It doesn’t happen often, but by trading their first-round pick, the LA Kings can actually accelerate their rebuild.
The LA Kings currently hold the eighth selection in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft scheduled for July 23rd and 24th. Though certainly not as hyped as last year when the team held the second selection, the Kings should still get a very good player at number eight. Whoever they select would be added to what is considered by many to be the top prospect pool in the NHL.
What if the best selection for the Kings to make would be to trade the pick?
The LA Kings were able to build that top-rated prospect pool thanks partly to the fact they have recently suffered through several losing seasons – which has earned them multiple high draft picks. By most accounts, they have used these draft picks wisely, and some, if not most of these prospects, should be playing in Los Angeles soon.
Having several highly rated prospects is great, and just about any NHL team would love to have what LA has. There is one drawback to depending on prospects to carry your team to success. Regardless of how prolific they are, prospects take time to develop.
While they have a lot of prospects, the LA Kings are starting to run out of patience. TV ratings are down, and all signs point to arenas being back to full capacity next season. Management will have cause for alarm if the team has trouble filling the Staples Center.
If that’s not enough, General Manager Rob Blake has already gone on record as saying the team is not good enough to make the playoffs in its present roster configuration. With comments like these, trades and/or free agent signings will certainly be coming this offseason.
This was reinforced by a recent statement from Darren Dreger of TSN, who said the LA Kings will be in the market to land two top-six forwards this offseason. To avoid further fading into the background of the LA sports scene, the Kings will have to get some big-name help now and take significant steps to emerge from their rebuild.
If Blake chooses to go the trade route to get forward help, he will certainly have to give to get.
What that give would certainly involve is a package involving the aforementioned highly rated prospects. It has been said that Quinton Byfield is untouchable (although if Wayne Gretzky can get traded…)
That leaves everybody else in play – including Alex Turcotte, Gabe Vilardi, Arthur Kaliyev, etc. To help keep as many of the prospects that they already have as possible, the LA Kings should definitely make their first-round pick in this year’s draft available for trade as well.
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Trading the first-round pick is not a popular idea to some, but this year especially, it would make sense. The 2021 NHL draft class certainly has some exciting talent, but it appears to lack NHL players ready right now. It can be argued that trading away too many first-round picks during the cup years was a big factor in the team’s fall from grace of the past few years.
The LA Kings are now in a much different situation, however, as the team is no longer devoid of blue-chip prospects like they were five years ago. The team is also looking for long-term solutions instead of “rentals” to get through just one playoff season.
Of course, trading a first-round pick has its risks. Had they not traded their first-round pick in the 2015 draft as part of the Milan Lucic trade, Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor, or Thomas Chabot could very easily have been playing for the LA Kings right now instead of the respective teams they are on.
That hurts, but for every trade that does not work out like that one, there are more instances of making a first-round pick that did not work out only to see a superstar that was chosen shortly thereafter. For example, drafting Derek Forbort when Vladimir Tarasenko was taken with the next pick or selecting Colton Teubert when Erik Karlsson was taken two picks afterward.
The point is, just having the first-round pick is no guarantee that the player selected will stick around or even make it to the NHL. With the LA Kings in a situation where they need proven veteran help to go with the burgeoning young talent they already have, trading their first-round pick to get that help is an acceptable risk.