LOS ANGELES — The National Hockey League completed its 2009 Entry Draft on Saturday in Montreal and just like on Friday, there were no major surprises from the Los Angeles Kings, who selected nine players in rounds 2-7 and were involved in four minor trades.
One of those trades sent center Brian Boyle (photo at left; courtesy Los Angeles Kings) to the New York Rangers in exchange for the Rangers’ third round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
In 28 games with the Kings this past season, the 24-year-old native of Hingham, Massachusetts scored four goals and added an assist with 42 penalty minutes. But he shuttled back and forth between Los Angeles and the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, where he scored ten goals and added eleven assists for 21 points with 73 penalty minutes in 42 games.
In 36 NHL games, all with the Kings, Boyle scored eight goals and added two assists with 46 penalty minutes. He was selected by the Kings in the first round (26th overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
Boyle was never able to figure out that he needed to learn how to play without the puck and to use his huge 6-7, 252-pound frame to his advantage at the NHL level and even at the AHL level, despite being given ample opportunity to do so.
Indeed, Boyle has all the tools needed to be a power forward, including some solid offensive skills. He could punish opponents, be a physical force along the boards and in the corners, or at least move oppponents off the puck. But more often than not, he failed to do any of that and was sent to the minors with specific instructions to work on that part of his game.
“It’s a hard thing when [tough physical play is] not an instinctive part of your game,” said Kings head coach Terry Murray on April 4. “But to me, that’s a learned skill and he needs to be pushed in that area. I’m going to push him. I think he’s starting to get a bit of a handle on what it’s going to take to play in the NHL.”
“He’s got that answer,” said Murray. “I’ll keep doing the same thing as far as demanding more but he has to make his mind up that he’s going to bring that intensity, that attitude and that kind of game,” Murray emphasized. “That’s up to the player. We’ve all been though those kinds of times when you’re unsure and you haven’t quite figured it out. But the bottom line is if you have the tools—the size, the strength, the skill—then it’s a matter of making your mind up. It becomes a mental game. Now it’s up to him to keep going.”
But Boyle was never able to keep it going. Indeed, despite some improvement, Boyle still thought of himself as anything but a power forward. Rather, he believed he was a highly-skilled finesse player who could use speed to beat defenders wide.
“I’ve improved on my speed a lot, taking defensemen wide,” Boyle said on April 4. “Even in college…I used to dish to the wingers going to the net. But now I feel pretty good at taking guys wide, trying to use my reach to take it to the cage and into the blue paint area. That’s where I’m going to score goals.”
“That’s what [former Boston Bruins great] Cam Neely did,” added Boyle. “He beat guys wide, took shots and followed them to the net, crashed and banged. That’s what I was doing in Manchester and that’s what I want to keep doing [with the Kings]. The defensemen are a little better in the NHL and finding those holes is a little more difficult.”
Boyle’s problem is that although he may have had enough speed to beat defensemen wide while playing at Boston College or even at the AHL level, he does not have that speed advantage at the NHL level, nor does he have the skill or competitiveness that Cam Neely exhibited, game in and game out.
In short, Boyle needs to get over himself if he wants to land a job at the NHL level.
Indeed, he has yet to learn that he is going to have to use his greatest gifts, size and strength, to create space for himself, with or without the puck, in order to generate offense. Further, this is not a problem that presented itself only because of Boyle’s role with the Kings. Rather, it is a lesson he must learn if he ever expects to secure a roster spot on any NHL team.
As for the Kings, the writing was on the wall for Boyle when they selected center Brayden Schenn in the first round (fifth overall), a player who can fill the same role and likely do it with more skill and competitiveness—Boyle immediately became expendable.
The 6-1, 200-pound native of Ayr, Ontario scored sixteen goals and added twelve assists for 28 points with 133 penalty minutes in sixty regular season games in the 2008-09 season. In five playoff games, he was held off the scoresheet and recorded 13 penalty minutes.
In the 2007-08 season, Clifford scored a goal and contributed fourteen assists for fifteen points with 83 penalty minutes in 66 regular season games. In the playoffs that season, Clifford had an assist with four penalty minutes in nine games.
Clifford, who represented Canada at the 2009 Under-18 World Championships, is a physical forward who has shown some offensive upside.
“I style my game after [Boston Bruins forward] Milan Lucic, a tough, physical player who can chip in offensively and who’s not afraid to get a little dirty out there,” Clifford told LAKings.com. “My bread and butter is my toughness and my competitive edge and my willingness to sacrifice my body on the penalty-kill.”
