Thursday, June 25, 2015

Drafts of the Past: The 2nd Rounds of the Lombardi Era

A few months ago I wrote up a retrospective look at Dean Lombardi's track record in First Round draft picks, which you can view here, if you're so inclined (I recommend it, it's a pretty good read, if I do say so myself). With the 2015 draft approaching and the Kings holding their highest pick in five years (with all the success this team had between 2012 and 2014, it really does feel like it should have been longer than that since they were a lottery team), it felt like a good time to pick up again and review the team’s 2nd round selections during his tenure.

I will be the first to admit that I am unimpressed by  his record in the first round (Bernier, Lewis, Hickey, Doughty, Schenn, Forbort, Pearson, and Kempe), especially with two essentially wasted top 5 picks (Hickey and Schenn) but with a couple of big names currently on the roster from his 2nd round selections, I thought this is where Lombardi and the scouting staff have really earned their reputation over the years. Is that a fair assessment or is the draft just not where Lombardi earns his money?

Now obviously, the draft is a crapshoot, especially as you move deeper than the first round, and only a small percentage of selections are ever going to make the NHL, even fewer will have an impact. But that doesn't mean I can't judge you for the picks you've made, so here goes.


After selecting a goalie and a forward in the first round, Lombardi took a defenseman named Joey Ryan with the 48th overall pick in the 2nd round.

“Who is Joey Ryan?”, you might be asking.

That’s a very good question. He never made it to the NHL. He played one more season in the QMJHL and has spent all of 44 career games in the AHL. He played 93 games in the ECHL between 2011 and 2013, but does not have any more recent statistics than the 2013 season, so it’s possible he has retired from hockey at this point.

STATUS: BUST- never made the big league

Lombardi had 2 second round picks in '07, and he used them to take Oscar Moller 52nd and Wayne Simmonds 61st overall.

After one more year of seasoning with the WHL’s Chilliwack Bruins, Moller made the Kings roster in 2008-09, playing 40 games in the NHL, in which he registered 7 goals and 8 assists. He split the 2009-10 season between the Monarchs and the Kings, playing 34 games with the big club, and notching only 7 points on 4 goals and 3 assists. He spent the bulk of the 2010-11 season in Manchester, recording 50 points in 59 games, but scoring only a single goal and 3 helpers in 13 games with the Kings. Moller returned to Sweden for the 2011-12 season and over the course of 3 years with Skelleftea AIK, he has scored 102 points in 130 games, including 59 goals. He played this past season with the Kazan Ak-Bars of the KHL, recording a respectable 14 goals and 18 assists in 54 games, good for second on the team behind another former Kings draft pick, Justin Azevedo.

There was a point early in his career with the Kings when Moller looked like a really good prospect who might fit nicely on the second line, and for a few years after his departure, many longed for his return, but the truth is he was a prospect whose value as an NHL player, we overvalued.

STATUS: BUST- short time with the Kings, disappeared to Europe for no return value

Simmonds made the Kings for the 2008-09 season and played all 82 games that year, recording 9 goals and 14 assists as a rookie. The next year he played in 78 games and almost doubled his goal output with 16 to go with 24 assists. He also helped the Kings to make the playoffs for the first time in 8 years, adding 2 goals and an assist in a 6-game defeat at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks. In 2011 he played 80 more games, but saw his scoring drop to 14 goals and 16 assists, as well as +/- drop from +22 to -2. In the playoffs, he added another goal and 2 assists and somehow got 20 PIM in 6 games.

Simmonds’ time in L.A. ended on June 23, 2011 with the earth-moving trade that brought Mike Richards to the Kings. He has since become a very solid scoring winger in Philadelphia with point totals of 49, 32 (in 45 games), 60, and 50 in four seasons with the Flyers. That trade was one of the foundational moves that made the Kings Stanley Cup Champions in 2012 and again in 2014, but Richards’ value quickly depreciated while Simmonds has only gotten better. The Kings would probably still be seeking that first Cup win if Simmonds hadn’t been moved.

STATUS: GOOD PICK- he accomplished a lot in his short stay with the Kings and proved to be a valuable asset in acquiring an important piece to their championship puzzle

Lombardi used his 2nd round pick to take his 3rd defenseman of the year after Doughty and Teubert (if only he had taken 2-time Norris Trophy winner and offensive dynamo Erik Karlsson instead of Teubert, but I digress). The choice was one of the few Europeans Lombardi has ever taken, Slava Voynov at #32. A prized prospect, Voynov did not get called up to the Kings until the 2011-12 season, despite being a great young defenseman in Manchester. In 2011, Drew Doughty’s concussion finally allowed the Kings to give him a chance, and he ran with the opportunity. Within a couple months, Lombardi decided that Voynov was good enough to replace Jack Johnson as the anchor on the second defensive unit, allowing for the blockbuster trade that sent the latter to Columbus in exchange for Jeff Carter. In many ways, Voynov and Carter were the final pieces of the 2012 Stanley Cup championship team that fell into place that spring. Voynov contributed at both ends of the ice during the two championship runs (a well-placed stick in overtime of Game 5 in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final stopped Rick Nash from scoring into a wide open net and sending the series back to New York 3-2), including a remarkable 6 goals and 7 assists in 18 games during the 2013 run to the Western Conference Final.

