defensemen Drew] Doughty and [Thomas] Hickey that are building blocks as well. I’m just happy to be a piece of the puzzle.”
“I have watched Drew Doughty play and he’s a great player,” he added. “Thomas Hickey…I’ve played against him and [defenseman] Colten Teubert. Those are three guys I know pretty well. I pay close attention to all the teams in the NHL and I know of a lot of the players with LA. I am happy to be part of the organization.”
As with virtually all draft picks, Schenn still has some work to do.
“I think the biggest thing he’s got to work on is his skating,” said Lombardi. “But his hockey sense is top notch. He has the ability to make those small, smart, little plays and has no fear going into traffic, going into the blue and along the walls. He’s a real competitor and I think he’s got a chance to grow into some leadership.”
Schenn is tabbed as a two-way, power forward with offensive ability.
“Brayden is of the power-forward ilk,” said NHL Director of Central Scouting E. J. McGuire. ”He has learned a little about the NHL from his older brother Luke Schenn and he knows how to go to the net. He is a threat to score at all times on the ice and dishes the puck very effectively to his line mates in getting the amount of assists that he does.”
“He takes the puck to the net with the kind of authority that a Jonathan Cheechoo does, yet has puck dishing capacities that maybe a Joe Thornton does,” added McGuire. “Both are tough players, both are tough to move out in front of the net and Brayden fits that ilk perfectly.”
“I’m a two-way forward with some grit and I have some offensive upside,” said Schenn. “I play both ends of the ice and I like to play physical which is the main thing about my game.”
Physical play, along with his character and leadership abilities, were attributes that certainly caught the eyes of the Kings’ amateur scouts.
“He’s just a real character kid, a heart and soul kid,” Kings Co-Director of Amateur Scouting Michael Futa told LAKings.com. “We saw him in the summer play a game that was physically off the charts. He can hit you, he can score goals, he’s got a very good set of hands to set things up. We talk about having guys who battle, that are winners and help set a culture, that’s what Brayden Schenn brings to the table.”
Schenn now has to get in the gym to prepare for training camp and is a virtual lock to participate in the Kings annual development camp in July.
“The main thing is that I have to worry about having a good summer first,” said Schenn. ”I can’t get my hopes up too high. I want to come in with a good attitude and I want to come in good shape too. I can’t wait for [training] camp.”
“The work starts in a couple of days here,” added Schenn. “I’m just worried about having a good summer and then I’ll see what happens.”
Back to Burke…
It was widely rumored that Burke coveted Schenn, hoping to unite him with his older brother, Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn, who was Toronto’s first round pick last year (also a fifth overall pick).
Burke was unable to trade up to get his hands on younger brother Brayden and looked quite frustrated when the Kings announced their selection of the younger Schenn.
“That was the main reason we took him,” Lombardi joked. “I knew that would totally piss off Burke. That’s worth it.”
“You know how the draft is, but I think it was safe to say that everybody probably thought there was a line after [the third overall pick] and [the fifth overall pick],” Lombardi noted. “I think I told you that we would be pretty happy with whomever is there.”
The younger Schenn was asked if he was at all disappointed that he would not be joining his bother in Toronto.
“It was no disappointment at all,” he said. “I am happy to be with the LA organization. I am a King now so I can’t worry about the Toronto thing. That’s behind me.
“That’s done with,” he added. “I’m happy to be an LA King. The first step for me is making the team and that’s where my focus is now.”
For those who may be hoping the Kings will trade for Ottawa Senators winger Dany Heatley, forget it.
Heatley has reportedly had problems with his coaches at Atlanta and now at Ottawa and has now asked to be traded from both teams. All that raises red flags in terms of his character and commitment.
“It’s safe to say [that any deal for Heatley is dead],” said Lombardi. “I guess it’s safe to say there are some concerns. We know at some point we’re going to want to make a fairly significant move. But I believe at certain dollars it not only has to be a heck of a player, but let’s just say there can’t be any questions.”
“Putting it all together in terms of what it ends up costing you for players and what it ends up costing you in cap space, we said we’re going to stick to our guns in what we believe and eventually our guy will be there.”
The 2009 NHL Entry Draft continues on Saturday, with rounds 2-7. Coverage begins bright and early at 7:00 AM PDT on the NHL Network in the United States.
The Kings have twelve selections left in the 2009 draft, one in the second round, one in the third round, three in the fourth round, two in the fifth round, two in the sixth round and three in the seventh round.
Audio from first round interviews:
Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi
NHL.com video profile of Brayden Schenn:
Photos: Brayden Schenn. Courtesy Los Angeles Kings/National Hockey League.
Keith Korneluk co-host of KingsCast, the official fan podcast of the Los Angeles Kings, attended the Kings draft party at the ESPN Sportszone at LA Live in Downtown Los Angeles on Friday afternoon and filed this report on the festivities and crowd reaction to the Kings’ selection of Schenn in the first round:
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