LOS ANGELES — Despite not having a selection in the first round of the 2013 National Hockey League Draft, held on June 30 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, the Los Angeles Kings appear to have made the most of their ten picks in this year’s draft, adding seven new prospects to their system.
The Kings watched the cream of the 2013 prospect crop skate past them in the first round as a result of the acquisition of forward Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for defenseman Jack Johnson and a conditional first round pick in the 2012 or 2013 NHL Draft, on February 23, 2012. At the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the Blue Jackets opted for the Kings’ 2013 first round pick, leaving the Kings on the sidelines until the second round.
Movin’ On Up…
The Kings held the 57th overall pick, very late in the second round. But given Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi’s draft history, many, including Frozen Royalty, believed that he would try to improve his team’s position in the second round, and he did exactly that, when he sent the Kings’ second round pick, along with their third round (88th overall) and fourth round (96th overall) selections to the Edmonton Oilers, in exchange for their second round selection, 37th overall.
With that pick, the Kings chose left/right wing Valentin Zykov, an 18-year-old, 6-0, 208-pound native of St. Petersburg, Russia, of the Baie Comeau Drakkar of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
This past season, Zykov, who was ranked seventh by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau in their final rankings (up from eighth in their midterm rankings), and 19th by the International Scouting Service, scored 40 goals and added 35 assists in 86 regular season games, along with ten goals and nine assists for 19 points in 19 playoff games (led all QMJHL rookies in playoff scoring).
In just his first season in North America, Zykov, a right-hand shot, received several honors in 2012-13, including being named to the QMJHL’s All-Rookie Team. He also received the league’s Rookie of the Year award, as well as the Michel Bergeron Trophy as the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Even more impressive, Zykov, was also named as the 2013 Canadian Hockey League Rookie of the Year, leading rookies in all of the Canadian major junior leagues in goals and points.
Central Scouting described Zykov:
He’s an unbelievable talent; scores the big goals. He’s going to be special. Great skater, strong kid. Really a solid kid. He goes into the corner and comes out with the puck. He has great hands, can shoot the puck, passes the puck, does everything well.
HockeyFuture.com had a similar view, but differed on Zykov’s skating:
An under-the-radar threat, Zykov is a solidly-built winger who uses his big frame to his advantage when taking punishment in front of the net and in the corners. Extremely dangerous in close, Zykov has a quick release and is always looking to drive to the net or jam in a rebound. Still raw, between his size and his nose for the net, Zykov has plenty of potential but needs to continue to improve his skating.
Kings Co-Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Yanetti spoke to KingsVision about Zykov.
“Valentin was a special case, as you can tell by the trade, and at the table, by the work that was done to get there,” said Yanetti. “We gave up quite a bit, frankly, to [make the trade that allowed them to select Zykov]. We’d gone through a lot of scenarios to make sure that we were prepared for everything, but that was one that we had to do a little on-the-fly preparation [for].”
“He’s an outstanding talent,” added Yanetti. “Unbelievable kid. There’s a lot of upside with him.”
Zykov, who learned to speak English while in school in Russia, spoke to the media in Newark after being selected by the Kings.
“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “I’m very happy the Kings drafted me. I didn’t expect it that L.A. would draft me, so I was really, really happy. Yes. Dreams come true.”
As surprised as the Kings were that Zykov was still available when they traded up in the second round so they could draft him, the question that immediate came up was why was a player ranked seventh by CSB still available?
The Kings did not address that question, and for all intents and purposes, neither did Zykov, even though he did admit to being a bit surprised.
“Yeah, a little bit,” said Zykov. “But it doesn’t matter. [You’ll have to] ask them [referring to those who passed on him, as well as the Kings brain trust].”
The reticence of NHL teams to pursue Russian players because of the ever-present fear of losing them to the KHL may have had something to do with it. But Zykov refused to speculate.
“There’s a lot of factors,” said Zykov. “I don’t know which one is the most. As I said, ask them, not me.”
