The Los Angeles Kings are heading into their second straight draft without a first-round pick.
Still holding one of the league’s best prospect pools, this isn’t the end of the world, but having a first-round pick is a lot better than not having one.
But, the Kings don’t have to go another draft without a first-round pick, they can trade up and move back into round one.
Even with a strong prospect pool, you never want to go too long without a first-round pick. Most prospects, especially those drafted after round one, don’t make the NHL.
And even fewer of those players end up becoming impact players in the NHL. On average, about 90% of first-round picks play in the NHL, with that number dropping to just 70% in the second round and dropping under 50% after the third round.
Relying on late-round hits isn’t sustainable.
And the Kings are in a good place to make a trade into the first round. They need to move players to free up space but aren’t in a position to splash on a big trade or free agent signing.
If they can move a few pieces out, grab a first-round pick and open up cap space to re-sign the likes of Vladislav Gavrikov, it’s a massive win for Blake.
The prime candidate to make this happen has to be Sean Durzi. I don’t think Durzi alone nets a first-round pick, but he can be the main piece in a deal that gets you back into that round.
Good puck-movers who can quarterback a power play are a hot commodity in the NHL and teams are willing to overlook some decencies to acquire them.
And I doubt the NHL as a whole has soured on Durzi as Kings fans have. Just a year ago, a lot of fans were convinced he was the future of the Kings’ blue line and the idea of trading him seemed crazy after a breakout rookie season.
Now, several fans seem excited to see the back of him after a sophomore slump.
That’s not to say the Kings shouldn’t trade Durzi, but it’s important to remember that he’s still a young defenseman with a track record of NHL success. He should still hold solid value around the league.
All that being said, it isn’t easy to trade into the first round. Teams don’t like parting ways with their first-round picks because they have the highest success rates.
So, the Kings should target teams that have multiple picks.
There are three teams who look like good candidates to trade with. The Detroit Red Wings, the Nashville Predators and the St. Louis Blues.
The Red Wings:
This would be the most expensive trade to make, moving up to the 17 spot. But, the Wings are moving away from their rebuild and have a top-10 pick already.
After signing players like David Perron and Andrew Copp, last summer, the Wings made it clear they were done clearing out assets and were ready to start competing again.
Similar to two summers back when the Kings added Phil Danault and Viktor Arvidsson.
The Wings also desperately need right-shot defensemen. Outside of Moritz Seider, they have Ben Chiarot — a lefty — and Gustav Lindstrom on the right side. They need to improve there and someone like Durzi could help them.
The two big issues with this trade are what to add onto Durzi to make this work and the fact that Detroit might set its sights higher.
The Kings would have to add another high-value asset alongside Durzi to make this work. Maybe another prospect like Samuel Fagemo or their second-round pick. It would be expensive.
The rumors that the Red Wings are interested in Ottawa Senators forward Alex DeBrincat also hurt the Kings’ chances. I have to imagine the 17 pick would be in play for a potential DeBrincat trade. And the Kings won’t put together a package to match DeBrincat’s value.
But, the 17 pick would be huge for the Kings. A prospect like Colby Barlow, Oliver Moore or Dmitri Simashev would really bolster their prospect pool.
The Nashville Predators:
The Predator’s second pick, the 24 pick they acquired from the Edmonton Oilers, might be more attainable.
The Predators are in a weird spot, they could easily blow things up and rebuild, but with key pieces like Filip Forsberg, Juuse Saros and Roman Josi playing some excellent hockey. And with some big, immovable contracts in Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen, a rebuild would be difficult.
I would expect more of a “retool” approach — new GM Barry Trotz used the word “reset” — and someone like Durzi could be a part of that.
They need some right-shot defensemen on the roster. But, with Josi and Tyson Barrie on the roster, they wouldn’t need a power-play quarterback like Durzi.
They finished 28th in goals for last season, so maybe a Fagemo-type prospect would interest them?
If Trotz doesn’t want to blow things up and fully rebuild, a more ready-made young player like Fagemo or Durzi could interest them.
The St. Louis Blues:
In a similar position to the Predators, the Blues might be interested in parting ways with their second first-round pick for some ready-made young talent.
They have enough core pieces, Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, Pavel Buchnevich, etc. To avoid a full rebuild and need help on the backend.
With three first-round picks, 10, 25 and 30 they could be talked into moving one of the latter two.
The Blues need to reload their prospect pool with talent, but trading away your third first-round pick for help now is never a bad move, especially for a team that has a solid core in place.
I doubt they’d take Durzi straight up for the number 30-pick. But they might take Durzi plus someone like Jaret Anderson-Dolan. Anderson-Dolan plays a gritty, hard-working game that fits into the Blues’ identity and could jump into the lineup right away.
At 30 the Kings could go after someone like Carlie Stramel, Otto Stenberg or one of the highly-rated goalies in this draft.
Kings Have Options:
The Kings might not have any interest in moving back into the first round, but they have options if they’re interested.
They can’t make a habit of not drafting in the first round and need to move out players for cap reasons anyway. Without much space on their roster even after a potential trade, grabbing a draft pick makes sense.
If you move someone like Durzi, who has two players ready to take his spot, you don’t need an NHL player in return. And you don’t need another prospect who would be knocking on the door.
A new first-round pick would stagger their prospect pool a bit and could yield an impactful player for the future.