Kings’ fourth pick

With their third-round pick (82nd overall), the Kings selected center/winger Bryan Cameron out of Belleville of the OHL. Cameron (5-10, 175 pounds) had 33 goals and 25 assists in 60 games with Belleville last season. Central Scouting had him ranked 43rd among North American skaters and here’s his evaluation:

“A skilled forward that plays with grit… is good in front of the net and can handle the puck well in traffic… has good vision and sees the ice well… needs to improve his play away from the puck… needs to be more consistent at both ends of the rink.”

Here’s some of what McKeen’s Draft Guide had to say:

“He’s quite an instinctive player, but he’s probably the most bi-polar player in the draft. One night he looks great, and the next night he looks completely out of sync. He’s an excellent finisher, he gets into scoring areas and has a quick release. He’s supposed to be a great skater and some nights he is, others he’s not.”

Here’s the transcript of an interview Cameron did with McKeen’s:

Q&A with Bryan Cameron

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Kings’ third pick

The Kings’ second second-round pick (61st overall) was winger Wayne Simmonds out of Owen Sound of the OHL. Simmonds is 6-1, 162 pounds and had 23 goals and 26 assists in 66 games last season. He was not ranked at all by Central Scouting, but Mike Futa, the new co-director of amateur scouting for the Kings, was the former GM of the Owen Sound team, so obviously he liked what he saw. Here’s a story on Simmonds from a paper in Ontario. Seems as though he improved his stock quite a bit this season.

Simmonds story

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Kings’ second pick

The Kings’ first second-round pick (52nd overall) was center/left wing Oscar Moller out of Chilliwack of the WHL. He’s 5-10, 185 pounds. Central Scouting had him ranked 20th among North American skaters…six spots ahead of Thomas Hickey. Moller is a native of Sweden and here’s what Central Scouting had to say: “A playmaking forward with a good work ethic… is a two-way player that competes every shift… has good skating ability and vision… anticipates the play well and handles the puck with ease… needs to improve his ability to fight through checks and play in traffic.” Moller had 32 goals and 37 assists in 68 games in the WHL last season.

Some more scouts’ quotes, from McKeen’s Draft Guide:

“He’s an undersized, highly skilled prospect who plays a strong all-around game.”

“He’s good behind the puck, he’s good with the puck, he’s solid defensively. He’s got a great shot, probably his best attribute.”

“He’s not very big. Sometimes he doesn’t come out with maximum energy level.”

“He is oozing with character and leadership qualities. He lacks speed; otherwise he’s a top-end pick.”

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Final draft thoughts

That pick was about as popular as the finale of The Sopranos. I was stunned, frankly, but it will be fascinating to judge this pick in a few years, particularly since Alzner, the presumed top defenseman in the draft, was picked immediately after Hickey. In a few years, Lombardi will either look like a genius or…well, fill in your own word. Many of you already have.

Know this much, at least. I’m told that Lombardi and crew watched countless hours of film on these prospects, way more than the previous regime ever did before a draft. And that’s not a knock on the previous regime, it’s just what I was told. So Lombardi obviously saw something that made him want to take a risk this big. The internal debate, among front-office people, was whether to take Hickey or a particular forward, whose name was not disclosed. Lombardi said he had two or three potential deals that would have allowed him to move down, but they fell through. Take it for what it’s worth, but Lombardi said he talked to an executive, one whose team was picking somewhere between No. 10 and No. 13, and that executive told Lombardi that his team would have taken Hickey.

I thought they would take Alzner because I figured they would take a defenseman and I thought they would take a defenseman who was more NHL-ready. Even so, I never thought of Alzner as being a “Lombardi pick.” It’s too safe, too bland. Lombardi is a risk-taker who seems to enjoy going against the grain, and he certainly did that tonight. It’s going to take a while for everyone to determine if he got the second coming of Rob Blake or Aki Berg.

It’s a high risk-reward pick. It would have looked a lot better if Lombardi had been able to trade down a couple spots. But Lombardi picked with confidence, so maybe he will get the last laugh.

For now, here’s a couple stories on Hickey:

Seattle Times
Hockey’s Future

I’ll do my best to recap the Kings’ picks as they happen tomorrow…

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Lombardi/Hickey quotes

I’ve have some more stuff later, but I thought I’d post all the quotes before I hit the road. I’ll say this much. The reaction at the draft party was pretty similar to the reaction on the blog…

LOMBARDI
“In publications, people might have had him 25 to 30, but there was too much buzz on him. That type of defenseman is hard to find. I kind of drew a line under a certain number and said, `I cant go below that or Im going to lose him. … He would have ended up going from 10 to 13.
“I had a good interview (with Lombardi) at the combine and I got to know him. … I’m looking forward to coming to the (developmental) camp.”
“It would have been nice to go down a little lower, but players like that are hard to find. Thats why (Kimmo) Timonen gets seven million. People find value in that kind of player.
“When you have a number of players in a certain layer, you lean toward position.”
“If anybody follows my history in terms of defensemen, I like players who can get up the rink in a hurry. I look at this as hopefully being similar to Stuart and Hannan in San Jose. In today’s game, guys who can skate and get up the ice are important.”
“Karl is going to play in the NHL next year. He’s more mature. Alzner is a very good player and a very safe pick. (Hickey) is riskier but the upside is higher.”
“I came down to two players: one defenseman and one forward. We really microanalyzed it.”

