The Los Angeles Kings are without a first-round pick for the second season in a row.
Still boasting one of the league's top prospect pools, they're one of the few teams who can get away with missing the first round two years in a row. But they shouldn't make a habit out of it.
Last season the Minnesota Wild selected Liam Ohgren 19th overall with the pick they received from the Kings. And this season, the Columbus Blue Jackets will pick in a similar spot at number 23.
Draft season hasn't fully kicked in yet, but with The Athletic's Corey Pronman releasing his first mock draft today, it seemed like a good time to look at what the Kings will miss out on this year.
With the 23rd overall pick, Pronman has the Blue Jackets selecting Russian winger Daniil But.
Interestingly, Pronman has But ranked as the number nine prospect in this draft and points out that most scouts have But ranked much higher than 23. But falls to 23 because of the mitigating factors of drafting a Russian player, similar to Danila Yurov last year.
But's a big power-forward with a goal-scorers touch. He complements his big body with solid skating, good hands and an above-average shot. On a 6-foot forward But's skillset wouldn't stand out much. But put them on a 6-foot-5 frame and they become more enticing.
Pronman's NHL comparable for But is Buffalo Sabres forward Alex Tuch.
For a team that lacks size, a player like But would be an ideal pick. Someone who can get to the net and create chaos and not be pushed around by some of the bigger Western Conference teams.
It would also be great to watch a monster line of But with Quinton Byfield and Gabe Vilardi.
Before the pick was traded, Charlie Stramel was my original idea for who the Kings should select in the first round.
Somewhat of a pick for need, Stramel would fill a big hole in the team's system. A big, physical center with some offensive upside.
The only prospect they have who fits that mold is Samue Helenius, but Helenius' offense is so limited it's hard to see him as more than a fourth-line center in the NHL.
Stramel has the potential to be more. It's unlikely he's a big-time producer in the NHL, but he's shown offense at lower levels. It was a tough freshman season at Wisconsin for Stramel but a rough freshman season for a draft-eligible isn't the end of the world.
Exceptional in the faceoff dot and with some serious snarl to him, Stramel looks like an ideal third-line center.
There are some question marks about his hockey IQ and his processing speed, but if you accept his limited offensive upside that isn't a huge issue.
He'd add not only size but a physical element that the Kings are lacking as well. At 6-foot-3, 216 pounds he'd step into the lineup now as the Kings' biggest bottom-six forward and probably their most physical.
At one point Eduard Sale was a fringe top-10 pick in this draft, but an inconsistent season and some question marks surrounding his compete level have seen him drop into the 20s.
Another big forward; sensing a theme? Sale's a good skater for his size, has excellent hands and a good shot.
This line from Pronman's assessment of Sale has me intrigued.
"I think he’s a very good player, who can be a legit top-six wing in the NHL, but I also see him in the process frustrate coaches and fans."
That sounds a lot like Adrian Kempe's early career. And while I wouldn't compare the two directly, there are some rhymes. Kempe was a much better skater at Sale's age but Sale has significantly better puck skills.
And importantly, like Kempe, Sale's ability to bulk up a lot from his current 174 pounds, will change a lot.
Kempe's physical maturation was a big reason he went from an inconsistent, frustrating player to a 40-goal scorer. I wouldn't expect that level of production from Sale, but who expected that from Kempe in 2014?
A big difference between the two is their compete level. Kempe has always been a physically engaged gritty player and Sale struggles in those areas.
Again, it's not a one-to-one comparison between Sale and Kempe. But in a Kings organization that shows a lot of patience with prospects. Sale would have the time to work out his inefficiencies and round out his game to become an effective NHL forward.
A Pick Wasted?
In what's projected to be the best draft since 2015 — granted most scouts agree that by the mid-to-late teens, it evens out and looks like any other draft — one begins to wonder if trading that first-round pick was a mistake.
All of But, Stramel and Sale would improve the Kings' system and give them something they're missing. Size up front.
Was that trade wasting a pick? Another conversation for another day.