The Los Angeles Kings finished sixth in the Honda West Division this season with a record of 21-28-7, totaling 49 points. Over the past couple of years, the team has gotten top draft picks as a result of their poor seasons through the rebuilding phase, selecting Alex Turcotte and Quinton Byfield.
This season, though, the team progressed, granting them the eighth-overall pick at the draft this summer. There are some quality players LA could take with the pick, but it may be hard to get exactly what they need with the selection, so trading it is something they should give some thought to.
Kings Need to Target a Defenseman in the First Round
The Kings have what analysts consider to be the best prospect pool in the league. However, like any team’s pipeline, certain positions are stronger than others. The team has a plethora of quality prospects at the forward position, but not nearly as many on the blue line.
Rob Blake, the general manager of the team, has talked about acquiring a top defenseman via trade, which the team has not done yet. Though it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the team to consider this option, they could also pick up the player they are looking for at the draft, even if it might take some time for them to reach their full potential.
I recently discussed some defensemen the Kings could go after in the first round of the draft, so I won’t go in-depth here; the top defensemen LA should target are Luke Hughes, Simon Edvinsson, and Brandt Clarke.
Getting one of these players with the eighth-overall pick is not impossible, but the Kings can’t be certain that one will slide down to them. Trading up is certainly something LA should think about, but it is also important to consider the possibility of trading down.
The goal of trading up is clear: to get one of Hughes, Edvinsson, or Clarke. The question is, how far up do the Kings have to go in the draft to secure one of these players?
The Detroit Red Wings hold the sixth-overall pick, and if the Kings were to make a deal with them, one of the top defensemen will likely be there. If the Kings made a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets to move up to the fifth-overall pick, they would be pretty much guaranteed a defenseman, as only one forward would have to be selected to ensure a D-man.
Ideally, the Kings would make a deal that would involve their first-round pick and another draft pick in exchange for a higher selection in the first round. This is definitely something the team can afford, as they hold four picks just in rounds 2 and 3.
If the Kings decide not to trade up or can’t trade up, it would be a wise idea to move down in the draft order. If the projected top-four defensemen — Owen Power, Hughes, Edvinsson, and Clarke — get selected before it is time for LA to pick, they can trade down because the next-best defenseman probably won’t be selected until later in the draft.
Related: THW’s 2021 NHL Draft Guide
It is not worth it for the Kings to take another forward at eighth overall, as it would just add to the logjam they have up front. There is no reason for them to reach and pick a defenseman projected lower in the draft when they could trade their pick, get another draft pick back, and select the same player later on.
If the Kings were to trade down, they should target Carson Lambos. He played most of the 2020-21 season with JYP U20 on loan, putting up two goals and nine assists in 13 games. He has great size for his height, coming in at 6-foot-1, 201 pounds, and he is a left shot, which LA would prefer.
Lambos is a two-way defender who can play in all three zones. He has the skill and offensive ability to run a power play and put up some points while also being able to use his speed and strength to get back and defend. He is ranked all throughout the first round, so it is hard to know where he will end up getting picked, but most put him in the top-15 selections.
As long as the Kings stay within that range, they would be able to add Lambos to their defensive prospect pool while also receiving another draft pick in return.
Draft Night Will Be an Exciting One for the Kings
The Kings are expected to be one of the biggest players this offseason, and we could see movement starting as early as draft night. This might mean just moving picks to slide up or down the first round, but it is also possible that we see LA make a move for a roster player at the draft, moving picks to get him.
We know the team is looking for a forward that can help with their scoring issues and a defenseman who could be a long-term addition. Going about the draft the right way, both in terms of who they pick and possible trades, will be key to starting an eventful offseason on the right foot.