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Kings Follow Head, Not Heart, at the NHL Entry Draft

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A look at how Derek Forbort wasn't who Kings' fans necessarily wanted and a quick glimpse at the Kings' other draft picks.

"Who the hell is Derek Forbort?"

This was the first thing that came to my mind after I heard Mike Futa’s announcement.  Futa, the Kings Co-Director of Amateur Scouting, had just announced Derek Forbort as the Kings’ 1st round draft pick of the NHL Entry Draft.  I was confused.  Why would the Kings draft some gawky Minnesota kid when a Russian Tank in Vladimir Tarasenko and two California kids in Beau Bennett and Emerson Etem were still available?  Why would the Kings draft another defenseman (their 4th defenseman taken with a 1st round pick in the last 4 years) when they clearly needed help at forward?  Other Kings fans were confused, as one could tell by the smattering of boos that rang through Staples Center when the pick was first announced.  Those fans were quickly silenced, however, and Kings fans dutifully applauded the newest member of the Kings family.  But you could tell their hearts weren’t in it.

Upon reflection, I guess the pick does seem like the right one.  The whole draft was odd, as defensemen were ignored throughout the first half of the first round in favor of forwards.  I think most of the players Kings GM Dean Lombardi had his eye on were already selected, while players he thought he wouldn’t have a chance on were suddenly available.  According to Lombardi, Derek Forbort was the last player available that was worth his first rounder; otherwise, he was probably going to trade back.  Lombardi bit the bullet, traded up to 15th overall from 19th (giving up a 2nd rounder for the privilege) and took Forbort.  It probably wasn’t his ideal scenario but it was better than nothing.

But I still wonder, who the hell is Derek Forbort anyway?  Forbort (just try saying that without sounding goofy) is a big boy, a 6’5", 195 lbs. defenseman from Duluth, Minnesota who spent this past season with the USA National Development Team.  Forbort was not the most heralded defenseman on that team, nor was he the best player, but he arguably has the best tools of any American skater taken this year.   Forbort needs to grow into his body and learn how to harness his considerable skills, but he is expected to eventually become a top-4 defenseman that can play in any situation in the NHL.  Forbort will go to the University of North Dakota, a school with a good track record for developing defensemen, and we likely won’t see him in Los Angeles for at least 4 years.

There’s a part of me that’s a little disappointed with the pick.  It’s not for any rational reason; I understand the pick, I like the pick on an intellectual level, but I still have a tinge of regret.  It would have made for a much better story if the Kings had gone with either Tarasenko, or Bennett, or especially Etem, a kid from Long Beach who grew up loving the Kings.  Instead, Kings fans were forced to watch as the Anaheim Ducks gave Etem his Hollywood ending with the 29th pick in the draft.  But Kings fans have lived through 41 years of their franchise going for Hollywood instead of the smart decision, and all it has given them is one Finals appearance and years of mediocrity.  Drafting Forbort wasn’t fun, but winning is.  I’m fine with one if it leads to the other.

Other Selections:

Tyler Toffoli, 47th overall (2nd round)

Toffoli has an amazing shot, he’s not afraid to drop the gloves, he’s a great pick… but I still don’t like it.  Why?  Because of this:

Video Game: Call of Duty
TV Show: 90210
Actor: Vince Vaughn
Cartoon: Flintstones
Book: Twilight
Pump-up song: "Rollin" by Limp Bizkit

Those are Toffoli’s answers to a questionnaire on  Call of Duty, that’s fine.  But 90210?  Vince Vaughn?  The Flinstones?  TWILIGHT????  Is Tyler Toffoli my sister?  No, because not even my sister thinks "Rollin’" is a good song.  That song came out in 2000, by the way, when Toffoli was 8.  How could that song make such an impact on him that he’d still remember it 10 years later?  Maybe I’m overreacting, but if your kidney was failing and someone was willing to give you theirs and then you found that person liked 90210, Twilight, and Limp Bizkit… wouldn’t you think, "Well, dialysis can probably keep me alive for a little while longer, I’m going to keep my options open."  I would.

(Note: There's a part of me that thinks this is an elaborate joke played by Toffoli and if it's that the case then I take back all the mean things I said about him.)

Jordan Weal, 70th overall (3rd round)

Lombardi likes to draft good players with one fatal flaw in later rounds: Tyler Toffoli’s one flaw is his skating, which is below average.  For Jordan Weal, it’s his size.  Generously listed at 5’10" and ungenerously listed at 162 lbs., Weal is small.  That didn’t stop him from finishing 3rd overall in scoring in the Ontario Hockey League this last year, but the NHL has much, much bigger and faster players.  Weal is a playmaker with great vision and soft hands; the question is, "Can he handle the physicality of the NHL?"  The same question can be asked of current Kings prospects Justin Azevedo (drafted in the 6th round in 2008) and Brandon Kozun (6th round in 2009), so if one of those players works out then the Kings come out ahead.

Oh, and Jordan Weal’s favorite movie is Ace Ventura.  He’s a good kid.

Kevin Gravel, 148th overall (5th round)

Kevin Gravel is apparently a defensive defenseman from Michigan.  He's one of those guys that you draft and hope he turns into something in 5 years.  Will he?  Probably not.  Cool name, though.

Maxim Kitsyn, 158th overall (6th round)

Remember what I said about drafting players with one fatal flaw?  Kitsyn doesn’t have a fatal flaw in his game, other than the fact that he got hurt this season.  Kitsyn was the 6th ranked European skater by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau so you know he has game.  His flaw is that he’s Russian and thus not subject to an international transfer agreement.  Russians are tricky because they can easily stay home and make more money while racking up points in an inferior league if they wish.  The Kings claim Kitsyn wants to come over this season and play Major Junior hockey next season; if true, then the Kings got a 2nd round talent with their last pick.  Plus, look at the guy.  Now that's a Russian.