Three prospects the LA Kings should target at the draft
The 2023 NHL draft class has oodles of talented young players looking to break into the NHL and make an impact as soon as possible. We all know how the generational talent of Connor Bedard will terrorize the NHL for years to come; and players like Adam Fantilli and Matvei Michkov are no consolation prizes, either.
With the 2023 draft class being so diverse and significantly deep, NHL teams will find first-round talent in the second – dare I say third – round?
That comes to favor the LA Kings. As people may recall, the LA Kings Not having a first-rounder in a draft class like this isn’t ideal. But, the fact that the draft is resonant, it’s feasible the Kings may dig up some first-round talent with their second-round pick.
In today’s article, we’ll dive into the 2023 draft class and break down three players that the LA Kings should be looking to target in the second round.
Jacob Fowler — Goalie
2022-23 Stats: 27-9-3, .921 SV% (Youngstown Phantoms, USHL)
For the longest time, Kings fans have groused about not having a viable starting goalie in a shallow goaltending prospect pool. At the trade deadline, Rob Blake made an acquisition (as predicted and endorsed by yours truly) and brought in Erik Portillo. Portillo played for the University of Michigan and had taken up the NCAA by storm with his season-by-season performance.
While Portillo could very well be LA’s future starter down the line, it’s always good to get some extra basing in the crease. Jacob Fowler is a perfect example of that.
I wouldn’t be shocked to see Fowler get picked in the first round, but I think he could be available for LA in the second round. Fowler put up a ridiculous .921 save percentage with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL and is also committed to Boston College of the NCAA beginning in the 2023-24 season. I’ve been high on Fowler for a while, and I’m glad he’s gotten praise.
Fowler often plays with a tall stance in the net and shows a lot of confidence when the puck closes in on him. He’ll often make a chip to poke the puck away. He’s quick to vision-down the puck. He stands high and falls earlier whenever there’s traffic in front. He takes extra safeguards whenever there are bodies in front and possesses a quick thinking technique. Realistically, when he drops early, it’s better to be ready than late. As long as he doesn’t make it a habit, he should be fine.
One thing I haven’t liked about him is how liminal his foot movement is when he tracks down the puck from far. His feet start to slow down and become sluggish as his focus shifts to the puck. He has an issue with multitasking. If that isn’t fixed, he won’t compete in the NHL.
His athletic positioning in the net allows him to move from side to side fluidly despite his feet lacking speed. When he moves from one side of the net to the other, he almost looks like a robot with his mechanical movement. His pad positioning allows him to cover the bottom of the net while his gloves remain high and active, covering any open space up high.
“Fowler plays a calm and collected game, using his edge work and patience to his advantage. He forces the shooter to make the first move, sitting tight in the net left completely undisturbed. His maturity for his age is frankly impressive, too. I do want him to work on his consistency as well as his speed. I find him a bit slow to get around his net sometimes, you never want to see that.” – David Phillips, goalie scout for New Era Scouting and owner of End2EndHockey.
His style has a calm presence but an athletic and modernized look to it which makes him so much fun to watch it net. The occasional hiccup causes him to choke on his footing, but he maintains complete structure overall. I’d also be wary of how much he plays the puck. He often reminds me of Jacob Markstrom when he leaves the net to play an unneeded puck.
Overall, you’re drafting Fowler for his upside. He’s proven that he can dominate the USHL, and within time, he will dominate the NHL. The upside has always been there. We’ve just been waiting on him to make a total impact and clean up his game. Now that he’s done that, I expect him to go early in June.
Timur Mukhanov – Center/Right Wing
2022-23 Stats: 1 GP, O G, 0 A, O PTS (Avangard Omsk, KHL)
31 GP, 4 G, 4 A, 8 PTS (Omskie Krylia, VHL)
15 GP, 8 G, 9 A, 17 PTS (Omskie Yastreby, MHL)
I watch a ton of junior and professional Russian hockey as a part of my work, and Timur Mukhanov has been one of my favourite players to watch all year.
Recently, Mukhanov was traded from the Omsk system to the Cherepovets organization, and I’m not sure how much I like that for his development. I believe Severstal Cherepovets is looking to rebuild or have a younger approach in the KHL next year, and with Timur Mukhanov looking so great in the VHL last season, I think he’ll look to make an immediate impact there. I expect him to receive tons of ice time in Cherepovets to start the 2023-24 season.
Every team looks to find the next star or a player that’ll turn the tide for the organization. But most of the picks in the draft aren’t made because of how the player looked against the competitors or how many points he scored. A lot of the time, NHL teams draft based on how much NHL certainty a player has. While Mukhanov may not have the highest ceiling, and he definitely won’t turn into a first-liner, I have complete confidence in him being a full-time NHL player.
Timur is a workhorse who shows shades of a thicker and more aggressive Blake Lizotte. He has the potential to be an ideal third-line centerman for any NHL team. He possesses a heavy scent of tenaciousness and plays every shift with complete force. His legs never stop moving. He forces opponents into vulnerable spots to cause them to turn the puck over. With Omsk in the VHL, he was the one who was trusted to start breakouts and single-handedly move the puck around the ice.
