LOS ANGELES — The 2019 National Hockey League Draft has come and gone with the Los Angeles Kings adding nine young prospects to their system while achieving a rather suprising balance.
“We ended with four defensemen, four forwards and a goalie, which is a rare split,” Kings Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Yanetti said during a media conference call on June 22, after the conclusion of the draft. “[General manager Rob Blake] was actually hoping to come out with a split like that and I couldn’t promise that we would be able to deliver that.”
“We got depth at all positions,” Yanetti added. “It was chaotic, at times. But it was pretty seamless.”
A separate story is in the works, featuring exclusive comments from Yanetti, who evaluated how the Kings did in this year’s draft. He also provided a peek into their overall strategy, some details on what they were looking at for the fifth overall pick—Alex Turcotte was not at the top of their list—and what went into the decisions they made to make a trade, or not make one, during the draft. The insight from Yanetti will be well worth the read. Stay tuned for that story, coming on June 23.
Yanetti also spoke exclusively with Frozen Royalty about each of the Kings’ 2019 draft picks. You will find his comments below, and in the case of the fifth overall pick, Turcotte’s remarks are also included.
Alex Turcotte (fifth overall) – Center, U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program. 5-11, 186 pounds. 18 years old. Elk Grove, Illinois. Left hand shot. CSB Rank: 4 (North American skaters).
Yanetti: “He’s a solid, solid two-way center with natural playmaking and secondary scoring. He leads with speed, quickness and compete. We think he’s got leadership qualities. He’s a potential letter-wearer in the NHL, at some point in his career.”
“He’s really driven. His game is extremely mature for a player of his age, especially on the U.S. Under-18 National Development Team. With the amount of talent they had, they tended to freewheel a little bit—if you have that kind of ability in that many players, why wouldn’t you? But he always had really good structure in his game and when you see a guy produce high-level offensive numbers with legitimate structure in his game, and then you add the leadership and compete qualities that Rob wants—if we can have all that in a point producer? You don’t usually find that kind of maturity and that kind of skill level in a player that mature.”
Turcotte (during media conference call): “It’s just surreal [to be selected by the Kings]. I just can’t believe they picked me. I’m just so happy to get started. It’s just a dream come true. It’s really cool to share this with my family and friends, too. It’s the best day of my life.”
Turcotte describing his game: “First and foremost, I’m a really competitive person. My game is the total package. Defensively, I’m very reliable. I’m not making many mistakes. You can trust me in my own end. Offensively, I think I’m really gifted and talented. I make my teammates better. I make plays and I put up a lot of points.”
Turcotte on how playing in the U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program helped his game: “Playing against the best players in the United States every day, and we had a really special group this year—I think, so far, there’s been seven of us picked in the first round, which is pretty cool—going against guys like that every day, you’re only going to get better. It was very competitive. It made me play harder and want to be a better player. They really helped me with that.”
Turcotte on playing for the University of Wisconsin in 2019-20: “I’m really excited. I’ve already moved in for the summer. I’m taking a class and training there. I’m going to get a lot stronger, physically, develop more there and learn to play against older competition, especially with [head coach and former Kings right wing Tony Granato]. He knows the management really well. and I think it’s just a tremendous fit and I can’t wait.”
Turcotte on his familiarity with the Los Angeles area: “I’m already pretty familiar with the area. I’ve been to L.A. quite a few times, specifically, El Segundo and Manhattan Beach. It’s been a blast, with the beaches the Palm trees, and the great weather. It’s just a fun city to be in. They love their hockey, too, and I can’t wait to get there and help the team.”
“[His uncle] actually works for the Junior Kings. It’s pretty cool to have some family there.”
Tobias Bjornfot (22nd overall) – Defenseman, Djurgarden Jr., Sweden. 6-0, 193 pounds. 18 years old. Upplands Vasby, Sweden. Left hand shot. CSB Rank: 7 (European skaters).
Yanetti: “He was captain of his peer group. Whenever he played for his national team [for his age group] he was the captain. He was the captain for their Under-18 team at the World Junior Championships. He plays in all situations—even strength, power play and penalty-kill. He’s a top-four defenseman. He’s a really good skater. He’s got really good structure in his skating. He’s got a strong base and he moves the puck up ice very quickly. He might not have some of the creativity of some of the higher-function, creative, passing defensemen. But when it comes to success, moving the puck up ice fast trumps creativity, sometimes, and he really gets the puck up ice fast. He really sees his options and coverages well, and he moves the puck accordingly.”
