The Los Angeles Kings‘ draft history has been solid. They’ve had some big misses in the past, but overall have been consistent with their ability to draft. Where they’ve been less successful is trading away their draft picks. It’s always a risk in trading away talent, and the Kings haven’t always found success when rolling the dice.
It’s easy to forget that Finnish center Olli Jokinen was a Kings draft pick — the team took him with the 3rd overall pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. Despite being such a high selection, and a decent rookie campaign that saw him post 21 points in 66 games, the franchise decided to trade him in a blockbuster deal during the 1999 offseason. He was traded to the New York Islanders alongside Mathieu Biron, Josh Green, and a first-round pick in that year’s draft in exchange for Zigmund Palffy, Bryan Smolinski, Marcel Cousineau, and a fourth-round selection in that year’s draft.
The return for Jokinen would prove to be mediocre. Palffy was a magnificent player who led the team in scoring twice during his four-year stint with the team, and Smolinski was a solid contributor to the team’s middle-six. However, with both players only spending four seasons with the organization, it’s hard for me to consider the deal anything more than mediocre.
If the Kings’ return was mediocre, then the Islanders’ return was terrible. None of the assets alongside Jokinen materialized into much success for the team, and the Islanders wasted him as well. After only one season on Long Island, they traded him in what was a truly awful deal. The team would deal him and Roberto Luongo to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha. It’s in Florida where Jokinen would establish himself as a truly elite center. He would eventually captain the team for four seasons and posted a career-high 91 points during the 2006-07 season. He is still the franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer and only recently lost his spot on the top of their points chart. He retired in 2015, having played for 10 different franchises with 1,231 games and 750 points.
In 2009, there was a lot of hype in the Kings organization and fan base surrounding their 5th overall pick, Brayden Schenn. He was going to be the perfect one-two punch up the middle with Anze Kopitar. Unfortunately, Kings fans never got much of a chance to see Schenn play for their team. They traded the young center after only playing nine games for the organization. Fortunately for Kings fans, the trade he was involved in would play a huge part in the team picking up their first Stanley Cup. In 2011, the Kings traded him to the Philadelphia Flyers alongside Wayne Simmonds and a second-round pick in the 2012 Draft in exchange for Mike Richards and Rob Bordson.
Richards being the big piece of this deal would play a significant role in the Kings 2012 Cup win and was a solid contributor in their 2014 run. The short-term gains from Richards were great, but the long-term impact of this deal has been awful. Richards would only last four seasons in LA and never posted more than 44 points in a season. Adding to his lack of success on the ice, personal issues off the ice led to his contract being terminated in 2015. Considering the trade helped the team win two Cups, it’s hard to call the trade a bad deal, but having given up so much for Richards, the team likely would’ve wanted more return from the former Flyers captain.
Schenn has developed into a very good second-line center since leaving the Kings organization. It took him a couple of seasons to figure his game out, but in the 2015-16 season, he had his breakout, scoring 59 points in 80 games. After another solid season in which he posted 55 points in 79 games, the Flyers traded him to the St. Louis Blues. He and Jori Lehtera were dealt in exchange for a first-round pick in the 2017 and 2018 drafts. His first season in St. Louis was a massive personal success as he put up a career-high 70 points in 82 games.
His second season with the Blues is likely his most memorable one, though, as he helped the team hoist their first-ever Stanley Cup. He has been a very versatile player for the Blues playing both wing and center. His versatility and solid 200-foot play make him a fantastic top-six forward that can fill any role asked of him.
Colin Miller wasn’t a huge name when the Kings drafted him in the 5th round of the 2012 Draft. However, after two fantastic seasons with the Manchester Monarchs, fans were excited to see him suit up for the Kings. But, before getting the chance to play for the team, the Kings traded him. In 2015, they moved him, Martin Jones and a 2015 first-round pick to the Boston Bruins for Milan Lucic in what is one of the worst trades I’ve seen the Kings make in recent memory. Lucic would spend just one season in LA — he did play well, posting 55 points in 81 games — before signing with the Edmonton Oilers in 2016. The return on this trade was just atrocious for the Kings, paying a huge price for one season of a declining Lucic.
Miller would spend two solid seasons in Boston before being claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. It was in Vegas where he established himself as a solid two-way defender in the NHL. In his first season with the team, he led Vegas defensemen with 10 goals and 41 points in 82 games. He would follow that up with a respectable 29 points in 65 games the next season. Miller was then traded to the Buffalo Sabres for a second-round pick in 2021 and a fifth-round pick in 2022. His time in Buffalo has been less impressive, though seldom few players have impressed in Buffalo over the last two years. The Kings made a mistake with the Lucic deal, and Miller’s solid play since then has only added salt to the wound.
The Kings’ history of trading first-round picks isn’t too bad, and the current management group seems committed to developing their current talent. Eventually, they will likely have to trade a couple of their draft picks from the last couple of years. If history repeats itself regarding Kings trades, the team should be okay, but there’s still room for improvement.
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.