The Los Angeles Kings got aggressive on day two of the NHL draft, trading up three times to get their desired target. Already possessing one of the best prospect pools in hockey, the team decided to go for quality over quantity this year, only making three selections on Day 2 of the draft. The organization capitalized on a few players dropping in the draft — rounding out their prospect pool with some intelligent picks. Here’s a recap of what the Kings did on draft Day 2.
No. 42 Francesco Pinelli
A player who was ranked as high as No. 15 on some scouts’ pre-draft rankings, Francesco Pinelli has the potential to be one of the biggest steals in this draft. His lack of game time over the last 12 months likely contributed to him falling in the draft. As he continued to drop, the Kings saw an opportunity to strike, trading their No. 49 and No. 136 picks in this year’s draft to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for the No. 42 pick.
It’s easy to see why the Kings were willing to trade up for Pinelli; he’s an all-action forward who has no significant weaknesses in his game. He’s a solid skater, specifically in his edgework and balance. But, he could afford to add more top speed to his game. More of a playmaker than a shooter, he displays very good vision, passing, and creativity — his shot isn’t bad, as he possesses a very good release, but he lacks the power on his shot to consistently beat goalies at the next level. His defensive game is a massive strength, a very intelligent player, he’s always on the right side of the puck and isn’t afraid to get physical. A very good forechecker, he is quick onto the puck and excels at dispossessing opposition players.
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Nearly every scout mentions Pinelli being a “jack of all trades, master of none” kind of player. To me, he projects very similar to current Kings forward Alex Iafallo. Listed as a center, Pinelli played mostly wing with the Kitchener Rangers in his rookie season and if he makes it onto the Kings roster, I think it will be at wing. This has nothing to do with an inability to play center on his part, more that the team has an abundance of center prospects. Depending on Pinelli’s development, he could become a perfect replacement for Iafallo if the team moves on from him after his four-year contract is up. If Pinelli reaches his full potential, I envision him being a 50-60-point producer who’s very responsible defensively. At worst, I think he’ll be a shut-down, bottom-six forward who can play in all situations. This was a very low-risk, high-reward pick from the Kings.
No. 59 Samuel Helenius
Another player the Kings traded up to draft, Samuel Helenius was their second pick in Round 2. The Kings traded their No. 72 and No. 109 picks to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for the No. 59 pick, to draft Helenius. He divided scouts’ opinions, with some ranking him up around No. 44 and some having him down at No. 102. Son of enforcer Sami Helenius, Samuel shares similar physical attributes to his dad, but plays a more complete game. He is a work in progress, but there’s definite upside with this player. I expect it will be four or five years before he is an NHL regular.
Helenius is an excellent skater for his size, especially when moving north to south. His lateral movement needs improvement, but that’s to be expected with a 6-foot-6 player. That massive frame is likely his biggest weapon — he uses it very well to impose himself on the opposition, and as he gets stronger, that will only increase. He is somewhat limited offensively and is unlikely to be a massive point producer. He displays decent hands in front of the net and a hard shot, utilizing his big frame in both areas. However, he struggles with the puck in open ice and needs to improve his release. He excels in the cycle game as he is very difficult to dispossess along the boards and he makes safe intelligent passes. He might have a future playing the front of the net on the power play, but I wouldn’t expect huge offensive numbers.
His defensive game is stellar for his age — displaying great positioning and an active stick in his own zone. He’s also a physical player — he doesn’t throw many big hits, but it is still difficult to play against, using his size well along the boards and in front of the net. While his passing is not spectacular, he is intelligent in the transition game and can quickly move the puck up ice after forcing a turnover. Unlikely to be a top-six caliber player, Helenius screams third-line, shut-down center. As he adds muscle to his frame, his faceoffs should improve significantly, leading him to be someone that can play in all situations. This isn’t a flashy pick; however, teams need these kinds of players to build a Cup contender. If the Kings have filled their third-line center spot for the next decade, this was an amazing pick.
Their final pick of the 2021 Draft came in the third round by way of Russian defenseman, Kirill Kirsanov. Another player the team traded up for — LA sent their No. 89 and No. 168 picks to the Calgary Flames in exchange for the No. 84 pick. Any time a player spends his 18-year-old year in the KHL it’s impressive, especially for a stacked team like SKA St. Petersburg. Kirsanov is a physically impressive player, standing at 6-foot-1, nearly 200 pounds already. Kings Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Yanetti seems to think he can make the jump to the NHL fairly soon as well.
Offensively, he plays a simple game, displaying good vision and decision-making with the puck. He is solid in the transition game, moving the puck up ice quickly and effectively. He can lack patience on the puck, sometimes making the safe play quickly instead of waiting for better plays to develop. He displayed better patience while playing for Russia against his peers. In the offensive zone, he prefers to work from the blue line, rarely finding himself deep in the zone. His shot could use some work, but with age this should improve.
Defensively, Kirsanov shines. He isn’t the fastest skater, but he has great edgework and lateral movement, making him difficult to beat 1-on-1. With great gap control and an active stick, he forces players wide and into the corner before stealing the puck. A very physical player, he loves mixing it up in the corners and has shown the ability to throw some big hits. He’s unlikely to develop into a top-pairing defenseman, but he should be a nice complement player on the second or third pairing.
An Impressive Draft
In my opinion, the Kings knocked it out of the park in this draft. They took advantage of player falling and did a fantastic job of filling team needs. They’re already overflowing with talent in their pipeline and this draft continued to add long-term security for the franchise. Rob Blake and his team are developing what could be an NHL dynasty, something that should leave Kings fans ecstatic for the future.
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.