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NHL Mock Draft 2018: Los Angeles Kings select K’Andre Miller with No. 20 pick

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The USNTDP has a lot of highly ranked prospects this year, and we couldn’t resist picking one of our own.

USHL Fall Classic - Day 3 Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

With other teams doing some wheeling and dealing in this year’s SBN Mock Draft, it was tempting to entertain a trade of our own. Would the Hurricanes be interested in our first round pick for Jeff Skinner? Would the SBN equivalent of Marc Bergevin pick up the phone to talk about Max Pacioretty? Or could we have dangled perennial trade-bait Alec Martinez in front of someone and found ourselves with a spot a little higher up in the draft order?

Ultimately, we decided to play it safe. While last year’s draft gave us high-upside players like Gabe Vilardi and Jaret Anderson-Dolan, the Kings have only just begun restocking their prospects coffers with early-round draft picks. Last year saw the Kings make their first first-round pick since selecting Adrian Kempe in 2014, and now, we’re going to make that two years in a row.

Before we take our turn at the podium, though, here’s a look at the picks (and trades) that have already gone down:

  1. Buffalo Sabres, via Die By The Blade, select defenseman Rasmus Dahlin
  2. Carolina Hurricanes, via Canes Country, select forward Andrei Svechnikov
  3. Montreal Canadiens, via Eyes On The Prize, select forward Filip Zadina
  4. Ottawa Senators, via Silver Seven, select defenseman Quinn Hughes
  5. Arizona Coyotes, via Five For Howling, select forward Brady Tkachuk
  6. Detroit Red Wings, via Winging It In Motown, select defenseman Adam Boqvist
  7. Vancouver Canucks, via Nucks Misconduct, select defenseman Noah Dobson
  8. Chicago Blackhawks, via Second City Hockey, select forward Oliver Wahlstrom
  9. New York Rangers, via Blueshirt Banter, select defenseman Evan Bouchard
  10. Edmonton Oilers, via Copper & Blue, select forward Martin Kaut
  11. Washington Capitals, via Japers’ Rink (and a hypothetical trade with the Islanders), select forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi
  12. New York Islanders, via Lighthouse Hockey, select defenseman Ty Smith
  13. Colorado Avalanche, via Mile High Hockey (and some proposed trades with the Flyers and Stars), select forward Joe Veleno
  14. Dallas Stars, via Defending Big D (and a trade with the Flyers), select forward Joel Farabee
  15. Florida Panthers, via Litter Box Cats, select defenseman Bode Wilde
  16. Philadelphia Flyers, via Broad Street Hockey (and also the Avalanche), select forward Rasmus Kupari
  17. New Jersey Devils, via All About the Jersey, select forward Barrett Hayton
  18. Columbus Blue Jackets, via The Cannon, select forward Isac Lundstrom
  19. Philadelphia Flyers, via Broad Street Hockey, select forward Vitaly Kravstov

Trades: New York Islanders traded the 11th pick to Washington Capitals in exchange for the 31st pick and Phillipp Grubauer.

Dallas Stars traded the 13th pick to Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for the 14th pick and Petr Mrazek.

Philadelphia Flyers traded the 13th pick and the 127th pick to Colorado Avalanche in exchange for the 16th pick and the 58th pick.

Now that you’re all caught up...

With the 20th pick, the Los Angeles Kings select, from the U.S. National Development Team, K’Andre Miller.

The Basics

Position: Defense
Shoots: Left
Birthdate: January 21, 2000
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 205 lbs.
Team/League: U.S. Nataional Development Team/USHL
College Commitment: University of Wisconsin
2017-18 Statistics:
USHL: 22 GP, 4G, 12A
Development Program: 58 GP, 9G, 20A
World U18: 7 GP, 1G, 2A

Rankings

McKeen’s: 14
Hockeyprospect.com: 20
Future Considerations: 20
NHL/North American Skaters: 23
Ryan Kennedy/The Hockey News: 26
Craig Button/TSN: 31
Corey Pronman/The Athletic: 35

What’s the deal?

This year’s prospect class from the USNTDP has numerous players anticipated to go in the first round. Bode Wilde, Joel Farabee, Oliver Wahlstrom, Brady Tkachuk (yes, there’s another one), and Quinn Hughes all have already been selected in our mock draft. The national team’s USHL squad dominated the Eastern Conference this year, finishing as the number one seed with 83 points, 10 higher than the second place Youngstown Phantoms. And while they fell in the final to the Fargo Force, the ease with which the team sailed through the season hasn’t escaped notice.

With high-ceiling prospects like Gabe Vilardi and Jaret Anderson-Dolan coming to take spots up front in the near future, we decided to turn our attention to a defenseman, and K’Andre Miller is an intriguing prospect that could fit very well within the Kings’ system.

Standing at 6’4”, he’s certainly a big player, but is more agile than expected for his size. So unlike some other Kings prospects, where skating was an issue to improve upon, Miller may not have a ton of work to do in that regard. He’s a highly competitive, physical player, but knows how to play within the rules; he registered only six penalty minutes this season in the USHL. For comparison, fellow defenseman Mattias Samuelsson, also a potential late first-round pick, racked up 64 penalty minutes and played in just one more game than Miller.

While stats tracking for juniors teams is still a rarity, the Athletic’s Mitch Brown has tracked some of Miller’s games, and it turns out that Miller’s got the stats to back up our faith in him as a first-round pick, albeit in a limited sample.

Miller’s skill is a little more raw than some of the other high-end prospects, and that’s largely owing to the fact that he’s a relatively new defenseman. He grew up as a forward, and switched at the request of his coach in high school, as they were trying to restock a depleted blueline. Miller adapted quickly and excelled, quickly gathering the attention of the USNTDP. Having spent most of his hockey career to date in more of the power forward type model, Miller has the advantage of being able to think through the game like a forward. He’s very comfortable jumping up and joining the rush like a forward, and is a generally strong passer, being able to anticipate where his forwards will be on the ice.

It’s Miller’s late conversion to defense that may have teams backing off of him, as he still needs more work to perfect his play in his own zone. Having committed to the University of Wisconsin, Miller could take his full four years of eligibility to study under coaches Tony Granato and Mark Osiecki in order to find the consistency in his game at both ends of the ice. With so many defense-first prospects already in the Kings’ system, there will be plenty of other players available on the blueline to bail Miller out if he gets too adventurous.

Highlights