By Mike Tenay | Special to LAKings.com
When Dean Lombardi was hired as President/General Manager of the Los Angeles Kings in 2006, the team sent a message to the league that it's direction was about to change.
With a track record of building the San Jose Sharks into one of the NHL's premier teams through a mix of entry draft selections and key player moves, Lombardi started in L.A. by revamping the Kings scouting staff and development department.
Over the course of the past five years, Lombardi's vision has transformed the organization into one of the most respected in the NHL.
The website Hockey's Future - branded as “The No. 1 Online Prospect Resource” - tabbed the Kings as the top organization in terms of prospects in their spring 2011 rankings (released on May 31, 2011).
The site listed the Kings' top five overall prospects as Brayden Schenn, Jonathan Bernier
, Andrei Loktionov
, Tyler Toffoli
and Derek Forbort
The props from Hockey's Future comes on the heels of The Hockey News recognizing the Kings in their 2011 “Future Watch” edition for their recent string of strong showings at the NHL Entry Draft. After two straight years of being graded as the No. 1 team in the league, the publication ranked the team this year as the second most successful.
During Lombardi's tenure in San Jose he was known for combining up-and-coming youngsters with veteran stars, so it's no surprise that after several years of what might be branded a conservative management style in Los Angeles, he has pulled the trigger on major moves that are aimed toward winning the Stanley Cup.
The most important decision had to be the trade of top prospect Schenn and Wayne Simmonds, one of the first players drafted in the Lombardi era, to Philadelphia for Mike Richards
. Richards, who was captain of the Flyers, is entering the prime years of his hockey career at the age of 26. He, and world-class center Anze Kopitar
, give the team incredible strength in the middle.
The blockbuster Richards trade preceded the signing of forwards Simon Gagne
and Ethan Moreau. And don't forget the deadline deal that sent prospect Colten Teubert and the Kings 2011 first round pick to the Oilers for Dustin Penner
These trades and free agent signings were all made as a result of having depth on both the main roster as well as on the team’s list of prospects.
In other words, the ability to swing the deals that make the Kings a true Cup contender only came about because of the talent the team had stockpiled. These moves merely cement the opinion that for the Los Angeles Kings ... The Future Is Now.