After missing the playoffs in 2017, the Los Angeles Kings were surprisingly back in the postseason in 2018, before being bounced in the first round by the even more surprising Vegas Golden Knights.
The Kings have two really good prospects in their system (Gabriel Vilardi & Kale Clague) but don’t have the deepest system right now. The good news for them is that they have all of their first six and the core of their team signed long-term (excluding Drew Doughty who is set to become a free agent after next season).
Vilardi fell to them in last summer’s draft and he picked up 58 points (22G / 36A) in 32 games with the Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) after missing the start of the season (in Windsor) with an injury. He figures to push for a spot on the roster come September.
Clague dropped to the second-round (No. 51 overall) in 2016 but has boosted his value since. Clague, who was an assistant captain on the Canadian team that won the World Juniors, had 11 goals and 60 assists (71 points) in just 54 WHL games between the Brandon Wheat Kings and Moose Jaw Warriors. He’ll turn pro this fall, whether it’s in the NHL or AHL remains to be seen.
With the No.20 Overall Pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, the Los Angeles Kings select…
Akil Thomas — C —Canada ????????
Thomas is the type of two-way player that the Kings love. The 6-foot, 170 lbs. centre was born in Florida but raised in Toronto and could work his way into the top-20 on draft day following a strong second season with the Niagara IceDogs (OHL). Thomas can play all three forward positions, all three zones and in all situations.
The 18-year-old led the IceDogs in points (81) and assists (59) while ranking fourth on the team in goals (22). Niagara should be even better next season and Thomas figures to be one of the team leaders yet again. Whoever drafts him would like for him to score more in 2019, but he is a well-rounded, responsible player that projects to be a quality middle-6 forward at the next level.
If selected by the Kings, Thomas will join Jaret Anderson-Dolan (No.41 overall in 2017) as defensively sound, offensive producing forwards ranking near the top of the Kings’ prospect pool.
“Not sure if he’ll play centre or the wing at the next level. He is a jack-of-all-trades player who understands the game well. Could stand to be more selfish at times.” — Sam Cosentino (SportsNet)
“Skilled center who can control the puck for extended periods and punish opponents for giving him the smallest of windows. Thomas, who was born in Florida but reared in Canada, has an excellent shot and can play the wing as well.” — Steve Kournianos (SportingNews)