It’s been a long time since the Kings won anything, but with the exception of what the New Jersey Devils did last weekend (lucking into Jack Hughes and picking up former Norris Trophy winning P.K. Subban who will wear out his welcome in 24 months or less) the Los Angeles Kings scored a decisive knockout at the NHL Draft.
Of course drafting at the first or second slot was ideal—perhaps the hockey gods were angered at the Kings for stacking the deck with the Willie Desjardins tanking and all—but as it worked out, the Kings drafting at number five wound up being the perfect spot to set the tone for the future. How so?
ROUND 1, PICK 5
ALEX TURCOTTE, CENTER
Draft Grade: A plus
Born: February 26, 2001 (Age 18) in Lake Island, Illinois, USA
Height: 5’11” / Weight: 185 lbs. / Shoots: Left
It’s no secret that the Kings had their fingers crossed that Bowen Byram or Kirby Dach would be available at five. However, Chicago scooped up Dach at three and Colorado nabbed Byram at four, leaving Alex Turcotte as the gift choice at pick five.
Let’s not understate the impact that Turcotte will have in the coming years. As I wrote last week, he is a complete 200-foot player. While Cole Caufield and Trevor Zegras grabbed all of the leftover headlines that Jack Hughes left behind, Turcotte is a considerably better two-way player than all three of them. Let’s not forget that he’s a dynamic, playmaking center who can play from the wall on the power play and is a force one-on-one. His compete-level is off the charts and he’s known for being a fearless grinder if he smells a goal is waiting for him in the offensive zone.
Don’t believe me? Listen to USNTDP U18 coach John Wroblewski:
“[Alex is] sandpaper and silk. He’s the perfect blend of speed, skill and power. He’s a Brad Marchand-type who plays center. He’s got that one-on-one ability, a great shot in tight, unbelievable vision and he plays with an edge. His bravery combined with his speed makes him the player that he is.”
Turcotte’s potential is a double win for the Kings as it frees versatility for Rasmus Kupari to move to the wing where many scouts and those in the know see him thriving for the big club. With Jeff Carter on the decline, the Kings can build around him for years to come.
RANKING THE PICK: Fans should start planning their Turcotte sweater purchases because he will catapult to fan favorite once everyone gets a taste of what an impact center he will be for years to come.
ROUND 1, PICK 22
TOBIAS BJÖRNFOT, DEFENSE
Draft Grade: B Minus
Born: April 6, 2001 (Age 18) in Upplands Väsby, Sweden
Height: 6’0” / Weight: 203 lbs. / Shoots: Left
Tobias Bjornfot lookin' GOOD in an LA Kings jersey pic.twitter.com/xkQmwMLDzv— LA Kings (@LAKings) June 22, 2019
As great as the Turcotte pick was, the Tobias Björnfot pick was just as pedestrian. Many see his ceiling as a third-pairing defenseman with many of the leaked scouting reports and mock drafts screaming “DO NOT TAKE IN THE FIRST ROUND.”
Perhaps the collective brain trust of Luc Robitaille and Rob Blake were hoodwinked a bit with Björnfot’s impressive resume. He’s been a minutes-eater for Sweden’s international teams being names as the top D-man in Sweden’s J20 league. He’s a very good skater with the ability to lead a rush and pinch off the blueline. He has the confidence of coaches to play key minutes in crunch time. Putting those truths aside, his skill level isn’t overwhelming and but he did improve in the second half of the season with some creative playmaking.
At the end of the first round, many were asking how the Kings could take a chance on a could-be reliable two-way defenseman who might not put up points and is years away from making the leap to the NHL when the club already have left-handed defensemen Kale Clague and Mikey Anderson nearly ready to come in. Others will tell you he’s a well-rounded defenseman who showed great upside at the junior and international level.
RANKING THE PICK: Patience seems to be the theme here, but one has to wonder if Björnfot might have been a better fit with later picks where he almost certainly would have been available.
