Yes, the Los Angeles Kings have won a couple of Stanley Cups in the past decade, but they’re still an inconsistent team by missing the playoffs from time to time. No matter how successful they may be, all NHL teams would love to have the chance to go back in time and re-draft their roster. In this exercise the Kings will be re-drafting their past 15 first-rounders.
The team didn’t have any first-round draft picks in 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, but made up for it in a couple of other years with two picks and even had three first-round selections in 2003. The Kings will be keeping just two of their original 15 picks and will be selecting 13 new players. Of course, these lists are just my opinion and you’re invited to share yours in the comments section.
If the clock was turned back to 2002 these are the players the Kings could and should have selected. All 15 players are still active in the league and still among the best at their positions. Most of them have been NHL All-Stars, several of them have won Stanley Cups, and a few of them should end up in the Hockey Hall of Fame when their fine careers have ended.
15 Viktor Arvidsson (2014)
Original Pick: Adrian Kempe
LA took winger Adrian Kempe 29th and he was called up this February after scoring 47 points in 101 AHL games. He’s 6-foot-2, 200 lbs and had six points in his first 17 NHL games. There were a couple of players taken after Kempe who may have been better choices, such as Christian Dvorak of Arizona and Brayden Point of Tampa, but the best is fellow Swede Viktor Arvidsson who was taken 112th by Nashville. He’s quite smaller than Kempe at 5-foot-9, but is offensively gifted. Arvidsson had 27 goals and 53 points with Nashville after 71 games this season after scoring 73 points in 87 career AHL games and making the All-Rookie team in 2014-15. Arvidsson’s fast, creative and defensively responsible and already proven he’s NHL caliber. Seven of his 35 NHL goals have been game-winners.
14 Frederik Andersen (2012)
Original Pick: Tanner Pearson
The Kings got a good player in winger Tanner Pearson with 30th pick in 2012. He’s scored over 100 points in just over 200 NHL contests and cracked the 20-goal barrier this season. LA could have taken defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere who went 78th to Philadelphia. But after a fine rookie season he’s struggled this year. Instead, the Kings will take Danish goaltender Frederik Andersen who was drafted 87th by Anaheim. Andersen was originally taken 187th by Carolina in 2012, but re-entered the draft after failing to sign. The 6-foot-4 Andersen, who’s now with Toronto, carried a career 2.4 GAA and 91.8 save percentage as of mid-March with a 101-41-26. He’s been a big reason the Leafs are now playoff contenders and also shared the Jennings Trophy in 2015-16 with Anaheim teammate John Gibson for the best GAA.
13 Vladimir Tarasenko (2010)
Original Pick: Derek Forbort
The Kings used the 15th pick on defenceman Derek Forbort from the U.S. National Under-18 Team. Forbort spent a few years at college and a couple more in the minors before cracking the LA lineup this season. He’s 6-foot-4, been steady in his own end and has chipped in offensively with 15 points. However, LA actually got a better player with their second-round pick in Tyler Toffoli, but could have taken Vladimir Tarasenko, who went right after Forbort to St. Louis. Tarasenko is the fifth-highest scorer from the draft behind Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall, Jeff Skinner and Ryan Johansen and is gaining quickly with 274 points after 332 games. The Russian winger has evolved into an NHL star with seasons of 21, 37 and 40 goals and will come close to 40 again this year.
12 Oliver-Ekman Larsson (2009)
Original Pick: Brayden Schenn
The fifth pick was used on rugged centre Brayden Schenn from Brandon, but he played just nine games with LA before being traded to Philadelphia with Wayne Simmonds and a second-round draft pick for Mike Richards and Rob Bordson in a deal which arguably backfired. However, the Kings did win a pair of Stanley Cups with Richards. John Tavares went first in 2009, followed by Viktor Hedman, Matt Duchene and Evander Kane, but looking back, the Kings could have had stud defenceman Oliver-Ekman Larsson, who went to Arizona with the very next pick. Larsson is an all-star caliber, franchise defenceman who’s been just as productive offensively as Schenn and can play 25 minutes a game. Unfortunately, he’s stuck on a weak team. Larsson’s also a great power play quarterback with a knack for scoring big goals.
