Going Deep Into the LA Kings 2020 NHL Draft with Kings Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Yanetti – Part 3

LOS ANGELES — After an eventful first and second rounds of the 2020 National Hockey League Draft, October 5-6, 2020, the Los Angeles Kings added five more prospects to their system in Rounds 3-7.

Kings Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Yanetti spoke exclusively with Frozen Royalty about each of the Kings’ 2020 draft picks, and you can read his comments about the players they selected in Rounds 3-4 in this story, with coverage of Rounds 5-7 coming soon.

In case you missed it, Yanetti also spoke with Frozen Royalty about the first and second rounds (see related stories below).

Kasper Simontaival (3rd Round, 66th overall)

Right Wing, Tappara Jr.
18 years old; 5-9, 177 pounds.
Hometown, Tampere, Finland

Q: The first thing that jumps out at you when you look at Simontaival is his size, even though size, or the lack thereof, is no longer the factor that it once was.

Yanetti
“He’s undersized, in terms of height. But he’s really wide-bodied. We think he’s going to be built like a fire hydrant. He’s probably going to have that Cam Atkinson-like build with a low center of gravity, that wide-bodied, athletic stance—really rooted into the ground. He’s built substantially.”

“I don’t think size is the NHL barrier that it used to be. But he’s still smaller than the average guy, so that’s still a slight challenge. The other thing is that, at times, he can be a little linear, and a little bit individual. But when he’s going, his game is very balanced and full. He just has to stay balanced in his game.”

“As a smaller player, his off-ice routine and off-ice accountability, in terms of training and making himself as strong as possible, is what he has to focus on.”

Q: What sold you on him? What are his strengths?

“He’s really quick, very agile. Very good first three steps. He’s able to accelerate, jump into holes and separate from guys, both coming up the ice through the neutral zone, as well as in the offensive zone. His speed is better than average. But it’s his quickness that is the defining element to his skating.”

“He has really quick hands, a very quick stick, and a very good shot. His numbers in the junior league in Finland—I don’t remember—I think he led the league in scoring, but he definitely led his team, so he’s got a history of production.”

Alex Laferriere (3rd Round, 83rd overall)

Right Wing, Des Moines, USHL
18 years old; 6-0, 173 pounds.
Hometown, Chatham, New Jersey

Q: From what I’ve seen, it looks like Laferriere has made quite the impression in the USHL.

Yanetti
“The USHL is a funny league, especially for first-year players. It’s a hard league to adjust to. This kid was coming out of prep school, while a lot of the other players are older, and are coming out of higher-level leagues, and it’s still hard for them to adjust.”

“In prep school, he was the big man. He wasn’t getting bullied off the puck. But the USHL is at different level. It’s a very hard level for guys to do well at. It usually takes until January for players to take off and show you what they are. If they don’t take off by then, they’re probably not going to.”

“[Kings amateur scouts Teddy Belisle and Tony Gasperini] were on this kid really early. They talked about the improvement this kid was making, about how this kid was putting up numbers, and that he was starting to lead the league, in terms of creating offense and generating play, so I went with Tony and Teddy, and they were dead on, as they usually are.”

“The kid led his high school team in scoring, and the next year, he led his USHL team in scoring. That doesn’t happen very often.”

Q: What are his challenges going forward?

Yanetti

“He has to get bigger and stronger. For the style he plays—he’s got a very good shot, he’s willing to go to the hard areas and he gets there. He reads the play well in the offensive zone without the puck. But to do all that successfully, you have to be legitimately strong. With his skating, his edges—he’s going to have to plant in the ice, play guys off his hip and box guys out. It’ll be a little bit of learning how to deal with some of the traffic he’s effective in while facing older, stronger players. But he took the first step in doing that in the USHL. Now he’s going to have to do it in college, and then at the professional level.”

Juho Markkanen (4th Round, 112th overall)

Goaltender, Kettera, Finland-2
Glove Hand: Left
18 years old; 5-11, 145 pounds.
Hometown, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Q: Looking at Markkanen’s numbers, they don’t look that great, at least not to the layperson who is used to NHL numbers, and is unfamiliar with what goalie stats in Europe might be like. What convinced you that he should be your 4th round pick?

Yanetti
“One of the things for goalies is that you have to be able to deal with adversity. You have to be mentally strong. You have to be mentally flexible—you’re always riding highs and lows. If you’re not flexible, mentally, you’re in trouble, in that position.”

“This kid started the year as his team’s third string goalie for his junior team in Finland. That’s not exactly a recipe for success. But by the end of the year, he was playing in the Mestis [second highest men’s hockey league in Finland] as the number one goalie.”

“We loved the fact that he got better and better almost every time he stepped on the ice, and in almost every game he played. He really reads the play. He’s got good awareness in the net, and he’s really balanced. He’s a hybrid guy who’s well-balanced between his skating, hands, and the way he reads the play. I also like his positioning. His anticipation is good. That gives him a good jump on the puck.”

Q: Markkanen is listed at 5-11, 145 pounds. I would assume that you believe he will be able to add enough size and muscle to be able to hold his own in an NHL goal crease.

Yanetti
“He was 145 pounds at the start of the year, and he’s 167 now. He was really behind, physically. He’s just starting to catch up now.”

“We had Erik Ersberg from Sweden in goal some years ago. Really talented, and he had a lot of tools. But he just wasn’t big enough. He got moved out of the way too often. In the NHL, you need a strong base, because of the contact, the traffic. In Europe, you don’t have to deal with that as much.”

“He certainly has to get bigger and stronger so he can deal with the rigors of the North American pro level. But he has the frame to become a North American professional goalie.”

NEXT: Yanetti’s thoughts about the Kings’ 2020 draft selections in Rounds 5-7, coming soon.

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