Mukhanov adores stealing the puck while perfectly timing his feet to have an explosive breakout. As he moves out, he has a flashy finesse while keeping it smart and controlled. His constant scan of the ice lets him read opponents while conducting a solidified entry. Teammates twice his age look to build offensive tactics around him. That shows how talented and mature Mukhanov is for a 17-year-old.
The way he battles in the corners using not only an active stick but his weight will quickly earn the trust of NHL coaches. His aggressiveness, alongside his way of playing clean and cheeky, has proved that he’s fully aware of how to get under the skin of opponents without saying a word. Mukhanov actively breaks apart opponents’ plays using an aggressive ability. It causes men twice his size to panic whenever he applies this pressure.
Mukhanov’s fluidity is fun to watch because he knows how to actively get from place to place. The only thing I’d like him to work on is what he does with the puck in the offensive zone. Towards the end of the year, he managed to create high-level plays using quick dekes and fast thinking. But for the majority of the year, he would often fumble the puck or panic once he entered the zone. The more confidence he has, the cleaner and more desirable the plays get.
While I don’t think Mukhanov is a player who’ll be a high-scoring individual, I find him to be a Swiss army knife in almost any situation. The LA Kings have to find a way to find a reliable player like Mukhanov. Guys like him help NHL teams win Stanley Cups. He’s irreplaceable in the bottom six.
Luca Cagnoni – Left Shot defenseman
2022-23 Stats: 67 GP, 17 G, 47 A, 64 PTS (Portland Winterhawks, WHL)
I had Luca Cagnoni ranked high heading into the season, but he ultimately fell out of my first and made his way to the mid-second round. While he did have a pretty steep fall in my rankings, and admittedly, he wasn’t what I wanted him to be this year, I still think LA should take a chance on him.
Cagnoni’s red flag was that he didn’t look much more developed in his draft year. In his DY-1, he looked prevalent at a young age and possessed an offensive ability I don’t recall seeing from a guy his age. Despite him still seeming so proficient and so much fun to watch, he doesn’t have what it takes to be a first-rounder this year. The scoring was there, and so was a lot of the offensive tidbits, but he’s got a long way to go.
The lack of development is worrisome, but we’ve seen players bounce back from that sort of stuff. That doesn’t seem to be his only problem, though.
The most infuriating thing about Cagnoni is how senseless and careless he plays defensively. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve face-palmed watching him completely lose sight of the puck. He doesn’t find himself in athletic poses and often loosens in his zone. Attackers read him because of how lazy he comes off. A lot of the time, he’s failed to even visually keep up with the puck, often losing sight of it, causing an easy tap-in for the opponent.
But despite this carelessness, he plays physically and he knows how to lay a big hit. We all know how much the Kings need a defender who can bring the boom.
His defensive game is by far his biggest issue. A lot of the time he seems so careless and it’ll drive a ton of teams away. I know a few scouts who have admitted they’ve lost interest in him because of these problems. I think if he were to find a coach that can resonate with him and find a way to make him more engaged, he could improve a lot in time. But until that happens, what we’ve seen on his part has been simply unacceptable.
As for the good in his game, he has so much offensive potential it’s ridiculous. Cagnoni possesses the ability to attack the net at high speeds. He explodes from nothing and drives to get around players and get to the net. He does this using a high level of deceptiveness and flashiness. These dekes and these sharp movements assist him in getting around opponents and make them look like total pylons. He’s been able to gain the wow factor. It makes him a fun, flashy, and modern player to gaze at.
He’s also factored in how to cycle the puck and fake out opponents using the cycle tactic. He manages to lure them in, tire them out, and attack when they least expect it. So, of course, he looks lifeless defensively, but his offensive activity feels unmatched. He can easily rush through opponents and make them look silly using mind games. He knows how to softly get them to bite. Then, makes the most outburst play that causes a total ruckus.
Cagnoni is a fun player to watch, he can cook up almost any play from the point and up high. When he has space to work with, he’s a dangerous man.
While I do think he may be flashy and his offensive skillset excels him past a lot of other defenders in the draft (defensively, that is), I think the risk is great. His defensive lackluster moments are hard to watch and it makes you question how much he wants it. Could he be like Drew Doughty in the sense that he starts to play carelessly when the team is losing? I’ve seen it happen way too much.
If the LA Kings are looking for a player that can grasp your attention using offensive abilities, he may be perfect. But how much will he mesh with Todd McLellan? Not much, I would assume.
Although we only talked about three players today, the LA Kings have so many options in the 2023 NHL draft. It’ll be exciting to see who they take. A draft class of this caliber comes once in a lifetime. Rob Blake and his scouting crew will look to draft a player who can help the LA Kings win. After all, this draft class is good enough to find first-round talent in the second round.
Video Via Instat
(Main Photo Credit: Timur Mukhanov- MHL; Jacob Fowler- Galvin Photo/Yougstown Phantoms; Luca Cagnoni – Keith Dwiggins, Portland Winterhawks)
2 thoughts on “Three prospects the LA Kings should target at the draft”
Good write ups.
All 3 look good, but they are SMALL. The Kings have enough small players, so at least in the 2nd round I don’t think they will choose any of these.