Zykov, who described himself as, “A power forward with grit…put the puck on net, make scoring chances,” talked about his decision to leave Russia to play major junior hockey in Canada.
“The last season I improved myself a lot,” Zykov noted. “Because of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, I was drafted by L.A., so I’m really happy that I played for them. It’s a good city.”
“I just wanted to improve myself, so I came here,” Zykov added. “That’s why I came here, just to improve myself, [and] it worked…I hope I’ll continue to improve here.”
“I’d like to thank our coaches, Eric Veilleux and Pat Bosch, and all the guys who just supported me all the year. They’re a great bunch of guys, a good organization—GM Steve Ahern.”
As for a player he idolized while growing up, he pointed to one of the NHL’s Russian stars.
“I like Pavel Datsyuk,” he noted. “But I’m not the same style.”
“Defense. If you are good defensively you are able to play in the NHL, I think.”
The most entertaining, and perhaps revealing comments by Zykov during his time with the media came when he was asked if he thought he would return to Baie Comeau, or if he believed he would make the Kings roster next season.
Already at 18 years of age, Zykov appears to have learned some diplomacy.
“We’ll see,” said Zykov. “Just follow me, you will see.”
When pressed to elaborate, Zykov stood his ground.
Upon being pressed further, Zykov still wouldn’t budge.
“I said we’ll see. I can’t repeat it enough.”
Kings Take Two In the Fourth
After trading their third round pick in the deal with the Oilers, the Kings were spectators until the fourth round when they selected two right wings.
With the 103rd overall pick, the Kings chose Justin Auger, a 6-6, 224-pound, 19-year-old from Kitchener, Ontario.
Auger, who was unranked in CSB’s final rankings, after having dropped from 71 in their midterm rankings, played for the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League this past season, scoring 16 goals and tallying 17 assists for 33 points with 39 penalty minutes in 36 games.
Yanetti noted that Auger could have been chosen by the Kings in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
“We had our eye on him last year,” said Yanetti. “He was one of our potentials for a later slot pick last year, [but] there were better players last year, and his development took another step this year.”
But even with that additional step forward in his development, Yanetti indicated that Auger would be a project.
“He’s a giant piece of clay,” Yanetti emphasized. “There is a lot of work to do. Fundamentally, he needs to be built, but he’s 6-6, he can handle the puck, he’s shown flashes where he’s shown the full triangle of stick handling, where he’s shown depth, where he’s been able to handle it in tight to a big, 6-6 body, and then, lengthen it out.”
“When you see flashes of that, with a kid his size, and [with] his willingness to use that size, it’s exciting,” Yanetti added. “His willingness to use the size, and his willingness to go to areas where size can be a benefit, is not yet matched by his ability to do it. He’s grown past his body. His body is playing catch up now. [But] with the right tweaking, the right work, and with him putting in [the time] with our development team, and [with] him buying in, there’s a pretty big ceiling there.”
The Kings used the 118th overall selection to choose 17-year-old Hudson Fasching, a 6-2, 189-pound native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who spent the season in the USA Under-18 program.
Fasching, who was ranked 42nd in CSB’s midterm rankings, but finished the season at 70th, scored ten goals and added 17 assists for 27 points in 56 games with the USA Under-18 program.
“I’m a power forward, a big guy [who can] go into the corners, grind those pucks out, bring’em to the net hard, and just use my body to my advantage,” Fasching told KingsVision.
Like so many NHL prospects, Fasching said he was living a dream.
“It’s unbelievable,” he beamed. “Growing up, as a little kid, you dream of this moment, and I’m finally here. It’s incredible. I’m really happy to be here, for sure.”
Fasching will play for the University of Minnesota next season.
“I’m really excited to go to the Gophers,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll have a really great experience there. They’ve got a great program. They’ve prove themselves, again and again, as one of the best programs in college hockey.”
Potential Gem In Fifth Round?
