Tim Chiasson The Hockey Writers
Kings’ Top 10 Draft Picks of All-Time
Though they waited until the 2011-12 season to hoist Lord Stanley (with a close encounter in 1993, thanks to Kerry Fraser), the Los Angeles Kings have produced many good NHL players. They started drafting in 1967, ahead of their inaugural season (1967-68), and have selected over 400 players.
The following players are the Los Angeles Kings’ top-10 draft picks of all-time. The criteria I used for this was simple – everyone that was ever selected by Los Angeles is eligible, regardless of the number of games played for the Kings themselves. This is a career judgment for the selection.
10. Jimmy Carson
|Selection||Rd 1 (2)|
|GP with LA||219|
Jimmy Carson is the player that everyone forgets about. He wasn’t just a toss-in for the Wayne Gretzky trade, he was actually good at playing hockey. Prior to being traded, he eclipsed the 100-point plateau in only his second season. He followed that with 100 points as a member of the Edmonton Oilers in 1988-89.
Carson found his way back to Los Angeles midway through the 1992-93 season. That trade saw Paul Coffey go the other way. Less than a calendar year later, Los Angeles would deal Carson away for the second time.
He finished his career with 561 points in 626 games.
9. Rob Blake
|Selection||Rd 4 (70)|
|GP with LA||805|
Rob Blake was a great NHL defenseman, and one of the prize jewels of the Kings draft history. He played in over 1,200 total games (805 for LA) and recorded 777 points over his career. He owns a Norris Trophy (1997-98) and won a Stanley Cup while he was with the Colorado Avalanche.
Blake, like Luc Robitaille, is larger than life in the franchise’s history and was a key contributor elsewhere around the league. He also enjoyed international success with Team Canada on several occasions and is a Hockey Hall of Fame member. The positioning of Blake on this list is proof of the quality of players the Kings have drafted.
8. Billy Smith
|Selection||Rd 5 (59)|
|GP with LA||5|
Billy Smith won four Stanley Cups and was the first goalie ever credited with scoring a goal. It doesn’t matter that he did neither with the Kings. Mainly, what matters is he won four Stanley Cup championships. Smith’s numbers aren’t going to wow anyone, but his lifetime .894 save percentage was fairly standard for top goalies during his era.
By the time he was finished, he had collected a Vezina Trophy, a Jennings Trophy, a Conn Smythe Trophy, and an All-Star nod to go along with the four Stanley Cup wins. He spent 675 of his 680 games playing for the New York Islanders after being ripped away from the Los Angeles Kings in the 1972 Expansion Draft. Smith enjoyed too good of a career to leave off this list, regardless of his games played with Los Angeles.
7. Drew Doughty
|Selection||Rd 1 (2)|
|GP with LA||919|
Drew Doughty could have been named captain back when Anze Kopitar was, and no one would have thought twice. He’s been a staple on the back-end for the Kings since he was drafted, winning the Norris Trophy for the 2015-16 season. He’s often mentioned among the top defenders in the NHL and is part of a core that has made the Kings one of the most successful franchises in the league over the last decade.
Doughty, Quick, and Kopitar can be switched around any which way you’d like. It really comes down to personal preference with the three of these players. I chose to place Doughty lower than the other two because I think they contribute more towards overall success than Doughty does.
6. Anze Kopitar
|Selection||Rd 1 (11)|
|GP with LA||1,073|
In the modern NHL, the most important position is heralded as the center. If you don’t have depth down the middle, you likely aren’t getting too far. Anze Kopitar has given the Kings a legitimate first-line center since he was drafted.
Prior to a burst of offense around the league in the 2018-19 season, Kopitar was one of the top scorers at 5-on-5. During the 2015-16 season, and continuing through the 2017-18 season, Kopitar ranked 17th in points (among players with a minimum of 2900 minutes played), and the Kings enjoyed more scoring chances for while he was on the ice. He is a positive impact player that contributes on at a high level at both ends of the rink.
5. Jonathan Quick
|Selection||Rd 3 (72)|
|GP with LA||644|
Jonathan Quick is easily the best goaltender the Los Angeles Kings have ever drafted. He is one of the best goaltenders over the last decade and has helped the Kings capture two Stanley Cup championships. During the 2012 Cup run, Quick dominated each opponent en route to collecting the Conn Smythe Trophy.
He holds franchise records for shutouts, save percentage and games played. Goalies are historically a mystery when it comes to drafting, but the Kings hit a home run two rounds after selecting Kopitar. Quick doesn’t have the four championships that Billy Smith has, but the former is simply better at playing the position.
4. Larry Murphy
|Selection||Rd 1 (4)|
|GP with LA||242|
Murphy scored over 1,200 points and played over 1,600 games over the course of his NHL career. These are excellent numbers, and even more impressive when you consider he’s a defender. He suited up for 242 games for the Kings.
After his stint with Los Angeles, he played for five other franchises. He had at least one season with 52 or more points for all six of the teams he played for. Murphy sits fifth all-time for points by a defenseman and third for games played. It would be criminal to leave one of the greatest defensemen ever off of the list.
3. Dave Taylor
|Selection||Rd 15 (210)|
|GP with LA||1,111|
Imagine the eighth-to-last pick in the NHL Draft (as it is today or, oddly enough, in 1975) scoring 1,069 points in 1,111 games. That’s how far down Dave Taylor’s 210th overall selection would be. He played his entire career with the Kings. His draft position could even justify a higher ranking.
Even if they were picking names out of a hat, this was a fantastic pick. Taylor gave the Kings several great years, scoring at well over a point-per-game pace from 1978-79 through 1984-85. Unfortunately for Taylor, if you didn’t play for the Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders or Edmonton Oilers between 1976 and 1988, you didn’t win a Stanley Cup.
2. Luc Robitaille
|Selection||Rd 9 (171)|
|GP with LA||1,077|
There hasn’t been a more prominent player in franchise history than Luc Robitaille. He is the Los Angeles Kings. Sure, Wayne Gretzky and Marcel Dionne were here, but they weren’t drafted and developed here. Robitaille is widely regarded as one of the greatest goalscorers in NHL history. He tallied 557 for the Kings (franchise leader) in 1,077 games, and 668 goals in 1,431 games overall.
A late-round pick, Robitaille exceeded expectations by a large margin and brought Kings fans out of their seats on multiple occasions. He’s a Hall-of-Famer, an eight-time All-Star, and a Stanley Cup winner. He joined the Kings executive staff only a few months after playing his final NHL season, contributing to the off-ice staff that built two Stanley Cup-winning teams.
1. Bernie Nicholls
|Selection||Rd 4 (73)|
|GP with LA||602|
I could use the 1988-89 season alone as justification for Bernie Nicholls being first on this list (he scored 70 goals and added 80 assists that season), but that wouldn’t be fair to him – or to Luc Robitaille. Nicholls’ time with the Kings was much more than just one season.
Nicholls recorded over a point-per-game in all but one season with the Kings and was a three-time All-Star (the 1990 game was played a day after he was traded to New York). After the trade to the New York Rangers, Nicholls took his career point total to 1,209 and played 1,127 games over his time in the NHL.
The Los Angeles Kings have drafted numerous players who have won awards, Stanley Cups and found their way into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Some of the greatest players ever have passed through Los Angeles via the draft, helping fill the franchise history with successful selections.
These were only players that were drafted by Los Angeles – it doesn’t take into account other NHL greats like Marcel Dionne and Wayne Gretzky that didn’t come to the organization via the draft. The rich past of the Los Angeles Kings makes them one of the most historic teams in the NHL, and their drafting has been a major contributor to building that credibility around the league.
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