Last year, the Los Angeles Kings didn't have a first-round pick. The year before, they picked 30th. Having a lower draft slot hasn't stopped the Kings from picking well, though; that #30 pick was Tanner Pearson, and the second-round pick last season was Valentin Zykov . We all know how well Pearson is working out, and Zykov has continued to be productive in the QMJHL. The 29th pick doesn't seem like much, but it IS their highest pick since the 15th selection in 2010 (Derek Forbort).
Here's the list of players taken so far, so obviously, a lot of good prospects are off the board.The Kings can afford to be patient. They're really unlikely to take a player under 6 feet tall. They need players who excel at both ends of the ice. And despite their strength down the middle at the NHL level, their weakest position in terms of organizational depth is center. This leads us to a player who has been rising up draft boards, and yet, is still underrated based largely on where he plays.
With the 29th pick in the 2014 SB Nation NHL Mock Draft,
Los Angeles Jewels from the Crown selects center Vladislav Kamenev, from Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL.
The 6'2", 203 lb. Kamenev is generally considered the top prospect playing in Russia, though he's touted as a tier below other Russian-born prospects such as Ivan Barbashev (16th pick in the mock draft) and Nikiata Scherbak (22nd pick). So I guess we are required to mention "The Russian Factor." Should LA be concerned about Kamenev's willingness to come to North America? Not according to Kamenev himself, quoted as wanting to play in North America, or his KHL agent, who is said to be working on the termination of his current contract before next season. "I hope they will let me come here" is obviously very different from "I'm coming here," but it is a good sign.
So let's talk about the player himself, yeah?
Of all the Russians eligible for the draft, Kamenev would seem to be the most curious. He plays overseas in the KHL and is under contract for two more seasons through 2015-16.
There's no doubt Kamenev (6-2, 203), No. 13 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top international skaters eligible for the 2014 draft, is a top-end talent. He's projected as a future first-line player with a good chance of playing in the NHL with further development.
Where that development takes place is the question.
First thing is that he was invited by Mike Keenan to main team of Metallurg, he played few games in the season and even scored. Also after some movement [of] players, his role on the National Team was increased and he became a captain for Russia at WJC U18. But for me it's very doubtful he becomes a pro captain, because he's not a big leader, very shy guy, who don't like to be in attention. His best trait is that he's a two-way player, but it's difficult to understand where he plays better - on offense or on defence. It's a compliment mostly for his defensive way.
Shawn Reznik, The Hockey Writers:
Kamenev has slick puckhandling and great puck possession. He guards the puck well and finds ways to put his body between the puck and the defender.
He doesn’t shy away from physical contact like we’ve seen from most Russian players. On the contrary, his physicality is what separates him from other players. He has the size to lay some vicious hits and disrupts plays by knocking players off the puck. On the offensive side, Kamenev shows great hockey sense and playmaking ability around the net.
Kamenev is a good-skating center with an excellent set of hands, and is a very interesting prospect thanks to his size, use of the body, and puck skills. The native of Orsk, Russia can be very effective along the boards as he can use his size to his advantage and can also be very useful in front of the crease. He has a good shot, but is not a goal-scorer, as he, as many other Russians, plays more of a pass-first type of game. He also seems to have a good work ethic and hasn’t had many problems with penalties in his career.
Kamenev scores his first KHL goal
Kamenev scores late at the IIHF U-18 World Championships
Rankings on Kamenev don't prove very conclusive. TSN's Craig Button has him as the 12th-best prospect in the entire draft, but that looks like a big outlier. ISS has him 13th ... but among European skaters (and 29th overall). Meanwhile, the majority of mock drafts have him going outside the first round, and practically no one has him going in the top 20-25 picks.
If we're going on accomplishments, Kamenev represents himself well. He was the third overall pick in the KHL Draft last year. He captained the U18 Russian team at the World Junior Championships, and racked up seven points, including a late game-tying goal against Canada in the preliminary rounds. As mentioned above, Mike Keenan saw fit to promote the 17-year-old from Metallurg's junior affiliate (the Steel Foxes!) for 16 games with the big club, during which he scored a goal.
How does he project? The important thing about Kamenev's style is that he seems more than capable of handling a bottom six role. If LA has it their way, their top two centers are going to be Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter for a very long time, so there could easily be a hard ceiling here. but if this pick works out, Kamenev could be a third-line center who has a good offensive ceiling and can handle playing in his own zone. To Kamenev's credit, he is also capable of playing on the wing, and two or three years from now, LA might have a more pressing need on the left side. At the very least, #99 will presumably fit in well in Manchester in a couple years. Even if he doesn't get to wear #99.
TL;DR: Kamenev is more of a boom-or-bust pick than a lot of the other guys available at this spot, but as a Cup-winning team picking at the bottom of round one, that's just fine. Kamenev's a physical two-way center who fits the Kings' organizational philosophy and could very well slot into the Los Angeles roster a few seasons from now.