After an abysmal season that saw the Los Angeles Kings finish dead last in the Western Conference, general manager Rob Blake and his staff have their work cut out for them at the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.
The only positive that comes with having such a poor season is the prospective of being awarded a high pick in the draft.
Two First-Round Picks in 2019 Draft
In this past April’s Draft Lottery, the Kings were awarded the fifth-overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Choosing at No. 5 will be the highest the team has picked since taking Drew Doughty in 2008 with the second-overall pick. The Kings also had the fifth-overall pick 10 years ago where they selected Brayden Schenn.
The Kings also have the luxury of having more than one pick in the first round as they get the 22nd pick as well. The pick came via a trade that saw former King Jake Muzzin go to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for prospect defenseman Sean Durzi, forward Carl Grundstrom, and the aforementioned pick.
With the draft taking place in only a little over a week, I will share my opinion on some of the players I think the Kings should consider with their first pick in the draft.
Hughes and Kakko Lead the way
This year’s cream of the crop is highlighted by American forward Jack Hughes and Finland’s Kaapo Kakko.
Both Hughes and Kakko are sure shots to go one and two, but after that, anything can happen.
Bowen Byram, a standout defenseman from the Vancouver Giants in the WHL will most likely be selected before the Kings get to the podium, which leaves the following players up for grabs.
Zegras is an American-born slick playmaking centerman from Bedford, New York.
For the past two seasons, he has played for the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) alongside some of this year’s top prospects, including the consensus No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes.
The former Avon Old Farms Prep standout had an excellent season this past year, tallying 87 points in 60 games against NCAA and International competition, while also notching 40 points in 27 USHL games.
Standing 6-feet tall and weighing only 174 pounds, Zegras doesn’t fit the typical mold of past and present Kings centermen, but that should not overshadow his unbelievable talents. It should also be noted that he is also capable of playing on the wing.
The Boston University commit is one of the best playmakers in this year’s crop of high-level prospects. He has excellent vision and an uncanny ability to generate offense out of nothing. His combined flawless skating ability and mechanics, along with his extreme hockey sense make him unpredictable and very dangerous off the rush as he’s able to put defenders in vulnerable positions and find teammates for high quality scoring chances.
Lastly, Zegras would be able to immediately help the Kings on their power play, which was ranked 27th this past season.
Kirby Dach is a strong two-way centerman from St. Albert, Alberta and played this past season for the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL, tallying an impressive 73 points in 62 games.
At 6-foot-4 and already 198 pounds, Dach, unlike Trevor Zegras, does fit the mold of a prototypical big two-way centerman that NHL teams look for to build their team around.
His combination of size, strength, and skill make him a legitimate prospect that projects as a top-two-line centerman in the NHL.
As for a comparison, Dach reminds me a lot of Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf. Both are very similar in stature and have a terrific set of smooth hands and overall offensive abilities.
The biggest knock on Dach is his consistency and aggressiveness at times. If he can find a way to play at a high level on a game to game basis, he would be a great fit for the Kings.
This past season, Alex Turcotte played for the highly coveted USNTDP and was one of the team’s best players, tallying 62 points in 37 games against NCAA and International competition, while also notching 34 points in 16 USHL games.
Like Trevor Zegras, Turcotte is not very big, in fact at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds he is among some of the smallest players in the draft, especially at the center position.
But size isn’t everything in today’s game, and Turcotte has every other tool in order to be successful at the NHL level.
What sets Turcotte apart from others in this draft is his hockey sense. His puck management is smart and his level of executing plays is up there with the best of anyone in this draft class.
Aside from his hockey IQ and overall abilities, what I like most about him is his ability to play a 200-foot game. Not only is he great in the offensive zone, but his compete level, defensive awareness and positioning make him a great player all over the ice.
Next season, the USNTDP graduate is scheduled to attend the University of Wisconsin, along with his teammate and projected first-rounder Cole Caufield.
Turcotte’s game is hard not to like and therefore he might even be selected before the Kings step up to the podium to announce their pick. Although, if he is available at No. 5, he would be an excellent pick for the Kings.
Who’s Your Pick?
Since Los Angeles had such a poor season this year, there is nowhere to go but up, and if they choose wisely, they could even land themselves at the very top sooner than later.
I want to know your opinion on the Kings’ fifth-overall pick, who do you think the Kings should pick? Be sure to stay tuned for my next article regarding what the Kings should do with the 22nd overall pick.