If the story had ended with his deft stick-work that helped win the Cup on home ice in 2014, there’s no question Voynov would be the hero of the piece. Unfortunately, we all know that the story does not end there. In October 2014, Voynov was arrested for domestic abuse. The NHL suspended him indefinitely, failing to give the Kings cap relief for some time afterward. As the legal case played out, the Kings were unable to cope with his absence on the blue line and ended up outside the playoff picture only one year after lifting the Cup. Even as the offseason has begun, Voynov’s fate is undetermined. After several delays, his trial begins in July. If he is convicted, his contract will probably be voided by the league. If he is acquitted, the league will probably end his suspension. Either way, the Kings are pressed up against the cap and would like to be able to plan for the future based on whether his salary is included or not. It’s very possible that Voynov gets convicted and deported, in which case the Kings got merely 2 and a half seasons of his services (one of which, 2013, was also a half season), and while they won 2 championships with him on the roster, that’s not much temporal return on the investment.

Should Voynov return and be an important piece of at least one more championship, if not more, (as well as, one would hope, an upstanding member of the community), he can redeem his status, but we’re still in the middle of the story, so for now he isn’t the great pick he was and could someday be again.

STATUS: UNDECIDED- acquittal + future success = redemption; conviction + voided contract = eh, so long and thanks for all the Cups

Lombardi used the 35th pick in the draft to select Kyle Clifford. After one more season in junior hockey and a playoff stint with the Monarchs, Clifford joined the Kings and has been a mainstay in the bottom six ever since. In 5 NHL seasons, he has scored 28 goals and added 35 assists. While it would be nice if he could add a little bit more scoring to his game regularly, he did have a knack for contributing to big goals in the 2014 Stanley Cup run (his Game 1 goal got the Kings back into a game they were trailing 2-0 early and he assisted on the Cup-winning goal). The fact that he has proven to be a regular NHL player makes him, in my mind, a decent draft pick, but not a great one.

STATUS: decent, a solid rugged bottom 6 forward

Lombardi made his best second round pick to date in 2010. With the 47th selection in the draft, he snagged Tyler Toffoli. Although Toffoli did not make the Kings roster until 2013, thus missing the first Cup run, he was absolutely integral to the 2014 championship. Like Clifford, he assisted on the Cup-winning goal and without him there was no way the Kings would have gotten through the Hawks in the Western Conference Final. Since his short callup in the lockout-shortened season, Toffoli has quickly established himself as a top-six sniper with 37 goals and 83 points in 148 games. He also notched 7 goals and 7 assists during the 2014 playoffs. He has spent most of his short career playing with Jeff Carter, but I would not be surprised to see him with Kopitar and Gaborik on the top unit going forward.

STATUS: HOMERUN. Toffoli is not just Lombardi's best second round pick yet, he's one of the best draft choices Lombardi has made.

the Kings chose a goalie in the second round with the 29th pick, Christopher Gibson. Gibson never got close to making the Kings and the organization has already cut ties with him. He is currently splitting time in the Leafs' minor league system with 45 games played for the Marlies this past season.



2013 & 2014
The 2013 and 2014 second round selections are still too early in their progress to really gauge. In 2013, the Kings traded up to get Valentin Zykov 37th. He looks like he should be a good player going forward, but unfortunately was injured this spring and missed out on a chance to join 2014 top pick Adrian Kempe in Manchester's Calder Cup championship run, so we haven't gotten to see him as a pro yet. He did register better than a point a game in his last season of junior though, putting up 18 points in 16 games with Drakkar and 28 in 26 with Gatineau. He will be playing with the Monarchs to start the 2015-16 season.

STATUS: To Be Determined

The Kings made two picks, both defensemen, in 2014: Roland McKeown, 49th, and Alex Lintuniemi, 60th. McKeown has already been wasted, lost in the Sekera trade with Colorado along with next year's first round pick. Lintuniemi played 4 games in Machester this season, but none in the playoffs.

STATUS: McKeown: If Sekera is resigned, he was a useful asset; if Sekera moves on, then this is a BUST. Lintuniemi: To Be Determined

That makes for 10 players selected in the 2nd round in 9 years. 5 have played for the Kings, 3 won the Cup with the King last season were on the roster to start the 2014 campaign, but 1 was lost to suspension that may end his career 6 games into the season because he hit his wife. 4 were European and 6 North American. Only two total busts who never played in the NHL.

Not bad for the 2nd round. Not bad at all.

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