1998 Draft Board – Los Angeles

The draft board pages include every player who was left unprotected in the 1998 Expansion Draft. The overwhelming majority of players who do not carry over are either old, unproductive, injured, primarily used for fighting, marginal players, minor league veterans, or unsigned European prospects. The majority of pending UFAs (Group III, Group V, and Group VI) will not carry over. Exceptions to these rules are provided if the incumbent team left almost nothing of value available to choose from, in which case everyone gets at least a closer look.

As we are capped by league restrictions to selecting no more than six pending free agents, we must be judicious with our choices.

LOS ANGELES

The Kings put up 87 points this season, one of just two teams in the Pacific to break .500, and then were promptly swept in the first round of the playoffs.

Available players

Goalies: Frederic Chabot

Defensemen: Ruslan Batyrshin(Gr.II – RFA), Doug Bodger, Philippe Boucher(Gr.II – RFA), Garry Galley, Jere Karalahti(UE), Jaroslav Modry(Gr.II – RFA), Martin Strbak(UE), Kimmo Timonen(UE), Mark Visheau, Jan Vopat, Doug Zmolek

Forwards: Dan Bylsma, Russ Courtnall, Ray Ferraro, Craig Johnson(Gr.II – RFA), Nathan Lafayette(Gr.II – RFA), Sandy Moger, Jeff Shevalier(Gr.II – RFA), Jukka Tillikainen(UE), Tomas Vlasak(UE), Roman Vopat, Magnus Wernblom(UE), Vitali Yachmenev(Gr.II – RFA)

Assessment

Los Angeles leaves 24 players unprotected, and we’re looking at seven of them.  Of eleven defensemen, we’re carrying over Garry Galley, Doug Bodger, Philippe Boucher, and Jaroslav Modry.  And of twelve forwards, Ray Ferraro, Craig Johnson, and Vitali Yachmenev are being considered.

Player reports

D Doug Bodger – 32-year-old defenseman, a 1st-round pick of Pittbsurgh (1984)

The case for taking Bodger – The Kings have collected a stable of all-around defensemen who are generally underrated, and perhaps no one sums this up more than Bodger.  Of course, they only picked him up a few days ago, but the point remains.

Bodger’s game is built on movement and intelligence.  He can carry the puck up the ice or simply advance it in transition, he can shoot or pass depending on the situation, he can play a physical brand of defense but prefers to funnel opponents out of the play, and he can get a ton of minutes in all situations.  He’ll be out there on the power play to try to build an insurmountable lead just as surely as he’ll be out there to kill a penalty late to preserve a one-goal lead.

What’s interesting is that for as underrated as he’s been throughout his career, his trade value has been extremely high when he’s been moved.  The most recent trade of a 4th-rounder for him a few days ago doesn’t reflect this since it was a move made with the expansion draft in mind.  But just six months ago he was traded for John MacLean and Ken Sutton.  Before that, he was traded for two prospects, a 1st-rounder, and a 4th-rounder.

The case against taking Bodger – I believe that New Jersey traded Bodger to Los Angeles for that draft pick because they were afraid of losing him for nothing in the expansion draft and hoped to at least get an asset.  In reality, if we had to choose between Mike Dunham and Bodger, it’s still Dunham every time.

Why?  Although it is true that Bodger has produced a lot of offense during his career, this isn’t really the case any more.  Since being sent out from Buffalo, he’s played 215 games and put up just 14 goals and 59 points.  This is well off of what he’d done almost every year to that point.  The bigger concern may be that last year, split between San Jose and New Jersey, he was shuffled down out of penalty killing duties almost completely.

He’s had a terrific career to this point, but I question what we’ll be able to get out of him.

D Philippe Boucher – 25-year-old defensemen, originally a 1st-round pick of Buffalo (1991)

The case for taking Boucher – A big, mobile defenseman with an excellent track record of putting up offense. Four seasons ago, he filled in admirably when Rob Blake went down for the season; since then he’s been shuffled down to the second unit first when Blake came back, then when Garry Galley was acquired.

Although he’s not a physical defenseman, it’s impossible to question Boucher’s toughness. He keeps fighting back from injuries, and tried playing this past season despite a sudden onset of a thyroid condition that wiped out his energy and caused him to lose 15 pounds in less than a week. When he’s healthy and given a shot, he’s been productive, but the Kings seem more interested in patching holes with their latest aging defenseman acquisitions instead of bringing along a young player.

The case against taking Boucher – One would hope that Boucher can come back from injuries, since he’s had a lot of them to come back from. He missed 33 games in 1994-95 with a torn ligament in his wrist, then missed part of training camp in a contract dispute. He missed 25 games in 1995-96 with a cartilage tear in the same wrist. In 1996-97, it was either a partially torn muscle or partially torn ligament in his shoulder. This past year, it was 35 games with the thyroid condition.

Since 1994-95, Boucher has played in 173 of a possible 294 games (59%). Certainly one can sympathize for the fact that his promising career appears to have been derailed by physical ailments through no fault of his own, but we have no reason to use a pick on someone who has this much trouble staying in the lineup, particularly since this is a four-year pattern.

In addition, he’s a pending Group II free agent and would count against our limit.

