The Los Angeles Kings desperately need an infusion of offense if they want to thrust themselves out of the NHL’s pile of bottom feeders.
That’s one reason they selected Alex Turcotte with the No. 5 overall choice in 2019. But there are other needs the Kings tried to address by reeling in eight others from the sea of young, amateur talent in that draft. For instance, four of the nine were defensemen and three of those were of the offensive-minded kind who are considered longer-term projects.
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What follows is a closer look at where Los Angeles’ nine 2019 draft picks are after the COVID-19-pandemic shortened 2019-20 season.
Turcotte Went Pro Right When The Season Halted
Turcotte showed his dynamic play-making ability with the Wisconsin Badgers, but his stock may have taken a bit of a hit. After being chosen in a spot reserved for future stardom, he put up solid college numbers (9 goals, 17 assists in 29 games) as a freshman.
On top of that, Turcotte signed a pro contract March 12 and was assigned to a tryout with the AHL-affiliate Ontario Reign. Too bad for the 19-year-old that on the same day, nearly all professional sports were shut down.
But is he ready to make a splash with the big club sooner rather than later?
His prospects for Kings’ glory are not a slam dunk as much as they were a year ago when he scored 27 goals with 35 assists in 37 games for the U.S. National Team Development Program.
Dobber Prospects lists Turcotte as the top center among all of the Kings’ prospects. But the website has his rating going down in one year from 88.0 to 50.1 in PNHLe (the website’s projection of a prospect’s NHL point potential). Still, Turcotte’s NHL certainty rating (the site’s determination of a player’s odds, zero to 10, of becoming a full-time NHL player) is 8.0.
Turcotte knows he could have played better.
“I feel like, obviously, I haven’t been the best I could have been this year. I went through some ups and downs. That’s pretty normal. So to be playing well and helping the team win is all I really wanted to do.”Alex Turcotte – from ‘Alex Turcotte leaves Badgers men’s hockey team after 1 season to sign pro contract,’ Wisconsin State Journal, (03/12/2020)
On the plus side, Dobber rates Turcotte — whose defensive instincts are highly regarded — good enough to be playing with either the Reign or the Kings next season because of his two-way ability.
Kaliyev Tore it Up in the OHL
One Kings draftee with a golden scoring touch is Arthur Kaliyev, who was taken in the second round, 33rd overall. The Hamilton Bulldogs winger ended up fifth in Ontario Hockey League (OHL) scoring with 44 goals and 54 assists in 2019-20.
His size — 6-foot-2 and 194 pounds — is a definite plus. And his scoring ability (51 goals for Hamilton in 2018-19 and 33 the year before) is one reason why he’s already Los Angeles’ top-ranked, left-wing prospect, according to Dobber.
And if you want to get to know what kind of player Kaliyev is, it’s worth noting this tweet right after the draft:
“I pattern my game after Rick Nash.”ARTHUR KALIYEV, TO DENNIS BERNSTEIN OF LAKINGS INSIDER
Rick Nash, as we all know, rarely had problems putting the ole’ biscuit in the basket during a storied career.
Kaliyev is Hamilton’s all-time leading goal scorer with 116. However, according to Dobber, he lacks aggressiveness when he doesn’t have the puck, giving him an 80.4 PNHLe (down from 90.0 a year ago) and a 6.5 in NHL certainty.
Bjornfot Works on Getting Back to the NHL
Tobias Bjornfot topped the Ontario farm-club roster in plus-minus at plus-13 in 2019-20. He also had 6 goals and 13 assists in 44 games after playing three games for the Kings to start the season.
From Sweden, the 6-foot, 187-pounder was the 22nd-overall selection. He possesses leadership traits, according to Dobber, and The Hockey News also puts him in high regard.
Tobias Bjornfot should find his way back into top-four action next season after a three-game stint alongside Drew Doughty out of training camp.The Hockey News
Bjornfot’s NHL certainty rating by Dobber is a solid 8.0 and his PNHLe is 52.1. However, the website ranks him No. 7 among Kings’ prospects on defense.
For Spence, it’s a Matter of Maturation
Jordan Spence, a defenseman drafted 95th overall and in the fourth round by the Kings, could turn out to be quite a find if his ability projects to the NHL within the next few years. Playing for Moncton in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he scored 9 goals with 43 assists in 60 games, and his plus-49 ranked fourth in the league. In addition, he was 17th in assists, and second among defensemen.
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He is known as a quick and agile puck-mover, and his Dobber NHL certainty rating is 6.5 with a PNHLe of 53.1. In the 2018-19 season, Spence was the QMJHL rookie of the year.
Spence patterns his game after Kings star Drew Doughty and mentioned to NHL.com after the draft that meeting Doughty was one of the things he was most looking forward to.