ROUND 2, PICK 33
ARTHUR KALIYEV, RIGHT WING
Draft Grade: A
Born: June 26, 2001 (Age 18) in Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Height: 6’2” / Weight: 190 lbs. / Shoots: Left
Once projected as a top 10 or top 15 pick, teams were obviously scared off by the lazy tag slapped on him by scouts who questioned conditioning, pace and compete level. While others saw Alexandre Daigle, all I could see was 51 goals and 102 points as a 17-year-old OHL forward. Maybe most don’t know, but the list of under-18 CHL forwards who’ve scored 50 goals in the last decade includes only these three players: Alex DeBrincat, Jeff Skinner, and Arthur Kaliyev.
For a team devoid of scoring over the last decade—last year the Kings were 45 goals under the league average and 120 behind the Tampa Bay Lightning—scooping up a player with an outright rocket shot few goalies can adjust to once it launches is a downright steal. His shot and elite ice vision makes him an utter weapon on the power play (another traditional Kings’ weakness) where he can run a unit and tear apart defenses. He’s one of those under the radar guys where you bemoan he was invisible all game yet you look up and he’s tallied a goal and an assist.
Vince Laise, his Hamilton Bulldogs head coach, disagrees with the tag that was slapped on him:
“Arthur is one of the most dynamic players I’ve coached in the OHL in my six years here. I coached Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat. In my opinion, Arthur is just as good a player as either of those two. They differ in play styles, but all achieve what NHL organizations look for. Arthur is more than just a power play producer, his underlying value is his ability to produce at even strength and his playmaking. He’s been as coachable as they come and a pleasure to work with.”
RANKING THE PICK: If you’re worried about whether his style of play will transition to the NHL, just wait until Todd McLellan’s Accountability System kicks in and we will be (hopefully) overwhelmed with a pure goal scorer that the Kings haven’t seen for a couple of decades.
ROUND 2, PICK 50
SAMUEL FAGEMO, RIGHT WING / LEFT WING
DRAFT GRADE: A minus
Born: March 14, 2000 (Age 19) in Göteborg, Sweden
Height: 5’11” / Weight: 190 lbs. / Shoots: Left
The twentieth-ranked European skater flew under the radar with all of the North American skaters dominating the first and second rounds. The Kings had him squarely in their sights and when they got wind he wouldn’t be around with the 64th pick they sent that pick and the 126th to the Montreal Canadiens to nab him here. For the SHL champion Frölunda team, Fagemo was tremendously productive for an 18-year-old gaining significant minutes and and decent power play time.
The Kings see a high upside for him as a top-six forward with a very good shot who can score goals in a variety of ways. He isn’t flashy, but like Kaliyev, it’s impossible to ignore his unbelievable production.
“I like his attitude and attack mentality. He skates well and drives the net. He wants to play on the inside. He has a good shot. I think the biggest difference [on Samuel] this year is that he’s better conditioned. He’s faster and stronger. That made a big difference to his game.” –Sweden’s U20 coach Tomas Monten
“I like his attitude and attack mentality. He skates well and drives the net. He wants to play on the inside. He has a good shot. I think the biggest difference [on Samuel] this year is that he’s better conditioned. He’s faster and stronger. That made a big difference to his game.” –Tomas Monten, Sweden’s U20 coach
RANKING THE PICK: As I wrote minutes after the pick was made, it appears he’s the next coming of Luc Robitaille seizing scoring moments around the net.
ROUND 3, PICK 87
LUKAS PARIK, GOALTENDER
DRAFT GRADE: B plus
Born: March 15, 2001 (Age 18) in Czech Republic
Height: 6’4” / Weight: 185 lbs. / Catches: Left
Welcome the newest netminder to the organization pic.twitter.com/km2iscpWaC— LA Kings (@LAKings) June 22, 2019
Ranked third by NHL Central Scouting, Parik blossomed in international play where carried an entire nation in the 2001 age group. At 6-foot-4, he moves well and is more than effective going from post-to-post and position himself effectively to make those difficult saves. He’s a goalie without the high highs and the low lows. He can dominate games at times and other times scrambling to be in the right position fishing around hoping his defense will clean up the mess left behind.
RANKING THE PICK: A solid pick that could wind up elevating with the right coaching advanced work ethic.
