The Royal Draft: Who Are The Kings Going to Take in the 2015 NHL Draft?

For the first time in five seasons, the Los Angeles Kings didn’t qualify for the playoffs. We can all recall the lengthy battles against Western Conference opponents over the last three seasons, and we have all heard about what kind of toll that the heavy number of playoff games can take on even the guttiest and hardened hockey player.

While many will take the stance that not making the playoffs with this core group of players is a disaster, considering that the players will all be a year older next year. But I argue that missing the playoffs allows for a recharging period. That core group of players will be back next season although there are a few major questions regarding individual players (Justin Williams and the Slava Voynov situation come to mind).

For a few years now, the Kings’ farm system has been what hockey prospect people often refer to as “depleted.” Drew Doughty was never in the farm system; he went straight to the pros. But players like Jake Muzzin, Martin Jones, Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson, Alec Martinez, Slava Voynov (still has to be mentioned), Dwight King, and Jordan Nolan, as well as veterans like Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar, would prove just why the system is perpetually thought of as “depleted.”

After winning the 2014 Stanley Cup, the Kings drafted a Swede named Adrian Kempe. If you were to look at Kempe’s stats from his draft-eligible year, as well as this last season playing for Modo in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), it wouldn’t be unjustifiable to think of the guy as a bottom-six checking forward (28 points in 95 career SHL games). But the guy is consistently ranked as one of the Kings’ top-three prospects, and recently signed an entry-level deal to much fanfare.

In 2013, the Kings were without a first rounder (Columbus took it that year as a result of the Jeff Carter deal). They traded up in the second round to pick Russian Valentin Zykov, who also joins Kempe as perennial top-three prospects in the Kings’ organization.

In 2012, after winning their first Stanley Cup, the Kings (who still had their first round pick, after Columbus opted to take the Kings’ 2013 first round pick, in hopes that they wouldn’t be picking at the end of the first round) selected an overager by the name of Tanner Pearson.

There were some duds, however. Christopher Gibson, the Finnish (I’m not joking) goaltender was selected 49th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft wasn’t offered a contract, something that only happens when a team is so appalled by a prospect that they completely write them off. (For those wondering who was selected after Gibson, there are a number of players who are still in the process of developing, which says even more about what a poor pick Gibson turned out to be).

Going into the 2015 NHL Draft, the Kings have their highest selection since they picked Brayden Schenn, much to Brian Burke’s chagrin.

Brian Burke is a Wallaby.

It’s a deep draft, so why not take a look at the options available?

So for the Oilers to actually win something, all they had to do was consistently be the Oilers?

Yes, and I like how you put it that way. The Oilers get the first overall pick for the fourth time in six years. That means that they are not only consistently bad at winning games, but also bad at developing highly-talented individuals into the superstars that they were predicted to be.

Was it planned?

Being terrible? I imagine not, but you never know. They fired Dr. Who midseason and hired some other guy, who “turned things around” for the Oilers. Meaning they were marginally better than their first half efforts.

Dallas Eakins

So they planned on tanking to get McDavid…

Their efforts weren’t as blatant as, say, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Arizona Coyotes, or the Buffalo Sabres, but yeah…they fielded essentially a minor league hockey team.

(And knocked the Kings out of playoff contention late in the season)

So the Oilers are taking McDavid, and Buffalo is taking Eichel. Who does Arizona take?

While Eichel and McDavid are described as “generational-type” players, this year’s draft class really is special. Heading into the CHL postseason, there were two serious candidates to go third overall:: Boston College sophomore-to-be Noah Hanifin, and McDavid’s teammate Dylan Strome.

Hanifin is the best defenseman in the draft, but Strome’s size and offensive ability are something that the Coyotes desperately need. For months now, Hanifin has been penciled into the third spot in way-to-early mock drafts, but I think that changes considering Arizona’s financial woes, and their need for a marketable scorer. The problem with Strome is that he kind of faded in the playoffs. By the time Erie was eliminated last Friday, he looked completely spent (though some think he was playing with an injury, which isn’t too farfetched). Regardless, Strome is expected to be returned to Erie for next season (remember, until a player drafted from a CHL team turns 20, he can either play for the NHL team, or he has to be returned to his junior team). A lot of people think that Hanifin can turn pro immediately, though some suspect he might return to Boston College for his sophomore season.

But thanks to a strong finish to the season, as well as proof that smaller guys like Johnny Gaudreau and Patrick Kane have a place in the league, London Knights’ forward Mitch Marner is now a possibility to go third. That pick would make sense: the Coyotes need scoring, and there are two other Knights’ prospects who are highly thought-of by the Coyotes in Max Domi and Christian Dvorak. With the addition of multiple defensemen at the trade deadline, as well as a few solid defensive prospects looking to graduate to the pros, there is a lot of speculation that the Coyotoes are looking at forwards.

