Breaking Down Experts' Picks for Los Angeles Kings' 2014 Draft
The Kings will pick 29th overall—the New Jersey Devils select 30th because of a penalty from Ilya Kovalchuk's contract. The Kings are tied with the St. Louis Blues, New York Islanders, Dallas Stars and Washington Capitals for the most picks in the draft, with nine.
The one thing the Kings definitely don't need is a goaltender. Depending on who's available when they're on the clock in the first round, they may have a tough decision to make between a few defensemen and forwards.
This is a look at who the experts have the Kings selecting.
Conner Bleackley, C, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
TSN's Bob McKenzie has Connor Bleackley slotted to go 29th overall to the Kings.
A center for the WHL's Red Deer Rebels, Bleackley stands 6'0" and weighs 192 pounds. He plays a good all-around game. He excels at both ends of the rink, has good hands, playmaking abilities and a quick release. The one area where he needs to improve is his skating, which is what's preventing him from being ranked higher.
As captain of the Rebels, Bleackley racked up 29 goals and 39 assists for 68 points in 71 games this season.
As Ryan Pike of The Hockey Writers points out,
If he can continue to grow, and can continue to learn good habits under veteran coach Brent Sutter in Red Deer, Bleackley has the talent and the intangibles to become a consistent contributor at the NHL level.
Expect the Kings to take a good look at Bleackley, if he does fall to the end of the first round.
Marcus Pettersson, D, Skelleftea (SWE)
TSN's other draft expert Craig Button has Bleackley ranked 30th. One ahead of the center is Swedish defenseman Marcus Pettersson.
Pettersson stands 6'4", but he will need to bulk up a bit as he weighs just 161 pounds. Given his height, Pettersson obviously has a good reach, which he uses to his advantage. Players rarely beat him around the outside, and he can get his stick in passing and shooting lanes with ease.
As Button puts it,
Upside, upside, upside. Needs physical maturing but with it, could be a top defenceman. Excellent thinker with poise, good feetwork, competes, reads play well and will assert himself. Could be a 'steal' in this draft.
Pettersson notched four goals and 14 assists for 18 points in 38 games with Skelleftea J20 and also played 10 games with the Swedish Hockey League's Skelleftea AIK.
He still has work to do in terms of overall development, but he has the potential to be a top-four blueliner in a few years.
Sonny Milano, LW, USNTDP (USHL)
The Hockey News has Sonny Milano ranked 29th on their latest 2014 draft list.
Milano is a 6'0", 183-pound left winger from Massapequa, New York. Despite his size, Milano is no stranger to the physical side of the game. He excels on the forecheck and will go hard into the corners to battle for loose pucks.
Milano also has great speed and good offensive vision with the puck. The Hockey News notes how Milano would work well as a member of the Kings.
The Kings don't need help right away, as they are probably the best team in the NHL heading into 2014-15. Milano would represent a long-range winger who will need to add more strength. His offensive instincts are solid, so he fits the bill for what LA needs more of.
The downside to Milano's game is his size and lack of experience compared to his peers.
Ryan MacInnis, C, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Son of legendary defenseman Al MacInnis, Ryan MacInnis takes the 29th spot on NHL.com's Adam Kimelman's mock draft.
MacInnis is a well-rounded center. He's a strong skater, has great stickhandling abilities and has good vision in all three zones. At 6'3", 175 pounds, MacInnis does need to add some bulk before he will be NHL-ready.
NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory had this to say about MacInnis' strong second half of the 2013-14 season.
He improved over the second half of the season with his mobility and speed to position himself to create more offensively, be on the attack and shoot really well.
Of the four players listed, MacInnis is probably the one most likely to be available when the Kings make their first selection. The only question is whether Dean Lombardi wants another center.