LOS ANGELES — With the first round of the 2019 National Hockey League Draft just hours away, unless something rather unexpected has happened, the amateur scouting staff of the Los Angeles Kings has wrapped up their pre-draft meetings and has finalized their “list,” not to mention the four players they have targeted for the fifth overall pick (as reported in this space on June 19).
The Kings have seven picks in the first four rounds, ten picks overall and perhaps most important, they have three selections in the first two rounds, all within the first 33 picks. If all goes well and they choose wisely, the Kings could add three prospects who are likely to become impact players in the not-too-distant future.
Barring any draft day trades, the Kings’ draft picks stack up this way:
- First Round: fifth and 22nd (from Toronto in exchange for Jake Muzzin)
- Second Round: 33rd
- Third Round: 64th and 87th (from Washington in exchange for Carl Hagelin)
- Fourth Round: 95th and 119th (from Montreal in exchange for Nate Thompson and the 138th selection [fifth-round; pick originally belonged to Arizona]).
- Fifth Round: 126th
- Sixth Round: 157th
- Seventh Round: 188th
The consensus top two prospects, center Jack Hughes and right wing Kappo Kakko, are expected to go to the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers, respectively. After these first and second selections, things will get more interesting and more intriguing as the real guessing game begins regarding the prospects and when they will be selected.
With the Kings selecting fifth overall, they are going to get a very talented player, very likely, one who will become one of their top players in the relatively near future. That said, who are the Kings dialed in on? Who are the four players they have targeted for that fifth overall selection?
Only the Kings hockey operations staff know the answer to that. But Frozen Royalty has identified some players that the Kings could very well be targeting and spoke with Kings Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Yanetti about them.
Players are listed below in order of their ranking with the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau followed by Yanetti’s comments.
You don’t even have to study the game to look at his stats and see that he’s put up numbers that defensemen haven’t put up in that league in a long time. He’s put himself in a select category just from his production.
He’s an excellent skater. He’s a wide body guy. He’s not a 6-4 guy, but he’s going to be one of those force-type of guys. He’s going to eat up minutes and play in all situations effectively. He’s a top pairing defenseman. He does everything well.
Vasily Podkolzin – Right Wing, Neva, St. Petersburg (Russia). 6-1, 196 pounds. 17 years old (turns 18 on June 24). Moscow, Russia. CSB Rank: 2 (European skaters).
If you’re Canadian, you’d be naming him the future captain of your Olympic team. He is as a good a competitor as there is in the draft. He has leadership intangibles that are as strong as anyone else in the draft. He is a balanced, versatile player. He is physical, competitive.
I think people are sleeping on his game, a little bit. There is legitimate, second-line ability in his play. He played on the power play for a World Junior team in his draft year. That doesn’t happen very often. His game, while not as flashy as some, is still excellent. His hockey sense is excellent. His game is balanced. He is physical. He is one of the hardest, if not the hardest guy to play against in the draft. He wills teams to win. He makes guys better. He can play on any one of your three lines and in any role. He’s a pretty complete player with tangibles that you don’t find very often.
He has a very high ceiling. Elite hockey sense. He’s an outstanding creator on the power play. He really makes things happen on the power play. He finds seams, he recognizes things quickly. He exploits coverages, he finds holes. He’s a really good passer and he’s got secondary scoring. He doesn’t lead with his shot or goal scoring, but that’s certainly a natural part of his game. It completes the offensive side of his game.
He’s got a lot of room to grow, physically. He’s a good skater. He’ll add a power element to his base. Despite being 6-4, he gets knocked off his feet a little bit. He gets knocked off the puck a little bit. But in two years, he’s not going to get knocked off the puck at all. There’s a possession element to his game that isn’t there today. But that is another way to add versatility to his game.
He’s a 6-4 center who leads with skill and sense. There’s not a lot of those kinds of players.
He’d be one of the two guys in the draft who are the least physically developed. He’s one of the players who are the furthest away from their physical maturation point. But if you watch him play, he looks like a freight train in his equipment. He looks like this big hulking guy. But then, you see him take his equipment off and you realize that there’s not much there. It was really surprising.
Age is going to affect his game. If he didn’t work on his game, just the fact that he’ll get older will add 30 percent to his game. He’s going to be an absolute horse. He’s already an excellent skater. But sometimes, he isn’t quite able to turn the corner on guys because he’s not strong enough. When he gets stronger, he’s going to be very hard to contain because of his speed.
He’s got an excellent release. The puck comes off his stick well. He’s able to shoot from awkward angles. He’s able to disguise his release and when he gets a little bit stronger and is able to box some guys out, it’s going to be even harder to contain him. He’s really good at finding room without the puck. He uses his skating ability really well. He makes good reads to find holes in the offensive zone and then, he uses his skating to jump into those holes before the defensemen can cover them.
I think he’s a prototypical second-line center.
Philip Broberg – Defenseman, AIK Sweden. 6-3, 200 pounds. 18 years old. Orebor, Sweden. CSB Rank: 5 (European skaters).
