A Sign Of Progress For LA Kings: 2010 First Round Pick Derek Forbort

DRAFT COVERAGE: Frozen Royalty’s coverage of the Los Angeles Kings and the 2010 National Hockey League Entry Draft, held in Los Angeles for the first time, on June 25-26, 2010, continues with an in-depth look at their first round selection, defenseman Derek Forbort. Check back on Monday, June 28 for a look at the rest of the Kings’ draft picks during rounds 2-7.

LA Kings 2010 first round pick Derek Forbort speaks to the media at the 2010 NHL Entry
Draft at Staples Center in Los Angeles
on June 25, 2010.
Photo: Gann Matsuda
LOS ANGELES — At the 2010 National Hockey League Entry Draft, it became clear early on that the Los Angeles Kings’ draft philosophy had taken a significant detour from what had been their standard operating procedure.

The last few drafts have seen Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi use his picks, especially the higher round selections, to go after prospects who might be able to contribute at the NHL level sooner rather than later.

But with the 2009-10 Kings making the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and with the franchise poised to take the next step towards becoming a Stanley Cup contender, the Kings now believe they can be more patient in terms of young prospects they bring into the fold, and that was evident right off the bat with first round selection Derek Forbort, a 6-5, 198-pound defenseman out of the United States Under-18 National Team Development Program.

In order to get their hands on Forbort, the Kings sent the 19th overall pick in this year’s draft, along with a second round pick (59th overall), also in the 2010 draft, to the Florida Panthers in exchange for the 15th overall selection.

Forbort, 18, a native of Duluth, Minnesota, scored four goals and contributed ten assists for 14 points in 26 United States Hockey League games that his NTDP team played in. Overall, Forbort scored five goals and added 23 assists for 28 points in 65 games.

Forbort also played in the 2010 Under-18 World Championships, recording two assists and a +9 plus/minus rating in seven games, helping lead the United States to a gold medal. In 56 games with the U.S. Under-18 team, he scored five goals and added twenty assists for 25 points.

Possessing a good combination of size, strength and agility, Forbort is a good decision-maker and a good passer, but needs to work on his puck-carrying skills and grit.

Ranked ninth by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau among North American skaters, Forbort, who moved to the US NTDP after completing his senior year at Duluth East High School, was considered to be one of the most talented defensemen in the 2010 draft class.

“Derek is a big defenseman who skates very well and has a well-rounded game,” said Kings amateur scout Tony Gasparini. “In time, as he matures as a young man, physically, he is going to be a player who has the ability to eat up a lot of minutes in every area of the game.”

“Derek Forbort has good top-end ability at both ends [of the ice].” said Jack Barzee of the Central Scouting Bureau. “He’s smart and skates so well, he’s almost 6-5 and he’s got everything there in front of him. It’s just a matter of filling out and getting more experience. He’s probably a top-two defenseman in the NHL if he reaches his potential.”

Forbort has quite the role model that he tries to emulate in terms of his style of play.

“I try to model my game after [Philadelphia Flyers star defenseman] Chris Pronger,” Forbort noted. “He’s a good, puck-moving defenseman and plays a good defensive game. He’s an all-around defenseman.”

“I’m just a good, two-way defenseman,” Forbort added. “I can play solid defense and contribute offensively.”

Forbort said that he is not quite the physical force that Pronger is…yet.

“I’m definitely working on developing my physical game,” he said. “Going to North Dakota will help with that, constantly being aware of playing that style.”

Forbort was visibly excited after being selected.

“I’m relieved and I’m very happy to go to the Kings,” said Forbort. “It’ll be a good fit. It’s definitely a good feeling. When I saw that they [traded up], I got a little excited because I had a good relationship with one of the scouts. It was a great feeling hearing my name.”

“[The anticipation while waiting to be selected] was definitely a little hard on the stomach, but once I heard my name and saw it was the Kings, it was an unbelievable feeling,” added Forbort. “When I heard my name called it was just…wow. I just hugged my Dad because I didn’t know what to do. It was an overwhelming feeling, but it was enjoyable.”

Like most who wind up reaching this level of hockey, Forbort got his start in the game early in his life.

“My Dad had a rink in the backyard and we always had big games going on,” he said. “I fell in love with the game pretty early and I knew this was what I wanted to do.”

“Even when I was little, I always loved playing defense,” he added. “I just loved being back there where you can control the game.”

The Kings had Forbort high on their list, and by the time the mid-round picks came around, they knew that a prospect ranked in the top ten was not going to be available for much longer.

“Dean talks about how much work goes into getting people in certain layers and we had the defenseman we took far ahead of where we picked him,” said Kings Co-Director of Amateur Scouting Michael Futa.

“It was kind of predictable that this was going to happen,” Lombardi explained. “There was one guy left, and [Forbort] was one of them that was fairly high on our list that we didn’t think would get to us, but was pretty well separated from what we thought we were going to get at our pick.”

“It’s hard to explain that value analysis,” Lombardi elaborated. “Would you give up this and this to get this. He clearly was a guy we had in that certain layer where we said we’d pay this.”

“I tried to move up three or four picks before that. Finally, you find [a deal] and the guy is still there. He was the last one left that was in that bracket. If he wasn’t there, it wouldn’t have happened. It all goes into valuing a slot. That’s how it’s done.”

The expectation is that Forbort is two or three years away from making it to the NHL level.

“We really looked at [Forbort’s] potential upside,” said Lombardi. “He’s raw in some areas. But there’s some things to work with when you’ve got that size and range.”

But, as mentioned earlier, the Kings are not worried about the fact that Forbort is more than a year away from cracking their NHL lineup. Indeed, they can be patient with him and allow him to hone his game at the University of North Dakota, where he is committed to play in the fall.

“With our reserve list now, you can put a kid in college and let him go, as long as he’s in a good program you can take your time with him,” said Lombardi. “We’re not in that situation where you have to force guys in the lineup. [Earlier in the rebuilding process], you might look at a guy who can play a little sooner.”

“What’s good about it is that he’s going to a great program,” added Lombardi. “He’s clearly raw. He’s young. But when you get a defenseman with that size, that range, there’s a lot of upside. We really like where he’s going to be.”

“We had some insight with our guy in that area, Tony Gasparini, whose father [John Gasparini] was a legendary coach at North Dakota, so we’re pretty well-connected there as far as the type of kids they take there.”

Indeed, the University of North Dakota has one of the very best college hockey programs in the United States.

“North Dakota is like USC [in football],” Lombardi stressed. “They get good players, the right players.”

“They’re producing NHL guys every year, so they’re obviously doing something right,” said Forbort.

Of course, like virtually all NHL draft picks, Forbort is anxious to move forward.

“I know there’s a lot of excitement about the Kings as a young team,” he said. “I’m excited. I’m really happy with the outcome. I want to play in the NHL. It’s been my dream.”

“Being drafted by the Kings—it’s a great organization,” he added. “I know the Kings have two really good young defensemen in [Drew] Doughty and [Jack] Johnson. They have a good young defensive core and hopefully one day I can be a part of that. I’m excited to get after it.”

Raw Audio Interviews (unedited)

Derek Forbort – First Interview (poor audio quality; 6:18)

Derek Forbort – Second Interview (5:07)

Dean Lombardi (13:26)

Frozen Royalty’s Derek Forbort Coverage

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