After the Kings left goaltender prospect Christopher Gibson (second round pick, 49th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft) unsigned, allowing him to re-enter the draft after he completes his military obligations in his native Finland, the Kings were short on goaltending in their system heading into the 2013 draft. But they may have found a netminder with a boatload of potential in Patrik Bartosak, selected in the fifth round, 146th overall.
In 2011-12, Bartosak recorded a 2.75 goals-against average (GAA), a .915 save percentage, and one shutout in 25 games. He improved upon those numbers this past season with a 2.26 GAA, a .935 save percentage, and five shutouts, earning the CHL’s Goaltender of the Year honors.
Bartosak also shined in the playoffs this past season with a 1.97 GAA, and a .941 save percentage in nine games.
Ranked eighth among North American goalies in CSB’s final rankings (up from tenth in their midterm rankings), Bartosak also represented the Czech Republic in the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship (Under-20), earning a 2.74 GAA, and a .896 save percentage in five games.
Hockeysfuture.com had this to say about Bartosak:
Bartosak moved to North America to play in the WHL, where he played well for the Red Deer Rebels. But a shoulder injury cut short his rookie season, leaving the Czech goaltender as somewhat of a mystery player. Bartosak was among the top goaltenders in the WHL at the time of his injury. Bartosak’s style does not fit neatly into any standard goaltending description, but he makes use of his size and some athletic ability to be an effective junior goaltender. It remains to be seen if his game will translate to the pro game, but there is some potential for the big Czech to round into a solid NHL talent.
A bit of a side note: Bartosak has a tiny bit of a family tie to the Kings. His uncle, former NHL forward Radek Bonk, was traded to the Kings by the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a third round pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
But before the ink was dry on the paperwork for that deal, the Kings sent Bonk and goaltender Cristobal Huet to the Montreal Canadiens that same day, in exchange for goaltender Mathieu Garon and a third round pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft (Paul Baier).
Bartosak also talked about living a dream.
“Being drafted—it’s been my dream, so it’s an awesome feeling, and the Kings are a great organization,” Bartosak told KingsVision. “I’m looking forward to being a part of [it].”
“I started playing hockey when I was four years old,” Bartosak added. “I was a forward, and I wasn’t really good, so when I turned six, I told my Dad I wanted to be a goalie. So he bought my first gear, and it turned out well. Now I’m here, and it’s an awesome feeling to be here.”
He also talked about his favorite goaltenders, but stressed that he doesn’t model his game after them.
“I watched Patrick Lalime, Pekka Rinne, and Jose Theodore,” he said. “Those guys were my idols, but I never tried to play like them. I just like the way they played.”
Yanetti talked to KingsVision about what made Bartosak an attractive prospect.
“With Bartosak, [Kings Co-Director of Amateur Scouting] Mike [Futa], [Kings amateur scout] Brent [McEwen], and Billy [Ranford] and Kim [Dillabaugh], both of our goalie coaches, were in to see him play, myself included,” said Yanetti. “We actually watched him in practices as well as games and video. His practice habits—there was a natural level of compete and battle that not only was evident in the games, but it was also evident in practice, and that goes along with some natural athletic ability and quickness.”
“Fundamentally, there’s some work to do,” added Yanetti. “But those intangibles are pretty hard to find, and when they shine through at a practice when he doesn’t know you’re there, as well as a game, that’s something to work with.”
Kings Remaining Draft Picks and Trades
- Fifth Round (148th overall): Jonny Brodzinski, Center, St. Cloud State of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association
- Sixth Round (178th overall): Zachary Leslie, Defenseman, Guelph Storm (OHL)
- Seventh Round (191st overall): Dominek Kubalik, Left Wing, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
- The Kings traded their the 208th overall pick in the seventh round to the New Jersey Devils, in exchange for the Devils’ seventh round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. The Devils used the pick to select goaltender Anthony Brodeur, the son of Devils superstar goaltender Martin Brodeur.
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