“Spence is exceptional transitioning through zones to create breakouts and scoring opportunities through his poise, quick passing and sound decision making. Though he may be small, Spence has incredible edgework and is impressive when accelerating and turning on the puck.”NHL.com, on Jordan Spence after the 2019 Draft
But, there is work to do. In his Dobber scouting report, Julian Mongillo wrote, “He has a ways to go in terms of development and much of it has to do with building muscle and maturing on the defensive side of the puck.”
Also on the negative side from Dobber, Spence is not listed among the top eight Kings back-line prospects.
Goalie Prospect Parik Scored a Rare Goal
Lukas Parik, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound goaltender from the Czech Republic and the 87th-overall pick in the third round, had a solid season, going 22-7-2 for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League. He also had a 2.73 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.
And perhaps Parik’s biggest highlight came earlier this month when he scored a goal against Kamloops in a 3-0 win. It was the ninth time a goalie scored in a WHL game and the first time it was done while also picking up a shutout.
Parik appears to be far away from making the NHL, ranked fourth among four Los Angeles goaltender prospects by Dobber.
He’s got better odds than not (5.5, Dobber NHL certainty) to be a full-timer in the big leagues. Mongillo notes that Parik is an “athletic” goalie with “raw skill” that needs to be refined and that he needs work on rebound control.
Fagemo Making Headway in Native Sweden
Winger Samuel Fagemo (50th overall, second round) of Sweden scored 13 goals with 9 assists in 42 games for Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League.
Dobber Prospects projects that he has the ability to eventually rise to an NHL club’s first or second line as a goal scorer, and the site gives him a solid 7.5 NHL certainty rating. But, on the negative side, his PNHLe went down in one year from 55.4 to 40.0.
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At the World Juniors, Fagemo led the tournament with eight goals and 13 points while winning a bronze medal with Sweden.
More Puck Movers on D: Nousiainen and Doyle
Defenseman Kim Nousiainen (119th overall, fourth round) of Finland played 51 games for KalPa in the Finnish Liiga, scoring 6 goals with 13 assists.
(He) is an undersized (5-foot-9, 170 pounds) offensive defenseman who loves to join the rush and take risks in the offensive zone. He doesn’t have blazing speed but he’s a very talented skater. His agility and acceleration are great. He doesn’t have a big bomb from the blue line but he can get his shots to the net pretty well. He’s an excellent playmaker who gives crisp passes and creates a lot of scoring chances. He’s a very creative player with great vision on the ice. His defensive game needs work, and sometimes his commitment to the defensive side of things has been lacking.Dobber Prospects scouting report on Kim Nousiainen
Nousiainen is on the low end of Dobber Prospect NHL certainty at 4.0, and he’s at 37.1 for PHNLe. But the website also lists him at seventh among Kings’ prospects on defense, one ahead of Bjornfot.
Yet another smallish, puck-moving defenseman, Braden Doyle (No. 157 overall, sixth round) played 48 games for Dubuque in the United States Hockey League, a junior circuit. The 6-foot, 183-pounder had 7 goals and 25 assists, wound up plus-14 and will play for Boston University next season. Pro hockey could be a long way off.
(He) is still developing mentally and physically, which makes him a great selection for a Kings team who is selecting many young, mobile puck-moving defensemen who they can afford to be patient with because of the amount of defensemen ahead of them within the organizational depth chart. He… has a lot of development time ahead of him before he’s close to being ready for pro hockey.Dobber Prospects scouting report on Braden Doyle
Lee Made His Offensive Presence Felt in College
Another collegian, left-wing Andre Lee — who the Kings took No. 188 overall in the seventh round — was third on his UMass-Lowell team in scoring with 8 goals and 12 assists.
Lee, who is from Sweden, has an imposing presence with his 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame. In his school internet bio, Lee makes his goal clear, “To play in the NHL.”
A Twitter video gives Los Angeles fans a glimpse of the power-forward capability Lee possesses.
Dobber did not have NHL certainty and PNHLe ratings for Doyle and Lee.
Overall, of the nine players picked by the Kings in 2019:
- Seven shoot left-handed, with only two right-handers.
- Four are defensemen, with three wings, one center and one goaltender.
- Three are from the U.S., three from Sweden, and one each from the Czech Republic, Finland and Canada.
- Seven played in World Juniors — Turcotte and Kaliyev for the U.S., Bjornfot and Fagemo for Sweden, Parik for the Czech Republic, Spence for Canada, and Nousiainen for Finland.
This quick look at the Kings’ nine 2019 draftees and the 2019-20 seasons they had reveals noteworthy offensive production (Kaliyev, Fagemo, Lee), two solid contenders with a chance to make the parent club (Bjornfot, Turcotte), and three similarly skilled pass-first young defensemen (Spence, Nousiainen, Doyle), who along with the lone goaltender (Parik), have plenty of time to develop.