D Garry Galley – 35-year-old defenseman, originally a 5th-round pick of Los Angeles (1983)

The case for taking Galley – For most of his career, it’s been a debate over whether Galley or Ken Morrow is the best NHL defenseman to ever come out of Bowling Green.  Now, with Rob Blake having just won the Norris Trophy, there’s a question of whether Galley is even the best Bowling Green defenseman on the Kings…

Galley is likely to play his 1,000th NHL game this season, and he’s done it through a unique offensive game, a defensive game that focuses more on positioning and movement than brute strength, and incredible tenacity.  A game on November 4, 1992 sums up Galley pretty succinctly.  He couldn’t practice the day before or take the gameday skate because of a flare-up of chronic fatigue that had been plaguing him for months, but he still managed to play.  At the end of the second period, he was high-sticked by Doug Weight, splitting his lip open badly enough to require stitches.  He was back on the ice to start the third period, then with time winding down had his head slammed into the glass by Jay Wells; it was a hard enough impact to dislodge the glass and delay the game.  Galley didn’t miss a shift.

Galley is at the point where most players would start slowing down, and he won’t.  He just gets back in the gym and keeps going, then goes out on the ice and produces at a pace that most of the league’s young defensemen would envy.  His skill, production, and work ethic would make him the ideal pickup for our first team.

The case against taking Galley – The entire argument is essentially that he’s 35, and simply can’t go on for much longer.  Not because of dedication or work ethic, but because that is simply the way that it goes.  It’s a rare breed of even Hall of Famers who are able to still keep producing after age 35; Galley’s not a Hall of Famer, and most lesser players simply don’t keep going.  There are other players we can take from the Kings who will be around for the next five to seven years; Galley unfortunately is not likely to be in this group.

D Jaroslav Modry – 27-year-old defenseman, originally a 9th-round pick of New Jersey (1990)

The case for taking Modry – Modry started with some offensive skill when he was drafted, and since then has worked to improve his physical play and defensive work.  He’s good in transition and on the power play, but hasn’t had much of a chance in the NHL to actually prove it.

The case against taking Modry – He’s 27 and has played less than 150 NHL games across three different organizations. This sums up the entire problem with Modry’s game: he’ll tease with flashes of an overpowering shot, or with a terrific setup, or with a solid defensive play finished with a big hit.  But he’s never been able to put it together, and the fact that a patient New Jersey, a frantic Ottawa, and a rebuilding Kings team have all soured on him quickly says it all.  He’s played 30 NHL games in the last two seasons, none of them last year (which he spent in the IHL).

He’s also a pending Group II free agent, and there’s no reason to use this pick against our limit.

F Ray Ferraro – 34-year-old forward, originally a 5th-round pick of Hartford (1982).

The case for taking Ferraro – One would have to wonder what Hartford thought all those years ago when their 5th-round pick out of the BCHL made the jump to the WHL the next year and scored 41 goals and 90 points. And one would really wonder what they thought the next year, when he scored an unfathomable 108 goals.

Although Ferraro has never hit 50 in the NHL, he does have two 40-goal seasons and, even as the game tightens up and his linemates are less likely to be All-Stars, he’s still productive. He can still be a big threat on the power play, won’t kill penalties (as he never has), and no matter what will bring leadership and stability. His numbers only declined this past year, as he missed half the season with a knee cartilage tear and then got shuffled down the lineup.

The case against taking Ferraro – He’s 34, and if the knee doesn’t come back around, we’re not going to get a whole heck of a lot.  The leadership will help, but we have four very good defenseman options that we’d be passing on and possibly getting little out of except for leadership.  That’s a heavy price.

F Craig Johnson – 26-year-old forward, originally a 2nd-round pick of St. Louis (1990)

The case for taking Johnson – A scoring winger in college, Johnson broke into the NHL full-time in 1995-96.  So far he’s best known for being the key player in the trade that sent Wayne Gretzky to St. Louis, but he had a career high in goals (17) and points (38) this past season.  He was trusted on the power play and penalty kill for the first time and responded well.

The case against taking Johnson – If Johnson wasn’t the major roster player in the Gretzky trade, would we consider him at all?  He had 11 even strength goals in 74 games last year on a team that was 8th in goals scored and made the playoffs, and that was while getting plenty of time on the second line.  His defensive game isn’t strong enough to be able to transition to that role, and we would get both more offense and defense out of a guy like Dixon Ward from Buffalo.

He’s also a pending Group II free agent and would count against our limit.

F Vitali Yachmenev – 23-year-old forward, originally a 3rd-round pick of Los Angeles (1994)

The case for taking Yachmenev – In 125 OHL games, Yachmenev had 114 goals and 218 points.  As if to show this wasn’t a fluke, he jumped right into the NHL in 1995-96 and put up 19 goals and 53 points as a rookie while getting big minutes on the power play.  In 1996-97, he was bumped off the power play, causing his production to drop by 21 points (19 of which was from the power play drop).  After a brief holdout to begin this past season, he was sent to the IHL and played almost the entire season there.

Yachmenev can score, as he’s shown.  He can play some defense and not look out of place; he was used on the penalty kill the last couple of years (before his IHL banishment).

The case against taking Yachmenev – Big numbers as a rookie while playing on Wayne Gretzky’s line, declining production since then, and a holdout after two years as a pro player.  What exactly are we hoping to get here?

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