For the third season in a row, the Los Angeles Kings find themselves with a selection in the first round of the NHL Draft. In fact, they’ve got two whole selections. While it was tempting to do some mock trades in our mock draft with other SBN sites, to find players who could fit into the Kings system now, we ultimately decided to push forward with the same vision of “retooling” that General Manager Rob Blake has for the team.
The Big Decision
No matter how hard we wished for it, the mock draft went as expected, with Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko going one-two to the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers. Alas, our too-big dreams of one of the consensus top two picks tumbling down the draft to the Kings weren’t fulfilled, even in mock draft form.
So instead we turned our gaze to the rest of the prospect pool.
While players like Cole Caufield, Peyton Krebs, and Trevor Zegras were all still on the board, ultimately, our choice narrowed down to two players: center Dylan Cozens of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, and defenseman Bowen Byram of the Vancouver Giants. The Kings will likely have seen plenty of the two WHL players as they are known to frequently scout the league for both draft picks and free agent signings of overage players.
We’ve profiled both Cozens and Byram in our ongoing series looking at draft-eligible players. Cozens is described as someone who could turn into a Jonathan Toews-like player, a viable top six center who already possesses a stellar 200-foot game.
Byram, on the other hand, is projected to be a top pairing defenseman. He’s known as an offensive defenseman who excels at moving the puck. Like many teenaged defensemen, he has some weaknesses in his own zone, which is an area he can focus on as he continues to develop. He could be a possible Drew Doughty replacement, if he’s still available for the Kings to select.
So, who do you take? Your potential next franchise defensman, or your next top centerman?
Strength Down the Middle
At the end of the day, we elected to bolster the Kings center depth by selecting Dylan Cozens. While it was painful to pass up a player with the promise of Byram, the Kings’ lack of depth at center has been exposed over the past few seasons. Gone are the years of Kopitar/Carter/Richards/Stoll, with players like Trevor Lewis ready to step in for draws if needed.
Jeff Carter was ineffective at center (as well as in general) this year and reports from insiders with the team make it appear as though Carter is most likely destined for a spot on the wing. Adrian Kempe has improved at center, but may be in over his head at times when being asked to take on higher-level matchups. Mike Amadio should make the jump to the NHL full-time this season, and has looked fine as third/fourth line center, but then again, we said the same last year, and he toiled in Ontario for a large part of the season instead.
The Kings drafted Gabe Vilardi as their projected next top center, but his back issues have cast doubt on that. With the team being extraordinarily tight-lipped when it comes to Vilardi’s status, it’s sad but probably safe to assume that the player they’re getting may not exactly be the player they drafted. And while there are other centers in the Kings system — Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Rasmus Kupari, Akil Thomas, and Aidan Dudas all play center, and Nikolai Prokhorkin is expected to land there as well — the combination of Cozens’ size, speed, and skill would immediately vault him to top prospect status.
Born: February 9, 2001 (Age 18)
Place of Birth: Whitehorse, Yukon, CAN
Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
Weight: 181 lbs.
Regular Season: 68 Games, 84 Points (34G, 50A), 30 PIM
Playoffs: 7 Games, 8 Points (4G, 4A), 2 PIM
Cozens’ 84 points in 68 games were technically second on the Lethbridge Hurricanes; he was behind only Nick Henry, who had 94 points on the season, split between Lethbridge (54 points in 44 games) and Regina (40 points in 25 games). His 1.24 points per game put him in the top 20 for WHL players. At 17 years old, he’s also the younger than all of his other similar counterparts; everyone else ahead of him in terms of points per game is 19 or 20 years old.
Cozens, like most players selected outside of the top three in the draft, most likely will not be ready to make the jump to the NHL right away, but he would get a long look at training camp, much like Jaret Anderson-Dolan did this year, and would get a good idea of the work he would need to do in the future to make his professional debut as soon as possible.
#5—NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (North American Skaters)
SB Nation 2019 NHL Mock Draft
- New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes, US National Team Development Program (USHL)
- New York Rangers: Kaapo Kakko, TPS (Liiga)
- Chicago Blackhawks: Alex Turcotte, US National Team Development Program (USHL)
- Colorado Avalanche (via Ottawa Senators): Kirby Dach, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Who Would You Pick?
Who would you select with the #5 pick?
This poll is closed