LOS ANGELES — It’s only Wednesday, two days before the first round of the 2019 National Hockey League Draft, on June 21, 2019, in Vancouver. But the amateur scouting staff of the Los Angeles Kings, and very likely, much of their hockey operations and front office staff, have been in Vancouver since the beginning of the week, buried under many hours of meetings each day, refining their draft list and most notably, narrowing down who their prime targets will be for the fifth overall selection.
“Our pick is going to be one of four guys,” said Mark Yanetti, Kings Director of Amateur Scouting. “That’ll be dictated by what happens in front of us. You can do all kinds of work like we did for the [Drew] Doughty draft (2008) and the [Brayden] Schenn draft (2009).”
“We spent all day today and we’ll spend all day tomorrow fine tuning our picks,” added Yanetti. “But we should have our pick finalized by Thursday.”
As for having the fifth overall selection, as the old Alka-Seltzer jingle said, …oh what a relief it is.
“We traded four first round picks in seven years and [in 2012 and 2014, when the Kings won the Stanley Cup Championship], we had the last pick in the first round,” Yanetti noted. “We went six years without a first round pick [or having the last pick in that round]. This year—we’ll be picking a different level of player.”
“Any time you’re picking a player in any round, you’re trying to select a player who’s going to help your franchise,” Yanetti added. “The goal doesn’t change, whether you’re picking in the first round or the seventh round. But realistically, you have a chance to change the team or affect the dynamic and the direction of the team when you’re picking in the top five or top ten.”
“When you’re picking at the 20th spot or later, the data shows that you’re picking a more complimentary player. You’re picking a cog over an engine.”
With the Kings now in a rebuilding mode, the pressure is on to get this draft right and Yanetti knows the expectations are sky high.
“The most important draft in L.A. Kings history, in my opinion, was the Drew Doughty draft,” he observed. “They had the right pick and the team was in its first stages of building. That was the first draft that the Kings had where they had a legitimate chance to change the direction of the franchise. Now, I don’t go back all that far with the Kings, but in my limited view, that was the most important draft in Kings history, and it has proven to be so.”
“Now, if you fast forward, there were drafts where we didn’t have a first round pick,” he added. “There were drafts where we didn’t have a first or a second round pick. Those drafts can’t be as important. There’s nothing you can do about that. In those drafts, you’re limited in what you can do and by this time, you’re winning, so the players who you select aren’t going to impact the team in the same way or in the same timeframe.”
“This year is a very similar year, in so many ways, to the Doughty year. The picks are close. The difference between the fifth overall pick and the second is big. But the number of picks, the position of the picks, and the team itself—I truly believe this draft will go a long way to putting the Kings back to where they should be, if we get it right. But if we get it wrong—[either way,] it’ll have an impact for a long, long time.”
Yanetti pointed out that there is a tremendous longing to return to the top of the mountain that is driving their work.
“Until we won [the Stanley Cup], I didn’t realize how bad it was to lose,” he said. “When we were building the team, we were building towards as ideal, a standard. It was this goal—to win the Stanley Cup. But I didn’t know what that felt like because I hadn’t been there. No one on our staff had been there. But once we won it, and won it again, losing [expletive deleted] sucked. I’m surprised how much it affects us.”
“When something is taken away, it’s worse than simply losing it, in my opinion,” he added. “We want that feeling again. Watching other teams win the Stanley Cup really hurts because we were there. So this year’s draft is really significant. With five picks inside the first 100 selections, with the depth in this draft, and with the work we’ve done, this draft has more significance. I feel the significance of this draft. Our staff feels the significance of the team not being where it wants to be, in terms of having a winning culture.”
The yearning to bring the Stanley Cup back to Los Angeles only shines an even brighter spotlight on the importance of the 2019 draft for the Kings.
“As I said, the 2008 draft was the most important one for the Kings,” said Yanetti. “This year’s draft would be second to that.”
Stay tuned for more from Kings Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Yanetti, who shared his thoughts about some of the players who could be among the four players they’ve targeted for the fifth overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft on Friday night. Coming soon!
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