Over the next couple weeks, we'll be evaluating some of the top draft prospects who are likely to be available when the Los Angeles Kings make their first round selection at #13. For starters, here's a quick run-through of prospects who maybe, just maybe, could slip to that spot.
TSN's recent draft rankings are a compilation of profiles and rankings from various analysts, and they talk of a Top 11: eleven prospects who, for whatever reason, appear to be on their own tier in the 2015 NHL Draft class. We examined a few mock drafts and found that this generally holds up; these players, without fail, were all selected by the time the 14 lottery (ugh) teams had made their picks.
We're going to have longer pieces on the best and brightest players who fall outside of this Top 11, and we're going to skip over the consensus Top 5, who should be summarized as "LA, take this guy if he's available, don't be stupid." (Those five are all in the picture above.) So, here's a rundown of the players in the 6-11 range; cross your fingers hard enough, and one of them might be around when LA steps to the podium.
Matthew Barzal (C)
Why he could drop to #13: Barzal sustained a knee injury earlier this year, which could scare off a few teams who have any doubts about his puck-handling and play-making abilities in the wake of his injuries.
Why he probably won't drop to #13 (and why LA should take him if he does): Barzal had a terrific WJC campaign (3 G/9 A in 7 games), which should remove those doubts about his puck-handling and play-making abilities in the wake of his injuries.
Lawson Crouse (LW)
Why he could drop to #13: Crouse has been the center of some heated debate as to whether he's worthy of the top-5 rankings he carried earlier this season. The main culprit: his underwhelming point totals, which suggest a lack of offensive upside. Recent rankings and mock drafts have him out of the top five. Just a little bit further...
Why he probably won't drop to #13 (and why LA should take him if he does): Come on, do you really see 12 NHL general managers passing up an 18-year-old winger who is 6'4" and can skate?
Ivan Provorov (D)
Why he could drop to #13: As long as "The Russian Factor" is still a thing, there's always the chance of an otherwise lauded prospect sliding down the board due to his birthplace. He's also a blueliner who's "only" 6 feet tall.
Why he probably won't drop to #13 (and why LA should take him if he does): Provorov's spent four years proving himself in North America, and was a point-per-game player in the WHL. He's also got enough physicality to complement his smarts and his skills with the puck.
Mikko Rantanen (C/RW)
Why he could drop to #13: There are some concerns that Rantanen isn't assertive enough given how big he is and how well he functions on offense; I can think of some European players who were passed up in the draft for those reasons.
Why he probably won't drop to #13 (and why LA should take him if he does): The draft's top-ranked European player survived a full season at Finland's highest level last year, and he has more than enough in the size, skating, and skill departments to make up for the fact that an 18-year-old playing in a top league might not shoot as much as scouts want him to.
Zach Werenski (D)
Why he could drop to #13: Last year, the third defenseman wasn't taken until pick #14. Assuming Werenski is the third-best defenseman out there, could the recent trend towards picking centers highly leave this guy ripe for the picking?
Why he probably won't drop to #13 (and why LA should take him if he does): Werenski is physically ready, played very well in his freshman season at Michigan, and has the tools to thrive on any team that does decide to focus on defense.
Pavel Zacha (C/LW)
Why he could drop to #13: Especially for a player who is as naturally gifted (and has spent as little time in North America) as Zacha, whispers about consistency and time missed due to suspension/injury can give teams pause during the front end of the first round.
Why he probably won't drop to #13 (and why LA should take him if he does): His size and strength, combined with the scoring abilities he has showcased, should outweigh those other concerns for someone whose floor is probably still as a decent bottom-six forward.
Tomorrow, we'll start looking at some of the players who could, and should, be on the board when the Kings get to make their choice.