Dean Lombardi’s face at the draft table did not give away much early in the second round Sunday .
Would he start yawning? It certainly looked that way.
But the Kings’ general manager has a gift for crafting something out of nothing and he may have done just that at the NHL’s entry draft in Newark, N.J., sending three draft picks to Edmonton for the Oilers’ second-round selection, at No. 37.
With that, they took a gifted goal-scorer, 18-year-old Russian Valentin Zykov. The winger had 40 goals and 75 points in 67 games with Baie-Comeau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, winning Canadian Hockey League rookie-of-the-year honors.
As expected, Colorado took dynamic center Nathan MacKinnon with the top pick. Defenseman Seth Jones, the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, surprisingly fell to Nashville at No. 4.
In the first round, the Ducks picked skilled defenseman Shea Theodore, at No. 26. Theodore, 6 feet 2 and 180 pounds, has played junior hockey the last two seasons with Seattle of the Western Hockey League. Ducks General Manager Bob Murray took note of Theodore’s skating and puck-moving ability.
“He got a little fire in his belly to be better, to grow,” Murray said. “He agrees with our assessment of the things he has to work on. And he has no problem talking about it. We were hoping he was still there when we got to pick.”
The Kings couldn’t wait that long for Zykov. That bold move up was made possible after Lombardi and his staff hoarded draft picks, rebuilding the cupboard. The three were the 57th, 88th and 96th selections.
“It was a very hard deal to put together,” said Mark Yannetti, the Kings’ co-director of amateur scouting. “It wasn’t hard to get Dean to do it. We go through every scenario in our meetings. Every year someone falls…. Despite the best preparations, there was some on-the-fly work. We thought to get Valentin, we would have had to move up to the first round.”
He said there were three or four phone calls between the Kings and the Oilers.
“It was hard and it was nerve-racking,” Yannetti said. “Because each pick that goes by, this could be the pick where you lose your guy. We felt very strongly about Valentin. You don’t need to be a scout to watch him play and realize he is a high-level talent.”
Zykov said he was surprised the Kings selected him, even though they had interviewed him twice. “They said they liked me, but I didn’t expect they would take me,” he said in a telephone interview from Newark. “I didn’t think I would be available.”
Zykov, 6 feet and 210 pounds, has an inspirational story. His said his father died when he was 7 and he moved away from the rest of his family, at age 10, to pursue his hockey career in Moscow. One of his two older sisters came with him to the draft.
“My mom, I didn’t want [her] to come,” he said. “It would be very hard for her. I didn’t want to stress her.”
The Kings ended up making seven selections, including goalie Patrik Bartosak in the fifth round (146th overall). The Czech Republic native is the nephew of former NHL player Radek Bonk. In the seventh round, the Kings traded their pick to New Jersey, so Devils goalie Martin Brodeur could draft his son Anthony.
In addition to Theodore, Anaheim had four other draft picks. Murray said that the team was close to reaching a contract agreement with center Saku Koivu and that he would reconnect shortly with Teemu Selanne to discuss Selanne’s plans.
Like Murray, Lombardi will turn his attention to his pending free agents. Lombardi indicated, via email, that he was continuing to negotiate with soon-to-be unrestricted defenseman Rob Scuderi’s camp and that they had come back to him with a workable number.
The biggest deal of the day involved a divisional rival of the Kings and the Ducks, the Canucks. Vancouver curiously opted to move goalie Cory Schneider, sending him to New Jersey for the Devils’ No. 9 pick.
It had looked as though goalie Roberto Luongo and his onerous contract would be moved out of Vancouver. Now, instead of succeeding Luongo in Vancouver, Schneider could be doing that with New Jersey incumbent Brodeur.