Wait, is Dylan related to…

Yes, he is the younger brother of burgeoning New York Islanders’ superstar Ryan Strome. The Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League (which used to be the Belleville Bulls, until the team was tragically acquired by some dude and moved to Hamilton, where the franchise will become the very average sounding Bulldogs) also drafted his little brother in the first round of this year’s bantam draft, proving that the family was designed to be hockey people. They also look nothing alike, which is cool.


That’s him on the left.

Will anyone be around by the time the Kings draft at #13?

Yes. The lottery in this year’s draft consists of a solid top-half. So, the Kings are bound to get someone who will contribute.

You’re talking about a fourth line energy player/plug defenseman, aren’t you…?

Have you seen the Kings play over the last few years? Of course that’s what I’m talking about. For the most part, the Kings’ draft strategy revolves around taking big dudes that can get in the way of their opponents and keep the puck. Occasionally, you’ll get the smallish playmaker (like Jordan Weal, Justin Azevedo, Andrei Loktionov), or the slight speedster who just knows how to put the puck in the back of the net (Brian O’Neill, although he was undrafted, Brandon Kozun, and Spencer Watson), but for the most part, they don’t alter their draft strategy. With that in mind, it’s relatively easy to predict who the Kings won’t draft.

Depending on what lists you look at, the top-15 usually includes the same dudes, although the order is sometimes juggled. For this article, I went with NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings, which looks like… 2015-04-22 17-10-11

While there are cases of players dropping in the draft for really no reason at all (Dustin Brown and Cam Fowler come to mind), the best candidate to drop in this year’s draft is Lawson Crouse. He’s a winger who plays for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League, and everyone BEEN knowed that the Kings love the OHL. Director of Player Personal Mike Futa works out of the Toronto-area, and Kingston has/had two Kings’ prospects playing for them: winger Spencer Watson (who Hockey’s Future compared to Johnny Gaudreau, perhaps a bit optimistically) and Roland McKeown, who was traded to Carolina as a part of the Andrej Sekera deal. Crouse’s team also plays in the same division as the Ottawa 67’s (more on that later). Corey Pronman over at ESPN has Crouse ranked at #10. The deal with Crouse is this: while his size is good (6’4 213lbs.), and scouts say that his defensive prowess might be NHL-ready as an 18-year-old, Crouse simply has never put up the points that the scouts are looking for. In his first season playing for the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL, he had 27 points in 63 games, a respectable pace for a rookie. This year, he collected 51 points in 56

Strome, on the other hand, had 129 points in 68 games. He’s a great skater who will get into the corners and do the dirty work (which is fast becoming THE compliment for NHL scouts/wannabe scouts. Not sure why). Crouse is a prime candidate to fall on draft day, and given the Kings penchant for taking big, strong dudes from Ontario, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Kings made a move to jump up and get Crouse, or cross their fingers and pray that he falls to them. Of course, this is all dependant on Crouse falling out of the top-10, and all the way to 13. 2015-04-22 17-12-11

Pavel Zacha was a dude that was picked with the first selection in the 2014 CHL Import draft. His agent threw a temper tantrum, essentially saying that there was a better chance that Pavel Zacha would make his North American debut playing wing on a line centered by Charlie Conaway, than reporting to Sarnia to play for the lowly Sarnia Sting. Turns out Zacha liked the idea of playing in Ontario, and his agent must have felt pretty terrible. Zacha is compared by many to fellow countryman Tomas Hertl, in that he’s a pretty big dude, with good skating ability and strong offensive awareness. While he only had 34 points in 37 games (16-18=34), he showed an edge that many didn’t think he was capable of. Problem is, he was suspended on numerous occasions due to questionable hits, and dealt with injuries. His stock has progressively dropped, but he is still in the top-15. If there is a player that falls out of the top-10, it will most likely be him.

Wereinski had a nice U20 tournament, and Mitch Marner–as mentioned–is an unbelievable scorer (44 goals and 82 assists in 63 regular season games), but none of the guys that round out the top-10 have moved up like Ivan Provorov. Whereas dudes like Barzal, Zacha, and Marner are more likely to return to their junior programs (since they are being drafted from CHL teams, they get two options: junior hockey, or the NHL), Provorov is projected by many to make an NHL roster for the 2015-2016 season.

Now that you know which players won’t be available to the Kings at #13, here’s the group of players likely to be within reach. 2015-04-22 17-13-24

Zboril is a solid two-way defenseman who isn’t afraid to join the rush, or step-up to take a hit. The left-handed shot has a good frame at 6’2 200lbs., and like Zacha, is a Czech. He played this season in the QMJHL, where the Kings typically steer clear of (for whatever reason). Barzal was taken with the first overall pick in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft. He hasn’t disappointed the Seattle Thunderbirds, scoring a combined 111 points in 103 games. He plays the distributor at this point in his career, as evidenced by his 26 goals in his 111 games.

This is all nice, but whom are the Kings going to draft?

…I was getting to that. I believe the answer to the Kings’ first round pick lies in the chart above. Kyle Connor is a speedy center/winger who has good offensive ability, and is a real go-getter. He’s known for playing an energetic game, but has really spent this year focusing on his defensive game (though he still managed 80 points in 56 USHL games, which is really good). His speed and his energy are something that the Kings like, but it’s his size that may result in the Kings steering clear.

