[W]hen your list ends, you've got about 5 or 6 kids that you still just -- you wish you had more picks. And it's not feasible that you're always going to get your kids, but we've been working the phones pretty hard, and we got them all... [T]hey've all made the commitment to come to be at our camp, and these are kids that we would have taken, according to our list, in the 5th or 6th rounds.
We certainly hope that we can find one or steal one out of our invites as well, who are going to make things that much more special.
Since 2007, Dean Lombardi stockpiled as many extra draft picks as he could. Even after packaging multiple picks to move up (selecting Derek Forbort, Tyler Toffoli, Alec Martinez, Colten Teubert, Andrew Campbell, Jean-Francois Berube, Maxim Kitsyn, and Nicholas Shore in the process), Lombardi still drafted more players than any other team besides the NY Islanders over this rebuilding period.
In 2011, however, they not only had no extra draft picks, but also dealt their first rounder.
The Los Angeles Kings are entering a new phase: players acquired for picks, not picks for players. They're a playoff team now, not a cellar-dweller. They can't count on high draft position any longer. And, with fewer swings at bat, it becomes more difficult for the scouting staff to beat the odds and reach Lombardi's goal: drafting at least two future NHL players per year.
By inviting undrafted players to development camp, Futa and company hope to pick up extra picks for free. Martin Jones, the #3 goalie on the Kings' depth chart, is an example of one such successful find. Could there be another welcome surprise this year? Let's take a look at some of the invitees.
A full list can be found here. I'll start with five names that intrigue me.
1. D Alex Roach, 6'4", 227 lbs., 18 years old; Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
This kid fits Futa's description of a player who could easily have gone in the later rounds. After a slow start to his rookie season, Roach came on strong to earn a CSS ranking after not even making the list at midterm.
By [the holiday break], Roach had improved his foot speed and was making better decisions with the puck on the offensive and defensive side [...].
The [...] team decided to trade their older players at the trade deadline, which afforded [Roach] much more ice time. At the end of the season, Roach was logging about 20 minutes per game [...].
Roach finished the season with 16 points, four goals and 12 assists in 61 games. At 6-4, 225 lbs, Roach was not shy about making his presence known, and collected 77 penalty minutes.
Just a few months later, Roach was ranked 142nd on the NHL's central scouting draft list.
Roach seems like he's just starting to put it together in terms of his skating and conditioning, which leaves room for even more growth. As we saw with the Toffoli pick, the Kings have given the nod to guys who are willing to take the next step to improve those issues. Roach skipped attending the draft to graduate from school and "work on his physical fitness and his foot speed with Mills assistant coach Brian Kozak."
Bonus points? He looks like a long-faced Dustin Brown.
Other Calgary Hitmen in the system: Martin Jones, Brandon Kozun
2. D Colin Miller, 6'1", 173 lbs., 18 years old; Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
Miller had a long and winding road to major junior, but also has a fierce advocate in the Greyhounds' GM:
Dubas praised Miller, saying Ryan Murphy, the Kitchener Rangers star defenceman expected to go early in the first round, "might be the only better skater than Miller among defencemen in this draft."
Further, Dubas said: "There aren't many defencemen who can skate and move the puck like him. He can fly."
"If he does [get drafted], I think it'll be between the fifth and seventh rounds," the GM added. "And clearly, you can project Colin as an NHL player."
Here's another write-up:
Miller was hopeful that he would hear his name called in Minnesota, but realistic in that he might have to again prove himself. After just playing one season in the Ontario Hockey League [...] many felt his potential was just beginning to be seen. In his first season with the Hounds, the 6'1" defenseman racked up 22 points in 66 games, and had a +/- rating of +2 on a team that finished out of the playoffs.
3. D Pierre Durepos, 5'11" or 6'1" (big difference!), 180 lbs., 19 years old; Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Durepos is noted for his steady play; his team just won the Memorial Cup (defeating Maxim Kitsyn's squad, Mississauga). His role on that high-profile team offered a chance to be noticed:
"I didn't get drafted last year, but I didn't get down on myself,'' Durepos said. "I'm using it as extra motivation. Even though I've never been on that (Central Scouting) list, we have nine guys on there and that means there are lots of scouts at our games, and we can all do something to catch their eyes. We have to use that (extra exposure) to our advantage.''
The Kings had plenty of eyes watching that tournament; they must have seen something they liked.
Mayors Manor also asked him about the trials of being a ginger, among other things. Read up.
4. D Saverio Posa, 5'11, 171 lbs.,19 years old; Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
The knock on this kid is his size, but he's described as a reliable, stay-at-home defenseman who kills penalties and can log 20 minutes a night. He was partnered with a highly-rated puckmover, Nashville prospect Ryan Ellis.
Posa likes to play a physical game, despite his size. He is very good in shielding the puck along the boards. He plays with intensity and heart, takes great pride in moving the puck up the ice, and puts a priority on winning battles in the defensive zone.
Here's an interview on the Spitfires website. Don't miss the bongo interludes.
He was twice selected as Windsor's player of the week --the last time in April, for an excellent finals game against Owen Sound.
Further reading: Five Questions with Saverio Posa
Wait, wait, wait...out of all 14 prospects, the first 4 who grab my eye are defensemen? Yes. Lombardi and co. didn't draft any this year, which shows remarkable restraint, don't you think?
5. G Matej Machovsky, 6'2", 187 lbs.,17 years old; Brampton Battalion (OHL)
Ranked 11th among North American goalies by Central Scouting (midterm rank: 3)
The theme of the Kings' goaltending system is "quality over quantity," but they could use a few more netminders in the pipeline.
This young Czech prospect seems to have flown under the radar, getting limited exposure in a backup role, but still put up good numbers regardless.
The Red Line Report put him above Christopher Gibson. While the Kings obviously disagree, here's the case they made for Matej:
As for Red Line's taste, we'll go with Matej Machovsky, who, like Honzik, is a Czech import already playing in North America. He came into his own after a November trade to Brampton, and had a very strong second half. Machovsky's confidence and game seemed to grow by leaps and bounds over the course of the season. He shows very quick reflexes and lateral movement to go along with fine size and physical tools. He could stand to be a bit quieter in net and has a tendency to kick out some big rebounds.
Machovsky was named to the OHL's second rookie team, and won the F.W. "Dinty" Moore Trophy, which goes to the rookie goaltender with the best goals-against average. I think I speak for us all when I hope that prize was filled with stew.
More info on the other invitees coming soon.