“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” may be a trite and cliche saying but applies perfectly to the NHL Draft. The Los Angeles Kings took this approach as they had one of their best drafts in recent years uncovering several gems that should have been taken much sooner than they were. While luck can be a factor in having such amazing players fall in a team’s lap, Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi surely deserves a great deal of credit in restocking the Kings’ cupboard. Two players — who happen to be teammates — in particular went much later than they should have and will be in the Kings’ lineup sooner than many anticipate.
Roland McKeown is a prototypical 6-foot-1, 190-pound defenseman who plays in all situations for the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL. In his second year of junior hockey McKeown recorded 43 points and 61 penalty minutes in 62 games for Kingston. His defensive game improved exponentially as he went from -28 as an OHL rookie to +38 this past season. A projected middle of the first round pick, McKeown fell to the Kings in the second round as Dean Lombardi traded prized prospect Linden Vey to land the pick that would become McKeown. McKeown projects to be a second pairing defenseman that can play major minutes in the NHL, essentially the perfect complement to Kings’ superstar Drew Doughty.
McKeown’s Kingston teammate Spencer Watson is an undersized, but amazingly gifted scorer from the left wing. Watson, entered the draft a projected high second round pick as his offensive output was impressive playing alongside No. 4 overall pick Sam Bennett. Like McKeown, Watson tumbled, only his tumbling didn’t stop until the 209th pick in the draft, the second-to-last pick overall. The Kings snatched him up and will be patient with his development as he has plenty of time to grow and develop with the Kings’ organization.
Both McKeown and Watson will need time to develop, luckily the Kings can give them all of the time in the world. With the team a perennial contender, both youngsters can fill voids down the line and prove wrong all the teams that passed on them. The Kings and Lombardi will surely reap those benefits.