1999 Draft Board – Los Angeles

The draft board pages include every player who was left unprotected in the 1999 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

Los Angeles missed the playoffs with just 69 points, dead last in the Pacific.

Available players

Goalies: Exempt (lost Frederic Chabot in 1998 expansion draft)

Defensemen: Dave Babych(Gr.III – UFA), Doug Bodger(Gr.III – UFA), Philippe Boucher, Garry Galley, Jan Nemecek(Gr.II – RFA), Martin Strbak(UE), Mark Visheau(Gr.VI – UFA)

Forwards: Dan Bylsma(Gr.II – RFA), Brandon Convery(Gr.II – RFA), Russ Courtnall(Gr.III – UFA), Andrew Dale(Gr.II – RFA), Ray Ferraro(Gr.III – UFA), Matt Johnson, Nathan Lafayette, Steve McKenna(Gr.II – RFA), Igor Melyakov(UE), Sandy Moger(Gr.II – RFA), Jason Morgan(Gr.II – RFA), Jason Podollan(Gr.II – RFA), Sean Pronger(Gr.II – RFA), Chris Schmidt(Gr.II – RFA), Jukka Tiilkainen(UE), Vladimir Tsyplakov(Gr.II – RFA), Tomas Vlasak(UE), Juha Vuorivirta(UE), Magnus Wernblom(UE)

Assessment

Despite not needing to expose a goalie, the Kings have 26 unprotected players. Of the seven defensemen, we’re taking a closer look at Philippe Boucher and Garry Galley, while Ray Ferraro, Matt Johnson, and Vladimir Tsyplakov are the only three out of nineteen exposed forwards.

Player reports

D Philippe Boucher – 26-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, and then when Steve Duchesne came along.

Although he’s not a physical defenseman, it’s impossible to question Boucher’s toughness. He keeps fighting back from injuries, and tried playing two seasons ago 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. In 1997-98, it was 35 games with the thyroid condition. This past year, he was hampered by a bone spur in his foot and was also a healthy scratch repeatedly.

Since 1994-95, Boucher has played in 218 of a possible 376 games (58%). 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 five-year pattern.

(Historical footnote: Boucher would suffer a foot injury during training camp in 1999-00 that would cause him to play just one single game with the Kings that season)

D Garry Galley – 36-year-old defenseman, originally a 5th-round pick of Los Angeles (1983)

The case for taking Galley – One of the league’s most underrated all-around defensemen for his entire 1,000-plus game career, Galley can do a lot of things at a high level. He can skate and carry the play, he can advance the puck with ease, he can run a power play, he can kill penalties, and he can be aggressive without being undisciplined. He played parts of last year with a painful abdominal tear and had it corrected with offseason surgery, and is apparently recovering at a nice pace.

The case against taking Galley – He’s 36, was a healthy scratch plenty of times last year, and isn’t getting any younger or any better. When he was in the lineup last year, he didn’t look close to what he did even the year before; he wasn’t carrying the play, he wasn’t doing much of anything. The healthy scratches weren’t for purposes of rest; it’s because he hasn’t looked good.

He’s also in the final year of a contract that will pay him $1.8 million. If we’re going to commit that type of payday, we could get Gord Murphy or Dave Manson, both of whom are years younger and played at a higher level last year and likely well into the future.

F Ray Ferraro – 35-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 have declined, but only superficially; he hasn’t been getting the power play time that he normally has, and the Kings power play has vacillated between “inept” and “comically bad” for most of the last three seasons anyway.

The case against taking Ferraro – Like Galley and Boucher, Ferraro has also had recent injury problems that have cost him plenty of time and possibly more. In 1997-98, he missed over half the season with a knee cartilage tear (twice) and a back strain, and last year he missed 17 games with a cartilage tear in his other knee.

The other major factor is that he’s a pending Group III free agent and would count against the limit, and we also have no idea what his cost is. We may well end up losing him for a low compensatory pick if he goes elsewhere. He specifically went to the Rangers a few years ago to pursue a Stanley Cup; he still doesn’t have one. Will he take a discount to go to a contender? If we like him enough to consider, we can always see what we can get done in free agency, but there’s not much chance he’d sign with us before free agency even if we take him.

F Matt Johnson – 23-year-old forward, originally a 2nd-round pick of Los Angeles (1994)

The case for taking Johnson – A giant of an enforcer, the 6’5”, 230-pound Johnson may be exactly what we need to be able to hold our own against a tough Eastern Conference. He’s both feared and fearless, and brings a devastating physical impact to the game.

An added bonus is that there are plenty of teams who feel the same way, and we may be able to pick Johnson and then parlay him into a terrific return in the trade market.

The case against taking Johnson – The fact that he’s extremely large, extremely physical, and extremely fierce covers up that he’s, quite simply, a substandard hockey player. He produces no offense, minimal defense, and can’t play special teams. If we’re thinking of keeping him, then we’re taking on a project that involves teaching a 23-year-old how to play hockey so that he can be what exactly? A massive third-liner who can’t score? A fourth-line force? We have dozens of third- and fourth-liners to choose from in his draft, most of whom have established track records. We have dozens of longshot NHL players to choose from. We can’t take a chance on this one and hope that it turns out better for us than it has for the Kings.

Do we take him specifically to trade him?  That’s a pretty big “maybe”.  Philadelphia’s infatuation with giant forwards is well known, but outside of that, who’s going to take on a player like this when fighting is declining and skill in tight spaces is so important as scoring levels sink further?

F Vladimir Tsyplakov – 30-year-old forward, originally a 3rd-round pick of Los Angeles (1995)

The case for taking Tsyplakov – A higher-end utility forward, Tysplakov has been able to score (52 points in 73 games in 1997-98), help shut down opposing teams, and fill in wherever needed. He was part of an excellent line with Jozef Stumpel up the middle and Glen Murray on the right, although Tsyplakov was normally replaced on the power play by Luc Robitaille. The previous year featured Yanic Perreault up the middle and Murray on the right, and the line still produced a fair amount. He had 31 goals and 91 points between those two seasons despite getting no real power play time. He also tied for the team lead in plus-minus in 1996-97, and was second in 1997-98.

This past year, the team started out poorly and was plagued by malaise and injuries the whole season. Among the forwards, Robitaille was the only one who didn’t miss at least 10 games, and his 74 points were more than double the next highest total (Donald Audette’s 36). No one could score, and no one was immune from it. If we’re going to hold last season against Tsyplakov, we’re going to have to hold it against a lot of other players as well, and considering how the season went there aren’t really any Kings who could pass that test.

The case against taking Tsyplakov – Although it’s true that a lot of the Kings simply failed to produce last year, it’s also true that a lot of them weren’t singled out by their head coach for putting forth a poor effort. We also aren’t going to have Glen Murray, which is about the only guy that he had regular chemistry with, and we’re not likely to have a right winger of a similar skill set as Murray either.

Last year was the first time that Tsyplakov was used to kill penalties, and the only thing that was made clear is that he’s not likely to get much of a shot to do it in the future. His defensive game simply isn’t there; he’ll put forth the effort if he’s pressed into that role, but he’s not going to be able to stick on a third line if he’s not scoring.

He’s also a pending Group II free agent and would count against our limit, which Boucher, Galley, and Johnson would not