But like virtually every prospect, Clifford has some work to do.
“Every player can always improve their skating,” he said. “Skill development is a big thing, too. Tough players have to be able to play in key minutes and have to be able to chip in offensively.”
Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi said that the Kings got players they had targeted with Schenn in the first round and Clifford in the second round.
“What I like about the first two kids we got, they’re real competitors,” said Lombardi. “The Clifford kid in the second round was the guy we had targeted, he’s a real gamer. You talk about guys like him and Schenn, these are the type of people you want to instill in your culture. The key now is our development program to make sure these kids become the best players.”
Lombardi said that Schenn and Clifford were the best players available when the Kings’ first and second round picks came up and just happened to fit needs on the Kings’ reserve list.
“We still don’t really draft by position,” he explained. “We favor where the most value is, although there are times when you’ve got to keep that goaltender supply line going. But other than that, that’s the way it falls sometimes. The first two, they certainly fill out some key areas of our reserve list.”
Lombardi also noted that his first two draft picks this weekend are physical players.
“Schenn is bigger than he was last month and Clifford almost broke my hand,” said Lombardi. “That’s what’s happened in all sports. These are some big boys.”
The Kings then traded their third round pick (74th overall from the Buffalo Sabres) to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a third round pick (84th overall) in the 2009 draft and a fourth round pick (107th overall), also in the 2009 draft.
The Kings used that third round pick to select defenseman Nicolas Deslauriers (photo at left; courtesy Rouyn-Noranda Huskies), 18, from the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
The 6-0, 198-pound native of LaSalle, Quebec scored eleven goals with nineteen assists for thirty points with eighty penalty minutes in 68 games in the 2008-09 season.
In the 2007-08 season, Deslauriers scored two goals and added seven assists for nine points with 38 penalty minutes in 42 regular season games. In four playoff games that season, Deslauriers did not record a point.
Earlier in his career, Deslauriers played as a forward as well as on the blue line. But his natural position is defense.
“I feel more comfortable on defense,” said Deslauriers. “I’m a two-way defenseman. I can play good defensively and good offensively. I play the power play.”
“I played [as a forward] when I was sixteen years old at Rouyn because it was a good team and the coach wanted me to play at forward,” added Deslauriers. “But I’m better at defense. That’s my place.”
The Kings then traded two fourth round picks, the 117th overall pick) from San Jose) and the 120th overall pick (from Detroit in the trade that sent defenseman Brad Stuart to the Red Wings on February 26, 2008) along with a seventh round pick, 203rd overall (from Vancouver in exchange for goalie Jason LaBarbera on December 30, 2008), to the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for a fourth round pick (95th overall).
The Kings used that pick to select goaltender Jean-Francois Berube (photo at right; courtesy Los Angeles Kings) of the Montreal Juniors of the QMJHL.
Berube, 17, earned a 6-7-2 record with a 2.66 goals-against average, a .907 save percentage and one shutout in twenty appearances in the 2008-09 season.
The 6-1. 155-pound native of Repentigny, Quebec is a butterfly-type goalie.
“I’m a butterfly goalie who’s very aggressive in net,” said Berube. “I never give up. I’m pretty excited to wear [the Kings] jersey today. I can’t wait to jump on the ice and prove who I am.”
Also in the fourth round, the Kings chose 5-11, 176-pound right wing Linden Vey (96th overall).
The seventeen-year-old native of Wakaw, Saskatchewan scored 24 goals and added 48 assists for 72 points with twenty penalty minutes in 71 regular season games for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League (WHL). In eleven playoff games, Vey scored two goals and contributed five assists for seven points with two penalty minutes.
In the 2007-08 season, Vey (photo at left; courtesy Los Angeles Kings) scored eight goals with nine assists for seventee points with 21 penalty minutes in 48 regular season games. In five playoff games, he recorded an assist with two penalty minutes.
Vey began his junior career at Medicine Hat in the 2006-07 season, playing in two games.
In international play, Vey played for Team Canada at the 2008 World Under-17 Challenge.
The Kings used their fifth round pick to select defenseman David Kolomatis (126th overall) from the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL.
The twenty-year-old native of Livingston, New Jersey scored eighteen goals and added 28 assists for 46 points with 52 penalty minutes in 63 regular season games in the 2008-09 season. In four playoff games, Kolomatis scored two goals and tallied two assists for four points.
Kolomatis then signed an amateur tryout agreement with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League where he was held off the scoresheet in four regular season games. In sixteen playoff games, he recorded an assist with two penalty minutes.
