Holding three picks in the second round of the 2020 NHL Draft, the LA Kings could have an incentive to trade up to grab a high-end defensive.
We are officially less than three weeks away from the 2020 NHL Draft, and the LA Kings will hold the second overall pick in the first round. Quinton Byfield has long-been the consensus number two pick in this draft class, which would add to the organization’s plethora of centerman in the prospect pool. Still, a guy with his size and speed, along with his abilities with the puck in his hand, doesn’t come along too often.
Beyond that, all attention will shift to the blue line where the Kings talent pool is not as deep. LA has three picks in the second round, and they could very well utilize all three on defensemen to stockpile the position. But there is also a scenario out there where Rob Blake and company trade back into the first round to get a high-end defender, and here’s why that notion makes sense.
1. Top-heavy defensive class
The Kings likely won’t be in the running for Jamie Drysdale or Jake Sanderson, and as many as eight defensemen could be taken off the board in the first round. It all depends on how high Drysdale goes and then how the subsequent dominoes fall. If he (Drysdale) goes to Ottawa at number three or five overall, it could have a similar impact as quarterbacks flying off the board in the NFL Draft.
Beyond Drysdale and Sanderson, Braden Schneider could sneak into the top ten, if a team is desperate. Kaiden Guhle has consistently been mocked as a mid-first-round pick. Then, of course, you have Justin Barron and William Wallinder that are sure to go near the end of the first round. But fringe first-round picks like Tyler Kleven and Ryan O’Rourke could slip into the back end of the first round as well.
After those guys, there is a considerable drop-off in top-end talent. That’s not to say the Kings would end up with a lousy player, but selecting one of the guys above could significantly accelerate the rebuild. And rock-solid, steady defensemen who can both shoot and play defense are invaluable.
2. The influx of young, NHL talent had an impact on the playoffs
If you’ve been watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you’ve likely noticed the impact that the young defensemen have had on their respective teams. Quinn Hughes was taken seventh overall in the 2018 NHL Draft, and the likely Calder Trophy winner accounted for two goals and 14 assists in Vancouver’s 17 playoff games.
Look to Dallas in Miro Heiskanen, who was the third overall pick in the 2017 Draft. The 21-year-old tallied eight goals with 27 assists in 68 regular-season games for Dallas, and he’s turned it on in the playoffs. In 21 games, Heiskanen has five goals with 17 assists for 22 points and has helped Dallas reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2000.
Cale Makar is another great example. The Avalanche’s fourth overall pick in 2017 tallied four goals with 11 assists for 15 points in 15 games. And again, the Kings likely won’t be getting a guy in the top five, but you see the impact a top defenseman has on their organization.
3. Next year’s defensive class is much deeper
Moving up this year will allow the Kings to stand pat next year. Aside from their first-round pick, LA hold two picks in the second round and potentially two picks in the third and fourth rounds as well. According to The Athletic‘s preseason ranking for the 2021 NHL Draft prospects, there are, at a minimum, ten defensemen ranked within the top-32.
Depending on how next season shakes out, the Kings could very well end up with another top tier defenseman, which would add to their first-rounder from item number one in this list.
I like to use the Tampa Bay Lightning as a good example of what a Stanley Cup Defense should look like. They’ve done such a good job of drafting and acquiring talent to bolster their blueline. Every time Victor Hedman winds up for a booming shot from the point, you feel for anyone that gets in the way. Whether it be Hedman, Sergachev, Cernak, or McDonagh, the Lightning are loaded top to bottom on defensive pairings.
This is the model the Kings should be following now that the offense in the prospect pool is stacked with talent.