11 Drew Doughty (2008)
Original Pick: Drew Doughty
Steven Stamkos went first overall to Tampa, but it could legitimately be argued the Kings got the best overall player in Drew Doughty even though fellow All-Star defenceman Erik Karlsson went 15th to Ottawa. Doughty is an excellent puck-controlling blueliner who excels in all areas of the ice. He’s a work horse who’s averaged over 27 minutes a game this season with 22 per cent of his career 89 goals being game winners. The durable and dependable Doughty is used in all on-ice situations in LA and was rewarded for his excellent play with the James Norris Trophy in 2015-16. Doughty made the All-Rookie team in his first season, is a three-time All-Star and has helped LA win two Stanley Cups. He’s also the second-highest scoring defenceman from the draft behind Karlsson and fourth-highest overall.
10 Erik Karlsson (2008)
Original Pick: Colten Teubert
The Kings hit a home run with their first pick in 2008, but more or less struck out with their second first-rounder selection. LA took defenceman Colten Teubert from the Regina Pats with the 13th overall pick. Teubert played 24 career NHL games before heading to Europe, but none with LA. He was dealt by the Kings to Edmonton along with LA’s first-round pick in 2011 and a third-rounder in 2012 for Dustin Penner. As mentioned above, defenceman Erik Karlsson didn’t get taken by Ottawa until the 15th pick, so is still available here and will join Drew Doughty as the Kings’ second choice in the first round. Karlsson is a more offensive-minded defender than Doughty, is also a three-time All-Star, has won the Norris Trophy twice and is the top-scoring defenceman from the draft and second-highest overall.
9 Jamie Benn (2007)
Original Pick: Thomas Hickey
The Kings had another high pick in 2007 and took defenceman Thomas Hickey fourth. After several years in the minors he became an NHL regular, but with the New York Islanders. The Kings had given up on the youngster by 2013 and New York claimed him on waivers. Hickey’s now a steady player and Patrick Kane went first to Chicago, but LA could have taken Jakub Voracek, Logan Couture, Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban or Kevin Shattenkirk. However, the Kings will take centre Jamie Benn this year after he originally went 129th overall to Dallas. Benn is the leader down in Texas and with more than 500 points in less than 600 games is the second-highest scorer of the draft behind Kane. Benn can do it all and the three-time All-Star led the league in scoring in 2014-15.
8 Brad Marchand (2006)
Original Pick: Jonathan Bernier
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier was taken 11th overall by LA in 2006 and spent a couple of seasons in the minors before LA called him up to back up Jonathan Quick. Bernier did a decent job, but after 62 games in parts of five seasons he wanted more ice time. He was traded to Toronto in June of 2013 for Matt Frattin, a second-rounder and goalie Ben Scrivens. Bernier was then dealt to Anaheim last year. LA will now use the pick on pesky forward Brad Marchand who went 71st to Boston. Marchand is battling for the league lead in goals and points this season and although he’s just 10th on the scoring list from the 2006 draft, he’s improving every year and plays on the border with an edge that just can’t be taught or instilled by coaches.
7 Claude Giroux (2006)
Original Pick: Trevor Lewis
The Kings also picked 17th in 2006 and took Trevor Lewis. The centre has just over 100 points in close to 500 games with the Kings, but certainly wasn’t a justified first-round pick even if he has won a Stanley Cup in LA. The Kings will now take the fourth-highest scorer from the 2006 draft, which just happens to be centre Claude Giroux, who went 22nd to Philadelphia. The 29-year-old Giroux is still with the Flyers and should hit the 200-goal, 400-assist and 600-point mark next season. He’s a consistent scorer who’s broken the 20-goal mark five times and is pretty useful on the power play. He’s also chipped in with 62 points in 63 playoff games. He’s a fine playmaker who has been top-10 in assists five times and top-10 in points three times in his career
6 Anze Kopitar (2005)
Original Pick: Anze Kopitar
Sidney Crosby went first and LA took the second-best skater by taking centre Anze Kopitar 11th, who’s second only to Crosby in all-time scoring for the draft. The 29-year-old Slovenian may have struggled this season, but with 732 career points there’s a good chance the Kings’ captain will bounce back next year. His 64 points in 75 playoff games has helped the franchise win two Stanley Cups and the three-time All-Star has also done well individually with a Lady Byng and Selke Trophy under his belt. He’s cracked the 20-goal barrier six times and 30-goal plateau twice. Yes, goaltender Carey Price was available, but the Kings already have Pekka Rinne in the re-draft and Jonathan Quick would be added later. But most importantly, Kopitar led them to two cups and it’s doubtful Price would have done better.