HICKEY
“I definitely was surprised. Its not something I was waiting for. I was just getting comfortable in my seat. I thought there was a chance (to be picked) anywhere from eighth on.
“In a nutshell, I think Im a two-way player who plays with a lot of grit and character. I started off a slot slow. There was a little more emphasis put on my defense but then I started getting more chances and offense. Our team started doing well and things started clicking.

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McCauley buyout

I just learned that the Kings have bought out the contract of Alyn McCauley. That will mean a salary cap hit of $666,667 over each of the next four years. I don’t yet have any context on why exactly this was done, although I’m sure it was a health-related issue.

UPDATE: It is indeed $666,667 over the next FOUR years, not two.

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Initial comments from Lombardi

The quality of the audio was terrible, so here’s Dean’s first comments on Hickey.

“He does things that are very hard to find. Not only is he a good skater straight ahead, he’s an east-west skater and he can get up the rink in a hurry. In today’s games, the guys who can make plays and get it out of your own end, that’s critical.”

“We think that with Hickey and Jack Johnson, we have two players who have the potential to be top-four players, similar to when we got Stuart and Hannan (in San Jose).”

“He had started moving up on the boards, and it was becoming clear that in that 8-11 spot, there were teams that were strongly considering him. I had two or three deals that would allow us to move down and get another pick, but I didn’t want to move too far backward.”

“He started out slow and in January he started taking off again. He averaged a point per game then started to get better.”

“You can’t do what everybody thinks. You have to put your work in and do what you think is best. We’ve got a good group of young forwards. You add Jack Johnson and a kid like this, at a critical position. I’m pretty excited about this.”

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Who saw that coming?

The fans downstairs, and out on the patio, are not pleased. Can’t wait to see what Dean has to say about it.

For those who haven’t seen it, here’s the TSN.com profile on Hickey.

THOMAS HICKEY
Pos: Defence
Shoots: L
Height: 5’11″
Weight: 182 lbs.
Born: 2/8/1989
From: Calgary, AB
Team: Seattle (WHL)
RANKINGS
TSN: 13
CSB: 26 NA
ISS: 17
RLR: 26
McK: 29
THN: 22

The TSN Insider’s Forecast: The book on Seattle Thunderbird defenceman Thomas Hickey has pages all over the place. Top 10. Top 20. Top 30. Second-round pick. Take your pick. There is wild divergence on the value of this smallish defenceman with good, if not above average, offensive ability. “Is he an offensive defenceman?” one scout said. “His point totals are okay, not spectacular.” He is, however, clearly a good puck mover who in spite of the varied views is expected to go in the first half of the draft, if not the top 10. But if some of the teams in the first half of the first round who like Hickey like someone else a little more, Hickey could slide to later in the first round.

From NHL Central Scouting: A skilled defenseman. Positions himself well defensively and has good anticipation of the play. Able to skate the puck out of the zone and make good outlet passes. Controls the power-play with patience and is smart with the puck. Needs to improve his one-on-one containment out of the corners. Needs to be more consistent with his physical presence.

From ISS: Reminds ISS of a Kris Russell with less offensive ability. However, with saying that, Hickey still has offensive upside. Makes a good first pass out of his zone. Is good in both ends and uses his smarts to overcome his lack of size. Plays as a top four d-man used in all situations. Moves puck well – finds open man and then gets him the puck. Not afraid to battle and if check is there to be made, he will make it.

Year Team GP G A Pts Pim
2006-2007 Seattle (WHL) 68 9 41 50 70
2007 Playoffs Seattle (WHL) 11 3 4 7 4

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Live from the draft party

The restaurant/bar where they’re having the party — The Highlands in Hollywood — is a really nice place and quite large. I’ve only gotten lost once so far, and it’s a little warm downstairs so we’re tucked away in the makeshift media room upstairs.

A couple non-draft items: the new jerseys are in the room, and you’ll all be relieved to know that there are no major changes. In fact, the only real change I notice is the removal of the colored stripe at the bottom of the jerseys. The “Los Angeles” is still there, but the color is gone. Other than that, it’s just a change in fabric.

Also, Nick Nickson is in the room and is doing well. He said he’s not quite at 100 percent but he’s out and around, so that’s a good sign.

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