He’s an elite skater and he has a power element to his skating already. He might be ready to play next year. He’s 6-3 1/2 and even though he’s got room to grow, he’s built well. He’s strong. His base is strong and his mobility—it’s not just his skating. At his size, his mobility is good, too. He moves his hips well. His feet move well. His pivoting is good. His ability to create speed and power is elite, and usually, for guys who have speed and power, the mobility is the last thing to come, if it ever does, at all. But it’s already there. So, in terms of skating, he’s the complete package.
He’s got size, he plays very hard and he’s an absolutely driven kid.
Trevor Zegras – Center, U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program. 18 years old. 6-0, 173 pounds. Bedford, New York. Left hand shot. CSB Rank: 6 (North American skaters).
He’s an elite skater. The pace to his game is at a higher level. He attacks all over the ice. He’s always pressing the attack. He’s always using his speed and he’s always rushing to hard areas. He makes coverages move and he makes guys come to him because of the way he attacks. His skill is higher level. I think he’s slightly more of a playmaker than a scorer.
He can play center or wing. He’s another guy who is a long way from reaching his physical peak. But he’s an elite, speed-based player who is going to create a lot of problems for defenders at the next level.
One of the two best natural skaters in the draft. He’s a shooting machine, a scoring machine. The puck comes off his stick extraordinarily fast. It gets on goalies quickly. He finds space. He has a shooter’s mindset, a scorer’s mindset. He doesn’t just love to score. He competes to score. He has some consistency issues, in terms of his compete level. His biggest issue would be the discrepancy between his good and bad games. But he’s 6-2, and still growing, and his numbers speak for themselves. He has high-level skill.
Cole Caufield – Right Wing, U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program. 5-7, 163 pounds. 18 years old. Mosinee, Wisconsin. CSB Rank: 8 (North American skaters).
What’s the hardest thing to do in the NHL? Score. He’s one of the two natural scorers in the whole draft. He’s one of the two and he’s probably the better one. He is undersized. That’s the first thing everyone looks at, but that’s the least worrisome thing about his game, in my opinion. But that’s usually the narrative—his size. The narrative should be his ability to find space and his release. The release on his shot is ultra-quick. He jumps into areas. He finds space. He’s got this innate ability to find space and get there at the right time. Goalies have trouble picking up his shot. It’s off his stick lightning-quick. He’s got an extremely good one-timer. He positions himself to shoot it and he can shoot from awkward angles. The puck doesn’t stay with him for long. His quickness and first three steps in the offensive zone, when you need to get that quick space—he takes two quick steps to create space and it’s off his stick. He’s going to score at the NHL level.
Matthew Boldy – Left Wing, U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program. 6-2, 196 pounds. Milford, Massachusetts. CSB Rank: 9 (North American skaters).
Along with Cozens, he’s one of the two guys who is furthest away from his physical peak. Boldy is just scratching the surface, a boy in a power forward costume. Everything you see screams ‘power forward,’ except that he’s three years away from his body [fitting that role]. He’s an elite skater. The things he does really well don’t often translate right now because of his physical shortcomings. He does everything to get position on a guy, box him out and put himself in good position, but he’s often not strong enough to do all that. In three years, he’ll be fine.
The consistency in his game isn’t there yet, but all he needs is time. That’s not surprising for a 17-year-old. But when his body and his mind develop, he’s going to be very difficult to contain in any area of the ice.
He put up monster points last year. He was captain during his draft year, which is hard and rare. Now you put him on a last place team. His compete level never wavered. Neither did his diligence, his responsibility, his accountability, his passion—none of that ever wavered. He scored on pace with the Dach and Cozens, but without the supporting cast. He’s very versatile and he’s responsible defensively. His game without the puck is mature. He’s a very good skater. He’s quick and agile. I believe that he’s a future captain in the NHL—he’ll wear a letter, for sure.
He’s got a very balanced game. He can play well defensively and not sacrifice offense and vice versa.
It’s tough with the Achilles [injury he suffered during the season]. The only uncertainty about his game was him getting cut. He’s expected to make a full recovery, but that’s the only negative.
FROZEN ROYALTY’S PREDICTION: The Kings will always select the best player available when it’s their time on the clock. Assuming that he’s still available, I expect them to select defenseman Bowen Byram. The Kings badly need an upgrade on their top defensive pair to play alongside Drew Doughty and Byram has the potential to fill that void, maybe not in the coming season, but probably not much longer after that.
Don’t forget…the Kings have ten draft picks at their disposal and as reported earlier, three of those picks are in the first 33 selections. If they think that the player at the top of their list will be selected prior to their turn at number five, they could easily trade up to get their man and assuming that Byram is their top target, I would not be surprised to see them make that move, perhaps even giving up the 22nd or 33rd overall picks or perhaps a combination of the either pick and a roster player.
LEAD PHOTO: Defenseman Bowan Byram of the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League could very well be the Los Angeles Kings’ top target for the fifth overall selection in the 2019 NHL Draft. Photo: Melissa Baecker/Getty Images Sport.
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