5 Pekka Rinne (2004)
Original Pick: Lauri Tukonen
The Kings missed the boat with the 11th pick by taking Finnish winger Lauri Tukonen. He played two AHL seasons and just five contests with LA before heading back to Europe. Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin were already taken, but there were several good players left including David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd, Ryan Callahan and Mike Green. Goaltenders Pekka Rinne, Devan Dubnyk and Cory Schneider were also available. Either goalie would have been a great choice. Dubnyk’s a late bloomer and Schneider has the best GAA (2.26) and save percentage (92.3), but Rinne’s been more consistent over a longer period of time. Rinne, who was drafted 258th by Nashville, has played over 500 games with 267 wins and 152 losses. He’s the backbone of the Predators with a career 2.39 GAA and 91.7 save percentage.
4 Ryan Getzlaf (2003)
Original Pick: Dustin Brown
Forward Dustin Brown was taken 13th and the former Kings’ captain is still in LA. The 32-year-old’s more of a grinder than scorer, but still has over 500 points in less than 1,000 games and helped his team to two Stanley Cups. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury went first overall and there were some relatively weak picks before Brown such as Nathan Horton, Nikolai Zherdev, Thomas Vanek, Milan Michalek, Braydon Coburn, Hugh Jessiman and Dion Phaneuf. The best players went after Brown such as Corey Perry, Patrice Bergeron, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Ryan Kesler, Loui Eriksson, David Backes, Shea Weber, Brent Burns, Mike Richards, Jimmy Howard and Corey Crawford. The best of the bunch is centre Ryan Getzlaf though, who went 19th to Anaheim. Getzlaf is the second-highest scorer from the draft with more than 800 points, just 34 behind Staal.
3 Corey Perry (2003)
Original Pick: Brian Boyle
The Kings had another first-round pick in 2003 and they took centre Brian Boyle 26th. Boyle’s a solid veteran who’s quite valuable in the playoffs, but being a first rounder may have been a bit flattering to him. Boyle’s more of a defensive specialist with fewer than 170 points in more than 600 games. He played just 36 times with LA before being traded to the Rangers for a third-rounder in 2009. Boyle later went to Tampa and is now in Toronto. With the Kings taking Ryan Getzlaf 13th overall in 2003 they’re going to take his Ducks’ teammate Corey Perry here. Perry went 28th to Anaheim, is Getzlaf’s best buddy, and third on the scoring list from the draft year. Getzlaf and Perry bring out the best in each other and LA now has them both.
2 Shea Weber (2003)
Original Pick: Jeff Tambellini
Seldom does a team have three first-round picks, but LA did in 2003. They also chose right-winger Jeff Tambellini 27th. Tambellini was a college star and had 56 points in 56 games in his pro debut in the AHL. He played just four games with the Kings though before being dealt to the Islanders. He totaled 63 NHL points and headed to Europe to play. The Kings are going to add an all-star defenceman this time by taking Shea Weber, who originally went 49th to Nashville. Weber who was traded to Montreal for PK Subban, is a three-time 20-goal scorer, a four-time All-Star, a power play specialist and has arguably the hardest shot in the league. He’s the second-highest scoring blueliner from the draft next to Brent Burns with almost 500 points, but Burns has also played forward.
1 Duncan Keith (2002)
Original Pick: Denis Grebeshkov
Defenceman Denis Grebeshkov was taken 18th, but spent most of his time in the AHL. He played just 12 games with LA before being traded to the Islanders in 2006. Grebeshkov later ended up in Edmonton and returned to Russia after scoring 85 points in 235 NHL games. Rick Nash went first overall, but it was one of the weakest drafts in the past 15 years. Still, the Kings will take another excellent defenceman in Duncan Keith, who went 54th to Chicago. Keith is a two-time All-Star, a two-time Norris Trophy winner and a Conn Smythe Trophy winner who’s helped the Blackhawks win three Stanley Cups. The 33-year-old is simply one of the best blueliners around and is the top-scoring defenceman from the draft and fourth-highest overall, just 18 points behind second place Alexander Steen.