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Kings turned quantity into quality

by John McGourty

Kings GM Dean Lombardi made Guelph Storm defenseman Drew Doughty the club's first-round selection.
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Going into the 2008 Entry Draft, all eyes were on the Los Angeles Kings.

The Kings had a League-leading 15 selections going into the draft, two in the first round, including the No. 2 overall pick.

Because the Tampa Bay Lightning had made it clear they would pick the No. 1-ranked North American skater, Steven Stamkos, Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi fielded numerous calls from rival general managers seeking to make deals. When Lombardi held a widely observed conversation with Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter just before the draft began, everyone assumed a deal was in the works.

But Lombardi pulled a surprise and selected Guelph Storm defenseman Drew Doughty, the top defenseman at the 2008 World Junior Tournament, with that pick before announcing the first of his three trades Friday: Calgary traded its first-round pick, No. 17, and second-round pick next year to Los Angeles for Mike Cammalleri and the Kings’ second-round pick, No. 48. Then, Anaheim traded Edmonton’s first-round pick, No. 12, to Los Angeles for Calgary’s first-round pick, No. 17, and the Dallas Stars’ first-round pick, No. 28.

A report in the Los Angeles Times said Lombardi turned down four different offers for the No. 2 pick. This was the day Lombardi had been waiting for since his hiring in June 2006. He carefully amassed his 2008 draft picks and on this weekend traded quantity for quality. In the end, the Kings selected nine players.

Later, Lombardi traded the No. 12 pick to the Buffalo Sabres to get their first-round pick, No. 13 and a third-round pick next year. After the Sabres selected defenseman Tyler Myers, Lombardi selected right-shooting Regina Pats defenseman Colten Teubert, a rugged character guy.

Confused yet? In all, Lombardi was involved in eight of the 27 trades made during the draft. He even acquired an NHL player, center Brad Richardson, from the Colorado Avalanche.

As for Doughty, he has been a Kings fan since early childhood, when Wayne Gretzky was the team leader. He was a forward until he was 14 when his coach realized his value as a right-handed shooting defenseman. Doughty said he wasn't happy about going back to the blue line at first, but now realizes it worked out for the best.

"I've been dreaming of this since I was a kid," Doughty said. "Right before, I had a gut feeling I was going to Calgary because I saw Dean Lombardi and Darryl Sutter shake hands. I was like, 'Oh no, I didn't think I was going to go (to Calgary.)' No offense, I would have been glad to go anywhere, but just because I loved L.A. so much when I was a little kid. It's just unbelievable to be here." 

Doughty was one of four 2008 Draft-eligible players to help Team Canada win a fourth-straight gold medal at the 2008 World Junior Championships. He was named the tournament’s top defenseman after recording four assists in seven games, and became the first Canadian defender to win the award before being drafted into the NHL.

In 2007-08, Doughty finished ninth in scoring among Ontario Hockey League defensemen with 50 points, and his nine power-play goals ranked third for the Storm.

The Kings continued to strengthen their future defensive corps with their third pick, Vjateslav Voinov, from Lokomotiv Trakter in Russia.

"We know that he's coming over here," Lombardi said. "He's already committed to play junior or the AHL, which I think is huge. Most Russians won't come over until they are ready to play in the National Hockey League. This kid has already played at a high level and he was willing to go to junior hockey. This kid is giving up a lot of money. It isn't like it was 20 years ago, they're not making chicken feed over there anymore.

"And, he's a right shot. We drafted three defensemen who are right shots and those guys are hard to find in hockey."

Lombardi took a trio of players in the third round, forwards Robert Czarnik and Geordie Wudrick as well as defenseman Andrew Campbell.

"(Campbell) really came on. ... He's one of those guys who has moved from project to prospect, if you know what I mean," Lombardi said. "He's going to get bigger. I like the fact that he took a puck in the face to save a goal. I'll never forget that game. Holy smoke! He threw his face in front of the puck. There's our guy! He has a lot of upside. I liked that pick in that spot."

"Look at Nashville and that group of young defensemen, with Shea Weber, Dan Hamhuis and Ryan Suter," Lombardi said. "The way they went about it was very similar to my approach in San Jose. The biggest weakness on this club's reserve list when I took over was the defense. I think with the trade for Jack Johnson, (drafting Thomas) Hickey (in the first round last year), Doughty and Teubert, I like our chances. We now have a chance to have something special down the road. The challenge is to bring them along the right way and mesh them with the pros."

Wudrick is interesting because Teubert and Wudrick went 1-2 in the WHL Bantam Draft a couple years ago and now they are 86 picks apart. Lombardi was asked if Wudrick's big frame slowed his development. He thinks there were other factors.

"We just have to get him to mature. It's hard to explain," Lombardi said. "He's a classic example of, if you have the right development program, you have a real shot at making a player. There's a lot to like about this kid but he has to learn to come to play every night and he has to find an identity. That's all part of development. There's a lot there to like. His interview was really interesting because he talks like an auctioneer. He goes a hundred miles a minute. My guys said they weren't sure whether to bid or what!"

The Kings selected 18-year-old forward Andrei Loktionov in the fifth round. Loktionov was Voinov's teammate at the 2008 World Under-18 Tournament. He was attractive because he's another skilled Russian who wants to play in the NHL.

"He's hanging around with Igor Larionov in Southern California this summer," Lombardi said. "He's a smart player. I think he would go higher without that Russian thing but he's already over here, training in California. He's another that is committed. He's already turned down a lot of money over there. If Igor likes him, he has to be a pretty smart player because Igor doesn't like guys who don't think the game."

You would think that a player who could lead the OHL in scoring isn't a gamble but at 5-foot-7, Justin Azevedo slipped to the sixth round. Lombardi praised his "relentless heart and character. His asset is his grit and the way he comes to play."

Lombardi was asked if his seventh-round pick, Garrett Roe, a 5-8 forward from St. Cloud State, has similar attributes.

"He does, I think, but we'll see," Lombardi said.

With the draft over, Lombardi identified the Kings' next big task.

"The challenge this summer is to get Jack Johnson and Anze Kopitar signed to long-term deals. Easier said than done."

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