In the 2007-08 season with Owen Sound, Kolomatis scored nine goals and added 36 assists for 45 points. In 2006-06, he scored four goals and contributed sixteen assists for twenty points.
Kolomatis also played for Team USA on the 2005-06 Under-18 National Team.
The Kings used their sixth round pick (156th overall) to choose forward Michael Pelech (photo at left; courtesy Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors) from the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors of the OHL.
In the 2008-09 season, the 6-3, 206-pound native of Toronto scored 19 goals and contributed 46 assists for 65 points with 121 penalty minutes in 68 regular season games. In eleven playoff games, the nineteen-year-old scored four goals and added nine assists for thirteen points.
In the 2007-08 season, Pelech scored seventeen goals and added 32 assists for 49 points and in 2006-07, he scored twelve goals with 35 assists for 47 points.
Also in the sixth round, the Kings took a chance on Los Angeles native Brandon Kozun, a 5-8, 162-pound right wing from the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, with the 179th overall selection (from Chicago).
The 19-year-old scored forty goals and contributed 68 assists for 108 points with 58 penalty minutes in 72 regular season games in the 2008-09 season. Kozun (photo at right; courtesy OHL) ranked second in the WHL in overall scoring, seventh in goal scoring, second in assists, third in power play assists (34) and was ranked sixth in plus/minus with a +50 rating. In eighteen playoff games, he scored seven goals and tallied twelve assists for nineteen points with eight penalty minutes, helping lead the Hitmen to the WHL Finals before being eliminated by the Kelowna Rockets.
In the 2007-08 season, Kozun scored nineteen goals with 34 assists for 53 points in 69 games and in 2006-07, he scored a goal and added an assist for two points in eleven games.
Center Jordan Nolan (photo at left, courtesy OHL) of the Sault Ste. Marie (Soo) Greyhounds of the OHL was selected by the Kings in the seventh round (186th overall).
The twenty-year-old native of St. Catharines, Ontario scored sixteen goals and added 27 assists for 43 points with 158 penalty minutes (tied for fourth in the OHL) in 64 games this past season.
In both the 2007-08 and 2006-07 seasons, the 6-3. 216-pound Nolan scored eleven goals and tallied sixteen assists for 27 points with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL.
Nolan began his OHL career with the Erie Otters in 2005-06, scoring three goals and adding four assists with twenty penalty minutes in 33 games.
The Kings then chose center Nic Dowd (photo at right; courtesy Wenatchee Wild), 19, from the Wenatchee Wild of the North American Hockey League, also in the seventh round (198th overall from the St. Louis Blues.
The 6-1, 175-pound native of Huntsville, Alabama scored sixteen goals and added 33 assists for 49 points with 71 penalty minutes in 43 regular season games. In thirteen playoff games, he scored eight goals and added fourteen assists for 22 points with 34 penalty minutes.
Overall, the Kings were happy with their draft selections.
“We’re really excited,” said Kings Co-Director of Amateur Scouting Michael Futa. “We had a big night last night getting Brayden Schenn and we built on the momentum today.”
“The day unfolded really well for us,” added Futa. “I think the theme of our draft this year was competitiveness. We got a good mix of players with a lot of skill but they will also be tough to play against.”
From the looks of it, the Kings’ 2009 draft apparently went as they had planned.
“Things went really well for us today,” said Kings Co-Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Yanetti. “The first two guys we targeted we got and the rest of the draft pretty much went according to our plan as well.”
The Kings also managed to position themselves well for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft via trades that nabbed them two additional third round picks next year.
“Next year, we have a first [round pick], two [second round picks] and three [third round selections]," said Lombardi. “We’re actually in better shape next year than we were this year. We had a lot of picks [this year], but we have six picks in the first three rounds [next year], which looks like another good draft, and that’s a tribute to [his scouting staff]. They were good in loading up for next year when that slot we were picking in did not match up with the player [they had targeted].”
Contrary to what some people believe, Lombardi said that he has a plan for building the Kings and that he is going to stick to it.
“We’ve got our plan as far as going down the list, seeing what fits, what we’re willing to do and going from there,” Lombardi said about potential player acquisitions. “The one thing I feel good about is that we have our strategy now in order on what we’re going to do.”
“If it’s not there, we stick with the plan—exactly what we’re doing,” Lombardi stressed. “We’re not going to get off track. If it’s the right guy, we’ll do it. If not, we just keep on doing what we’re doing and eventually, the right guy will be there. We’re going to [stay] on that course, that’s all there is to it.”
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