Much like Connor in the size department is Travis Konecny. The Kings have an infatuation with Ontarians, and Konecny played on a team with two Kings’ draft picks, Jacob Middleton and Alex Lintuniemi. Futa has had a chance to watch Konecny play a lot. Konecny is a classic case of a player who doesn’t know that he’s 5’10 170lbs. He flies around the ice, and throws his body around far-too often for a guy of his size, and has paid the toll for doing so. He’s a great leader, has fantastic skating ability, and is known for a two-way game that is so necessary to play in the Kings’ system. If that weren’t enough, he’s cousins with the Horvats.

Finally, there’s Jansen Harkins is aA riser in the rankings, and Harkins has “Kings” written all over him. He’s your typical blue collar, two-way center. On offense he’s a distributor, wracking up far more assists than goals. He’s a good penalty killer, and simply outworks his opponents. At 6’1 180lbs., he’s big enough to be considered somewhere between “good sized” and “lanky,” which still makes no sense to me, but I’ve never played hockey before.

Who wins in a fight, Harkins or Konecny?

Not relevant, but I’d probably say Konecny, because I think that he’d rather die than lose a hockey game.

McDavid wouldn’t hurt a fly, would he?

WRONG! Connor McDavid riled-up the anti-fighting folks when he missed a punch earlier in the season (well, technically he connected on the punch…but with the Plexiglas and not his opponent’s head).

So the Kings choose between Konecny and Harkins?

Judging by the Kings’ draft history, I say yes. There is always the chance that Dean Lombardi packages the pick and a prospect to get a guy that can help the team right away, but given the fact that the Kings are without a first rounder in 2016 (that pick goes to the Hurricanes), I think that the Kings will make the selection at 13.

Can you write about any wild cards (a la Thomas Hickey)

I can, and will. I do believe that Pavel Zacha will fall in the draft due to his rocky 2014-2015 campaign with the Sarnia Sting. He’s got tons of talent, plays a physical game, and a team that is confident in their farm system—like the LA Kings—could take draft him in hopes re-indoctrinating him at the prospect camp.

Jake DeBrusk of the WHL (Swift Current Broncos) is a good two-way winger with some offensive upside. He’s not very physical, but is smart, and plays well in the corners.

There are two more defensemen playing in the QMJHL that are ranked in the top-20. Thomas Chabot who plays in St. John’s with Zboril plays a similar game to the Czech defenseman. Defensively responsible, with a good offensive side, Chabot is a solid two-way player who can catch opponents off-guard by jumping up in the rush. Jeremy Roy of Sherbrooke is a right-handed defenseman known for his leadership and knowledge of the game. Though not particularly big (6’0 180lbs.) it is his intelligence that scouts are most impressed with.

Any dark horse candidates (a la Thomas Hickey)?

Given that the Kings did—in fact—take Thomas Hickey with the fourth overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft (ahead of players like Karl Alzner, Jakub Voracek, Logan Couture—a wild card himself—Brandon Sutter, and Ryan McDonagh), there is always the shot that the Kings throw their hands up if a guy they wanted gets drafted, and pick their next-highest-ranked dude.

Coming in at #27 in the final ranking of North American skaters is Brock Boeser (pronounced “Bess-er”), who I assure you is not a member of the Cobra Kai.


But he sure does look like he could be…


Boeser is a guy that scouts refer to as “sturdy.” He’s 6’1 and close to 200lbs., and is very much built like Dustin Brown or Kyle Okposo. Because of his size, he can outmuscle guys in the corners, and can control the puck better than a lot of prospects. Scouts believe he will go in the 22-30 range, and he’ll play next year for the University of North Dakota (willingly). He also may be the most boring person on the planet.

My other dark horse is Brandon Carlo. A native of Colorado, Carlo decided to play in the WHL for the Tri-City Americans. At 6’5 190lbs., Carlo’s scouting report mirrors King prospect Derek Forbort: smart player, great skater, and a good shot. He’s got the truculence that Brian Burke looks for (far-more than Forbort possesses), but is agile enough to be more than just a stay-at-home, defensive defenseman. He’s a right-hand shot, something that teams covet, and something that the Kings are currently lacking in their system (outside of Colin Miller and the oh-so raw Nick Ebert)

So that’s it. It took me roughly 2,000 words, but those are the players that the Kings are likely to look at for with the 13th overall selection.

Could the Kings buck their drafting trend and pick an undersized speedster with a knack for scoring?

Yeah, as long as he’s 6’3 200lbs., and is described as “sturdy,” and/or “physical.”

Wait a second…


Any shot we can just go ahead and pick Connor McDavid?






John Siegel is a lunatic who writes about hockey, east coast bias, and content marketing. He rarely takes anything seriously, there's a good chance he's drinking right now. You can follow him on Twitter @JVNSiegel but you probably shouldn’t.