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Kings must dig deep in this draft

6/23/2011

As the clock ticks on the NHL draft, nearly every team has zeroed in on its main targets heading into Friday’s first round.

Somewhere in a back room at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., members of the Kings front office are making different preparations.

First order of business: Find the snooze button.


Because the Kings traded away this year's first-round pick (19th overall) to Edmonton in a bust-move that brought over Dustin Penner at last season’s trade deadline, they are sitting out Friday's festivities. They won't make their first pick until Saturday's second round, 49th overall.

That's OK for long-suffering Kings fans, who likely began their July 4 celebration a little early Thursday with the shocking news that the Kings acquired high-scoring forward Mike Richards from the Flyers in a trade for Brayden Schenn, the fifth overall pick two years ago, and third-year wing Wayne Simmonds.

One less chore to get done this offseason.

Next and foremost on the get-it-done-already list is re-signing soon-to-be restricted free-agent Drew Doughty, one of the top young defensemen in the league. Negotiations are reported to be heating up between the Kings and Doughty, the second overall pick three years ago who is expected to be a cornerstone of the team as it attempts to mature into a Stanley Cup contender.

Then there's the recent news that top six forward Ryan Smyth is reportedly seeking a trade back to Edmonton so he can finish his career where it began. No wonder the draft has become somewhat of an afterthought.

What should make Friday's wait even easier is the lack of blue chippers to choose from. That's not to say some nuggets can't be found deep in the second round, however.

You could almost build an all-star team, or a Stanley Cup champion, with players selected No. 44 through 50 in the last 10 years.

For starters, Shea Weber of Nashville was drafted with the same pick the Kings own this season, 49thoverall in 2003. In the last six seasons, Weber has emerged as perhaps the NHL’s most dominant defenseman. He’s a finalist for the Norris Trophy this season, which will be awarded to league’s top blue liner Wednesday in Las Vegas.

The Kings also got lucky with the 49th pick in 2001, grabbing forward Mike Cammalleri. Five years later, he led the team with 26 goals and, the following season, had a team-high 80 points. Cammalleri is still producing, finishing second on the Canadiens last season with 47 points in 67 regular-season games.

On the current Kings roster, second-line center Jarret Stoll was the 46thoverall pick in 2000, and defenseman and alternate captain Matt Greene went 44th in 2002.

Last week, the Boston Bruins clinched the Stanley Cup title with the help of two players selected midway through the second round.

Patrice Bergeron, the 45th pick in 2003, scored two goals for Boston in a 4-0 victory against Vancouver in Game 7, and Milan Lucic, the 50th pick in 2006, scored four goals in the final two series victories, despite playing with a broken big toe.

But for every Weber, Cammalleri and Paul Stastny (44thpick of the Avs in 2005 and an All-Star center three years later), dozens of others will go down the paths of players such as Sergei Anshakov, Dany Roussin and Joe Ryan, second-round picks of the Kings between 2002-06 who never stepped foot in the NHL.

So sit back, put up your feet and watch the clock. It might be a while before the Kings get their first pick of 2011, and even longer before the player reveals his value.

Will he be a lump of coal or a diamond in the rough?

Only time will tell.