John Stevens has been an unsung “foot soldier” since joining the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach in 2010 after being let go by the Philadelphia Flyers. Stevens even served as interim head coach of the Kings in the four games between Terry Murray’s firing and Darryl Sutter’s hiring in 2011. When Stevens came to LA, he naturally brought his family with him, including his son Nolan Stevens, who was a spectacular midget hockey player with the Jr. Kings. From the Jr. Kings Nolan joined the US National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2012. Now he is a 17-year-old NHL draft eligible forward who wrapped his two years with the US Development Team and is headed for Northeastern University this fall to play NCAA Hockey.
While Nolan Stevens is eligible for this June’s NHL Entry Draft, he is projected to go undrafted as he is nowhere to be found on any of Central Scouting’s draft lists, which is a major mistake. Stevens is a gritty center with size (6’2”) and great hockey acumen (the “bloodlines” argument is valid here) that while not adept offensively can contribute in other facets of the game. Investing a late round pick based on Stevens’ connection to the organization and Southern California would not be a bad idea. This would be far from a “sympathy” pick as Stevens will be playing college hockey next season in one of the nation’s toughest conferences and has the size and grit Dean Lombardi loves in his forwards (Dwight King and Jordan Nolan spring to mind immediately).
The reality of the situation is John Stevens could very well have a head coaching job elsewhere as soon as next season, but Nolan is just starting to scratch the surface. Taking a flyer (no pun intended) on Stevens with a sixth or seventh round pick is a no risk, medium reward investment. If he plays well in the next few years at Northeastern the Kings could have a very solid bottom six forward at the next level. His play speaks for itself, but having that extra connection to the team makes Nolan Stevens a solid investment for the Kings. Besides, it wouldn’t be the first time in LA sports a family connection influenced a draft pick and the last one seemed to work out alright for everyone. (Former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda was a close friend of Mike Piazza’s family when he took the All-Star in 62nd Round of the 1988 MLB Draft.)