Behind The Scenes - At The Kings Draft Table
Under the direction of General Manager Dean Lombardi, the Los Angeles Kings have created a model franchise of how to build a team from within into Stanley Cup Champions. When Lombardi joined the organization in 2006, he started building the eventual champions around current Captain Dustin Brown and through picking prospects in the NHL Draft. Prior to the 2007 NHL Draft, Lombardi hired Mark Yannetti and Mike Futa to serve as Co-Directors of Amateur Scouting. For the last seven drafts, they have been Lombardi’s eyes and ears of young, up and coming talent.
Yannetti and Futa have great amateur scouts that they work with to create a dynamic team that are working to craft the Kings of the future. Los Angeles’ scouting staff entered last Sunday’s draft with 10 picks. Two trades and seven picks later, the Kings completed another successful day on the draft floor.
The days, weeks and months leading up to the draft are extremely busy for amateur scouts. They travel from city to city watching and analyzing players. They rarely see their family and friends as they are on the road most of the season. Then they meet and factor in every possible scenario they can come up with in order to get the players that they want. Then comes the day they have worked so hard for, draft day.
“I thought it went very well,” explained Yannetti. “We didn't have a first round pick and our second round pick was at 57 so, for all intents and purposes, it was a third round pick. When you go into a draft like that, you have to temper you expectations. We were making scenarios and calling teams the weeks leading up to the draft trying to get a first round pick. Even going into the first round, we didn't think we'd be later in that round. We didn't think we'd be able to get a player of (Valentin Zykov’s) caliber. To be able to trade up to 37 and get him was exciting, to say the least, and it was unexpected.”
The Kings personnel played out so many scenarios that could have happened during the draft but when the day actually came, they had to work on the fly.
“With Dean, one thing that we've learned, Mike and I and the rest of the staff, in terms of moving, we had the 57th pick, but in going into the draft in my fifth or sixth year, I never thought we were going to pick 57th,” explained Yannetti when talking about their first pick in Sunday’s draft. “That doesn't mean we knew we would move up.
“We had two scenarios in mind going into the draft, and I can't say the players because they were drafted by other teams, we did every iteration of every scenario that could happen in trying to get these two players and they were two players that we thought we would have a chance to move into an area to get. We don't do that for Nathan McKinnon or Seth Jones. We do it for players that we value that may be undervalued by other teams. We ran through every scenario to get those players which involved moving up from 57th. At the draft, it proved to be extremely hard, even before the draft, to move up anywhere. In saying that, our main goal was to move up and get one of those two players and then we were fortunate to get someone we valued even more in Valentin.”
The Kings were very happy and feel fortunate that left wing Valentin Zykov was still available at the 37th pick and that they were able to trade their 57th pick, 88th pick and 96th pick to the Edmonton Oilers for the opportunity to get the native of St. Petersburg, Russia. Moving up 20 picks and having Zykov as an option may not have been one of their original scenarios but, on draft day, everything is a moving target and scenarios are ever changing. One thing that Los Angeles knew going into the draft, they hold their fates in their own hands and waiting to see what everyone else does is not how they operate.
“We also had the other scenario, if those two players weren't there, we would move back,” Yannetti continued. “Sitting at 57th was not really an option for us. We went in there really fluid; hoping to move up, preparing to move back, but not with the intention to sit there and wait for 57th and see what falls.”
Lombardi had been in communications with teams for weeks prior to the draft. The Kings were looking to see what they could do to get a first round pick. This year, they did not find the right scenario to move them up to the first round.
“As we saw with the Jon Bernier trade, there were many scenarios and many teams involved with Jon Bernier and Dean and the pro guys especially got the most value they could get out of Bernier,” Yannetti explained in reference to talking with teams and making trades prior to and at the draft. “When you're dealing with teams, some teams, with Toronto, you're going to get prospects back and you're going to get players back so you got (Matt) Frattin and you got (Ben) Scrivens and you get a second round pick. So other teams that he was dealing with, there may have been no roster players available for trade and now you're looking at a higher pick or now you're looking at multiple draft picks. And then other teams may have been a combination of prospects and picks, or prospects and players. In terms of us trying to get a first round pick, that would have been done in the weeks leading up to the draft. Once you get there the week before the draft, we did not have the ammo to get to the first round. There wasn't even a consideration and it wasn't something we wasted our time trying to do.”
Things happen very quickly on the draft floor. Negotiations that they were not expecting and the ability to pick players that they may not have thought would be available had dropped down in the draft and the Kings were put to work in order to get the talented Zykov.
“The deal we made happened on the draft floor,” Yannetti explained on how the Kings moved up from the 57th pick to the 37th pick. “There were three different scenarios and three different teams we were dealing with in terms of trying to move up from 57th. All were varying in different areas. We tried to get to 31 when the first round ended; we did everything we could do to get to 31. Originally, we had planned to give up less to move up fewer spots. When the opportunity presented itself to move up 20 spots, the different picks came into play and that spot became more valuable and as Valentin was dropping. It became more imperative for us to get up and get him.”
In the end, the Kings got their man, Valentin Zykov, in the second round, 37th overall. They continued to pick promising players for the organization with a total of five forwards, one defenseman and a goaltender. A somewhat chaotic and stressful day transitioned into a successful draft.