Draft Central: Kings Select OHL Star Justin Azevedo

Chris BouthillierSenior Analyst IJune 21, 2008

He's 20 years old, and if you're not from Ontario, chances are you have no idea who he is.

Justin Azevedo, a member of the OHL Champion Kitchener Rangers, was a player that many scouts had written off for a number of years. Anybody who is 5'7" and weighs at 180 pounds easily gets overlooked when it comes to playing at a pro level. The LA Kings pulled the trigger on Saturday and drafted Azevedo with the 153rd pick in the sixth round.

With the exception of his rookie campaign, Azevedo has been a point-a-game scorer for the last three seasons. This season he posted 43 goals and 124 points in 67 games. That was more than any other player in the OHL, which includes Steve Stamkos (no. 1 pick in the draft) and John Tavares (projected no. 1 pick in 2009). He also posted 36 points in 20 playoff games to help the Rangers win the league title.

Azevedo has the speed and skill of a first rounder, and it makes perfect sense for the Kings to pick him in this year's draft.

On Friday night the Kings dealt Mike Cammalleri to the Calgary Flames as part of a three-way deal that also included the Anaheim Ducks. Cammalleri was a big part of the Kings future, but the team still has solid forwards to produce numbers next season.

Los Angeles has offense, and are currently restocking on the blue line and in the crease. The future looks bright in both areas though, with Jack Johnson, Thomas Hickey, Drew Doughty leading the on defence with goaltender Jonathan Bernier eventually becoming the starter.

The addition of Azevedo will pay dividends sooner rather than later. He just played in his last year of junior and will probably be playing with the Kings' farm team in Manchester of the AHL next season. Along with that, the fact that he has improved year after year shows that he is on the right track to eventually suit up in an NHL uniform.

The loss of Cammalleri won't be so bad knowing that a proven point-producer is on his way to Tinseltown. He has hands, vision and the ability to blow down the ice in a matter of seconds. It's just a matter of time that Azevedo can prove he can play at an NHL level.

The only adjustments he will have to make are to his physical game and his mental awareness. Playing with bigger and better players could be somewhat intimidating to him, but it won't take away his willingness to compete.

Knowing he has just come off a championship team is also a confidence boost for Azevedo. Bringing that type of character and that style of play to the NHL will only increase his chances of playing in the NHL in the 2009-2010 season.

This pick could quite possibly be the steal of the draft.

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