“He plays outstanding defense. There is great structure to his game. The hope is that we get some secondary offense from him. He’s done that in spurts. But if you can put the leadership qualities on your blue line in a guy who’s a top-four defenseman, you’re getting these bonus intangibles that you don’t necessarily expect from guys in top roles.”
Arthur Kaliyev (33rd overall) – Right Wing, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL). 6-2, 194 pounds. 17 years old (will turn 18 on June 26). Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Left hand shot. CSB Rank: 7 (North American skaters).
Yanetti on Kaliyev being available at the 33rd pick: “Every year, two or three players are going to drop [from where they were ranked in the first round]. It wasn’t shocking to us that he was there at 33. With his numbers and production, you would’ve expected him to go higher. Just about every independent ranking had him in the top 20 or higher.”
“We targeted four guys who we thought could fall [to 33], as forwards, and he was one of those players. He would’ve been the one we thought would fall the least of the four. But we thought there would be four guys of value who would be there at 33, and we were fortunate that he was one of them.”
Yanetti on if questions about Kaliyev’s compete level were what scared some teams away from him: “There’s no question about it. He’s got to play harder.”
For a profile of Kaliyev, be sure to read Frozen Royalty’s LA Kings 2019 NHL Draft preview story, which features Yanetti’s comments about Kaliev:
LA Kings 2019 NHL Draft: Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Yanetti Looks At Potential 1st Round Picks
Samuel Fagemo (50th overall) – Left Wing, Frolunda, Sweden. 6-0, 190 pounds. 19 years old. Gothenburg, Sweden. Left hand shot. CSB Rank: 20 (European skaters).
Yanetti on trading up from the 64th overall pick: “It’s not just the player. It was the situation and the circumstances. The players after him presented a different level of player, so if we didn’t take him there, he probably doesn’t fall to us at 64. If he did, that would’ve been pure luck instead of us being pro-active.”
“When you sit around, waiting for things to happen, they tend not to happen. So the decision was to move. We had discussed two separate deals with Montreal. We put in a proposal for 46 and another one for 50. They were slightly different. [Canadiens general manager] Marc Bergevin called us back before the 46th pick, saying that they wanted to keep that pick, but then, asked if we would still be interested in the other deal we put together.”
“We said, ‘of course.’ But originally, there were three [of the four players they thought would fall to 50], but now, there was only one left, Fagemo. So the deal was contingent on that player being there. At 50, it was clear that Fagemo was still going to be there. It was a really easy deal to make.”
Yanetti: “He’s a speed player. Fast. Explosive. He scored 15 goals in the Swedish Elite League this year, as a draft-year plus one player. He plays as a high level. He’s as good as Adrian Kempe with a higher level of compete, if not the flat-out ability. He’s got all those tools that we like, so then you look at our draft list, and he’s in a layer where the players we see after him are in another tier in the draft.”
“People throw words around, like ‘compete,’ ‘hockey sense’ and ‘character.’ There’s about eight million ways that you can compete. You can punch someone in the face. You can hit someone. You can block a shot. You can drive the net. What Fagemo does—he’s got speed-based and pace-based compete. What that means is there’s an element to his compete that’s directly related to his speed and his quickness. He gets in on the forecheck fast. He creates pressure on defensemen. He forces opposing team’s coverages to change. He forces defensemen to move a second quicker. One of the indicators in today’s NHL is, when you lose the puck, how fast do you get it back? He gets it back really, really fast. He attacks the net. He pushes defenses back. He forces defensemen to give up the [blue] line. He drives and attacks those hard areas.”
Lukas Parik (87th overall) – Goaltender, Liberec Jr., Czech Republic. 6-4, 185 pounds. 18 years old. Neratovice, Czech Republic. Catches left. CSB Rank 3 (European goalies).
Yanetti: “We had targeted a goalie with either 87 or 95. Our philosophy dictates that there are certain spots to get a goalie, and 87 is on that border, It’s almost a fourth round pick.”
“Going into the draft, we had three goaltenders that we would’ve taken by pick 87. By that time, only one of the goalies we had in that group was left, so we decided to take him at 87.”