ROUND 4, PICK 82
JORDAN SPENCE, DEFENSE
DRAFT GRADE: A
Born: February 24, 2001 (Age 18) in Sydney, Australia
Height: 5’10” / Weight: 165 lbs. / Shoots: Left
Spence was overlooked in his first year of eligibility for the QMJHL Draft, but logged big minutes with time on the first power play from the start of his CHL season. His rookie season proved doubters wrong with six goals and 43 assists (tops for all QMJHL rookies) in 68 games with projections for him to notch 70 points next season. Spence is a poise player with excellent puck vision. Although a small defenseman, he skates well and has just enough speed to skate with the pros.
RANKING THE PICK: Don’t bet against Spence turning into a top four defenseman and that’s serious value with the 95th pick.
ROUND 4, PICK 119
KIM NOUSIAINEN, DEFENSE
DRAFT GRADE: Conditional C
Born: November 14, 2000 (Age 18) in Kuopio, Finland
Height: 5’9” / Weight: 170 lbs. / Shoots: Left
With the 119th pick, the LA Kings added a top rated Finnish defenseman to the team pic.twitter.com/WBmrr6dGTH— LA Kings (@LAKings) June 22, 2019
Nousiainen is a very good [Read: smooth] skater who plays harder than his 5’9” frame should allow. He has good hands and is aggressive with his physicality which has benefited his advanced play in the dirty areas of the game.
“We tested him, we watched him play, and we all fell in love with him. Kim is a little bit like Kimmo Timonen.”—Christian Ruuttu, Kings Head European Scout
RANKING THE PICK: Nousiainen grades a conditional B because the Kings value character and that might elevate him to a higher grade later because his current skill/ ice vision combo skill set isn’t high-end enough to project into the NHL as a regular player.
ROUND 2, PICK 157
BRADEN DOYLE, DEFENSE
DRAFT GRADE: Incomplete, could be a B one day
Born: August 24, 2001 (Age 17) in Lynnfield, Massachusetts
Height: 6’0” / Weight: 168 lbs. / Shoots: Left
A star as a senior defenseman at The Lawrence Academy, Doyle is known for jumpstarting the offense from his own end, often handling the duties himself sidestepping rushing defenders and rushing the puck up the ice. High-end lead passes on the breakout and his puck possession skills are the hallmarks of his burgeoning game. He’s known as a highly-skilled defenseman with above average hockey IQ. Issues in defending could derail him before he starts.
RANKING THE PICK: He’s too young and barely graduated from his Boston boarding school to accurately grade this pick.
ROUND 7, PICK 188
ANDRE LEE, CENTER / LEFT WING
DRAFT GRADE: Incomplete
Born: March 14, 2000 (Age 19) in Karlstad, Sweden
Height: 6’5” / Weight: 205 lbs. / Shoots: Left
RANKING THE PICK: Not everyone can be Joe Pavelski, rising out of the seventh round to be team captain and a force in the league. With his immense size, Andre Lee could become a diamond pick at number 188. Early reports back in November painted him as a big man with skill, however he’s not a great skater and “low compete level” shows up on most scouting reports. He’ll get his chance to show they are wrong. Check back in four years to get this draft pick graded.
RECAPPING THE KINGS 2019 NHL DRAFT
Alex Turcotte is the centerpiece for the rebuild mountain the club has to climb. If there were betting odds in Las Vegas on prospects becoming stars in the National Hockey League, Turcotte would be easy money to become a star. He will be the reason the Kings return to prominence. Tobias Björnfot was an over-reach safe pick, however, he most likely plays and although I have my reservations, some think he can be a top four defenseman. I am extremely high on Arthur Kaliyev. Watching him slide down the draft board was reminiscent of Aaron Rodgers slipping down the NFL draft board in 2005. He has massive hockey strengths and will use this motivation each and every day in his career. Samuel Fagemo’s offensive production earns him a roster spot one day and he could be one of those depth performers that come in handy at playoff time. Lukas Parik adds strength to the goaltending pipeline and Jordan Spence’s ascension arc shows he has a chance to be a top four D-man as well. It was a huge weekend for the Kings and if this was the Ducks, Sharks, or Predators, they would already be raising a banner as the winners of the 2019 NHL Draft.