LA Kings: Three defensemen worth trading up for in NHL Draft

(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

The LA Kings should consider trading up for these three defensemen in the 2020 NHL Draft.

We are just eight days from the NHL Draft. The Stanley Cup should be wrapped up this week, if not by tonight. The LA Kings haven’t played since the middle of March, but it’s been nice to have competitive hockey to watch. Once the Stanley Cup is awarded, each organization will turn its attention to their respective draft boards.

For the Kings, they hold the second overall pick. The long debate of Quinton Byfield versus Tim Stutzle will soon have a conclusion. Beyond that, Rob Blake and LA’s front office hold ten more picks, including three in the second round. Presumably, the organization will shift their attention from a high-end forward to shoring up its deficiencies along the blue line.

Of course, the Kings could stand pat with their selections as is. Still, in a defensive class that isn’t as deep as next year’s class, it makes some sense to consider moving back into the first round to grab better talent. Depending on high how of a selection they’d like to target, moving up will require at least two second-round picks.

Here are three players to target. And let’s preface this with the Kings won’t be moving up high enough to grab either Jamie Drysdale or Jake Sanderson.

Braden Schneider

Schneider has consistently been mocked as a mid-first-round pick. He would be good fits for the Maple Leafs, Canadiens, and Blackhawks, who have picks 15 through 17, respectively. The 19-year-old is big for his age, standing at 6-foot-2, 209 pounds. He’s a right-handed shot and has spent the last three seasons playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL.

The Prince Albert, SK native was the 12th overall pick in the 2016 WHL Draft. In his first year with Brandon, Schneider scored one goal with 21 assists for 22 points. Since then, he’s morphed into an excellent two-way defenseman, tallying 7 goals and 35 assists last year. He’s become a leader for the Wheat Kings in a short amount of time, wearing a letter in each of the last two seasons.

Scouts rave about his exceptional gap control and his offensive abilities. I think what I like most about Schneider is that he’s a big-bodied defenseman with outstanding speed, and his physicality might be his best trait. He would be an excellent long-term replacement for Drew Doughty on the Kings’ top pairing.

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Kaiden Guhle

Another physical defenseman, Kaiden Guhle could end up being a guy who slides in the draft. He’s projected to go near the mid-first or end of the first round. Looking to follow in his brother’s footsteps – current Anaheim Ducks defenseman Brendan – Kaiden’s an excellent two-way defenseman who exudes physicality.

He stands at 6-foot-3, 187 pounds, with room to fill out his frame. Guhle is a left-handed shot and took his game to another level this past season. As a base, he lit the lamp 3 times with 14 assists for 17 points in 65 games with the Prince Albert Raiders during the 2018-2019 campaign. He also tallied three assists in 23 playoff games, en route to the Raiders’ WHL Championship.

In just as many games, Guhle scored 11 goals with 29 assists for 40 points this past year. He also scored five goals on the man advantage, projecting to be a good candidate for the second power play unit in the NHL. Aside from physicality, Guhle excels in gap control with gifted speed and acceleration.

William Wallinder

William Wallinder is one of the most interesting draft prospects. He’s ranked as the 27th best prospect in this class, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie. I’ve seen him in mock drafts taken at the end of the first round or within the top three of the second round. He stands at a lean 6-foot-4, 192 pounds, and should only get bigger as he physically matures.

He has been with the MODO Hockey club in Sweden since the 2017-2018 campaign. Last year, he scored 5 goals with 19 assists for 24 points in 37 games. Wallinder recorded a career-best five assists in MODO’s 7-6 shootout win over Luleå at the end of February. His best traits include above-average skating, speed, stretch passes up ice, and gap control.

The Swedish defenseman is a left-handed shot who can quarterback the power play. He has an excellent wrist shot from the point, and his game projects to Victor Hedman, from a stylistic perspective. And if you’ve been watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs, that would be an excellent pick for the LA Kings.