“6-4. Athlete. Extremely good movement. Coordinated. Very good skating. He needs more structure in his game. At this level, you often find technical goalies who need to work on their athleticism, and athletic goalies who need to work on their technique. He’s really athletic, so there’s a lot for [Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford] to work with. But the good thing about Parik is that some big goalies just fall back into the net, relying on their size. But this kid looks for the puck. He seeks it out and moves his body towards it. He is really competitive, so sometimes, he plays a little outside himself, losing his position. Bill Ranford’s job will be to add some structure to his game, not unlike what he did with Jonathan Quick, who was an athletic goalie who needed more structure.”
Jordan Spence (95th overall) – Defenseman, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL). 5-10, 177 pounds. Manly, Australia. Right hand shot. CSB Rank: 59 (North American skaters).
Yanetti: “Higher level, natural offensive element. Power play quarterback. Really good one-timer. He’s undersized, but you need certain attributes to overcome size, and he thinks the game really well. He’s a good skater.”
“This is a kid who didn’t get drafted into the Quebec league in his draft year. We’re not talking about not getting drafted in the NHL. He didn’t get drafted in the Quebec league. He didn’t even play in his 16-year-old season. He had to make the team this year, which is very rare. So he went from an unheralded nobody to the Rookie of the Year in the Quebec league. That’s says something.”
“When you sit down and talk to the kid, there’s something different about him. He has the offensive ability, the skill, the talent. Then, he can deal with adversity in a way that most kids who are 16 years old can’t. He was playing midget-AAA hockey in his draft year and then, this year, instead of being given a spot on the team, he has to fight for one. Not only does he win a spot, he becomes the Rookie of the Year and he played for Canada on the Under-18 World Junior Championship team, making him one of the top 20 players in Canada at his age this past year. You don’t see that often and we like that.”
Kim Nousiainen (119th overall) – Defenseman, Kalpa Jr., Finland. 5-9, 170 pounds. 19 years old. Leppavirta, Finland. Left hand shot. CSB Rank: 52 (European skaters).
Yanetti: “Finnish defenseman. Elite skater, elite compete. Good offensive creativity and he moves the puck well. He advances it, both with his feet and with his mind. He’s got a versatile transition game. He plays much bigger than his size.”
“We thought he would give us real value in the middle rounds. His game doesn’t resemble Torrey Krug’s, but if you watch the way Krug played in the playoffs, the way he competed, the way he brought energy, the way he skated, Nousiainen does similar things, in terms of the way an undersized player competes.”
NOTE: Yanetti said that Nousiainen will be one day late to arrive at the Kings Development Camp this week because he will not be able to fly out of Finland in time.
Braden Doyle (157th overall) – Defenseman, Lawrence Academy (high school in Groton, Massachusetts). 5-11, 162 pounds. Lynnfield, MA. Not ranked by CSB.
Yanetti: “He’s a high school kid. Smooth, smart, quick thinking. He recognizes his options well. Good transitional player. Secondary offense. He’s a puck mover first and an offensive guy second. Very good skating. He’s at the bottom end of his physical development. He’s going to the USHL next year and then, college. So, in terms of age distribution, it puts him out a couple of years behind [the rest of the players they drafted]. But there’s a lot of room for this kid to grow. He’s just scratching the surface of what he is.”
Andre Lee (188th overall) – Left Wing, Sioux Falls (USHL). 6-4, 206 pounds. 19 years old. Karlstad, Sweden. Not ranked by CSB.
Yanetti: “Very raw. 6-5. [Amateur scouts] Tony Gasperini and Teddy Belisle were really excited about this kid. You can get equally excited about a seventh round pick compared to a first round pick. In each round, there are guys you get excited about, and they were excited about this player.”
“They think he is a 6-5 athlete who is foundationally and physically behind his peers, not to mention the fundamental things that players his age are well-versed at. That happens. But he’s an athlete and he competes, so we think our development staff can teach him the fundamentals and bridge that gap.”
LEAD PHOTO: Center Alex Turcotte (gray suit) is shown here about to embrace his father after he was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the first round (fifth overall) of the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver, British Columbia, on June 21, 2019. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Kings.
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Great read Gann! Look forward to the article with Yanetti.