You know how Dean Lombardi HATES Michigan? Well, he LOVES St. Cloud State. In his time in LA, Lombardi has selected Kevin Gravel (pronounced Gra-VELLE), Garret Roe, Nic Dowd and Jonny Brodzinski, who were all at the very least committed to St. Cloud State at the time of their respective drafts. Lombardi has selected more players from St. Cloud State than any other college or major junior program. I counted. It's true. He probably has good reason. Head coach Bob Motzko has an impressive resume spanning a couple of decades.
Kevin Gravel's game can be summed up simply: simple. He's a smooth skating defensive defenseman. He relies on his reach and positioning to direct play and goes for safety over style. Quite frankly, Gravel does a great job of breaking down his own game via his twitter handle: @glassandout7. He is nothing if not self aware. In a 2010 Q&A with McKeen's Hockey, he described his own game:
I'm a defense-first kind of guy. I think I'm pretty reliable in the defensive zone. I try to make that good first pass to breakout. Then, I skate pretty well for my size. So, like I said, I try to move my feet a little bit and make some plays, but I'm a defense-first kind of guy.
Gravel's career has followed a pretty steady trajectory, even in spite of his limited offensive prowess. After committing to St. Cloud State, Gravel was drafted by the Kings in the 5th round of the 2010 draft. The young blueliner nearly cracked a loaded U18 defense in 2010. Although he didn't make that team, he does have international experience in other tournaments. His defense has received consistent praise to make up for some low point totals.
Following an early exit from the Frozen Four this season, Gravel decided to return to St. Cloud State for his senior year. The logjam in the Kings system on the back end is actually of some use in Gravel's case. The Kings have no need to pressure Gravel into doing something he may not be ready for. He wants to stay in St. Cloud, develop his game and earn his degree. There is no rush to get him to the NHL.
Gravel plays the kind of simple style that seems to translate well to the pro game. Although he expressed a desire to build an offensive game in some early-career interviews, any production in that end will always be a bonus from the defender. His objective, as he frequently explains, is to keep the opposing team from scoring while he is on the ice. It's likely that he'll never involve into more than a defensive specialist that sees a lot of time on the penalty kill, and that's fine. The Kings have plenty of young skill on the back end as it is. It just may be easier to forge a career in this organization as a stay at home type at this point in the organization's development. Players that fill that role effectively are not easy to come by.