Well first things first, I’ve locked up my tickets from lakings.com, have you? As we’ve mentioned, the tickets are (basically free) and obviously it’ll be a great time for all hockey fans in Los Angeles. I’d imagine that AEG and the Kings organization will have some fun times planned for those of us attending the draft, and hopefully we’ll have a chance to see you all there.
But now on to the draft. For the first time in the last few years, the Kings are not drafting in the first handful of picks, which makes projecting anything nearly impossible. There are, however, a few factors worth thinking about when trying to determine where the Kings will end up. Those factors include: management philosophy, team need, tendency, and player availability.
Management Philosophy: Lombardi has said in multiple interviews that he favors the “build from the back” theory of constructing a team. He’s certainly done that, establishing a strong presence in net, as well as some excellent defenseman. Certainly with such a philosophy a defenseman can always be welcomed into the fold, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go that direction if somebody like Jon Merrill or Dylan McIlrath fall to #19.
Team Need: Clearly the team need is on offense. Certainly the Kings could use another defenseman, but with such strong players in the pipeline to compliment Doughty and Johnson, they are doing well in that regard. The Kings do have a need for an offensive player, preferably a sniper on the wing that can help with the Kings ability to score in 5 on 5 situations. As always when drafting this far back, it would be silly to expect the player to make an immediate impact on the NHL team, though bigger surprises have happened.
Tendency: Lombardi and the Kings seem to prefer the North American, typically bigger players (Hickey being the obvious exception), and there are certainly a handful of them likely to be available at that spot. Nick Bjugstad could be around and comes in at 6’3″ and 190lbs, as is Quinton Howden at 6’2″ 170lbs. These bigger players offer the physical presence that fits in with the Kings philosophy, and are the kind of “Kings players” that Lombardi might look for.
Player Availability: This factor is a bit more of a toss-up, and will be virtually impossible to project until the actual draft. The Kings are obviously covering their bases, but some of the players above are likely picks, as well as Austin Watson (RW), Brett Connolly (LW), Jack Campbell (G).
Of course all of these factors could be thrown out the window in favor of the all-important “best player available” philosophy. Sitting at #19 a lot can change, and Lombardi is known for a propensity to move up or down for a specific player. So in a nutshell, this is all bluster that can be written off as random chatter. But it’s fun, and that’s why we do this right? Who do you want to see the Kings pick?