[EDITOR’S NOTE: This was written for The Broad Street Bully website relaunch. This will coincide with a website redesign and the start of a group of writers who will be creating consistent, weekly content. This article is a jumping off point for that.]
On July 15, 2013 present day Flyers history changed forever. That was the day that Ron Hextall was brought back to the Flyers organization as the Assistant General Manager and Director of Hockey Operations under Paul Holmgren, who was the current General Manager at the time. In less than a year, on May 7, 2014, Hextall was promoted to the General Manager position as Holmgren vacated the position after receiving a well deserved promotion.1
Presently, Hextall has taken the Flyers prospect pool to the top of the NHL (minus what Pronman thinks) and is slowly building towards an NHL roster that should contend for a Stanley Cup much sooner than later. As the Flyers entered the 2017-2018 offseason, a lot of fans were openly criticizing Hextall, deservedly so2, for not making any big free agent acquisitions this far into his General Manager. There were arguments to be made that Hextall wasn’t able to entice any of the top free agents with his limited cap space to sign players but that is neither here nor there. But, the 2018 offseason took everyone by surpise when Hextall signed James Van Riemsdyk, who was arguably the best winger on the free agent market. Van Riemsdyk is Hextall’s first major splash into a free agency period where he had the cap space to make a sizeable impact. A quick look at Twitter and it appears that the signing has satiated some of the Hextall detractors for the time being. Only time will tell the effect that Hextall has on the Flyers organization but I want to take a look back at where Hextall cut his teeth and became this front office dynamo that most of the hockey pundits are heaping praise upon.
Hextall and his L.A.gacy
Dean Lombardi was hired in April of 2006 as the President and General Manager of the Los Angeles Kings. Shortly after, Hextall was hired on June 14, 2006 as the Vice President of the Kings, the Assistant General Manager of the Kings, and the General Manager of the Manchester Monarchs. Lombardi and Hextall worked together from 2006 until Hextall left to return to the Flyers in 2013.
What follows after this paragraph is a look at who the Kings drafted from 2006 to 2013 and any trades or signings that had a positive effect on the franchise. As the Assistant General Manager, you have to operate under the assumption that Hextall had a hand in all of them. While Lombardi may have made the final decision, Hextall’s opinion had to be weighed pretty heavily as the second in charge of the NHL team and the number one for the AHL team.
Kings 2006 Draft – 1st year of Hextall
1st Round, 11th – Jonathan Bernier, G (2012 Cup)
1st Round, 17th – Trevor Lewis, C (2012 Cup, 2014 Cup)
2nd Round, 48th – Joey Ryan, D
3rd Round, 74th – Jeff Zatkoff, G
3rd Round, 86th – Bud Holloway, C/RW
4th Round, 114th – Niclas Andersn, D
5th Round, 134th – David Meckler, C
5th Round, 144th – Martin Nolet, D
6th Round, 164th – Constantin Braun, LW
7th Round, 206th – Josh Meyers, D
7th Round, 226th – John Seymor, LW
It’s hard to argue how much influence Hextall had over the draft that happened 10 days after he was hired but you would have to imagine he was able to put his opinion out there. Out of the two first round picks, both were useful in winning at least one Stanley Cup, with Lewis being a member of both the 2012 and 2014 winning teams.
Looking down the line at getting value for players that no longer fit in the lineup, on June 23, 2013, Bernier was traded for a package of Ben Scrivens, Matt Frattin, a 2014 or 2015 2nd round pick, and cash. It’s a pretty decent return for a goalie that lost his starting spot to Jonathan Quick and had more upside then being relegated to a backup role. To further that trade tree, on January 15, 2014 Scrivens was eventually flipped for a 2014 3rd round pick. Another return in the Bernier trade, Matt Frattin, was also packaged with a 2014 2nd round pick, and a conditional 3rd round pick was traded for Marian Gaborik. Gaborik went on to play a key role in the 2014 Stanley Cup team.
In addition to the trades, the Kings signed big name free agent (at the time) defenseman Rob Blake. Blake eventually became the team captain and added a veteran presence. It was before the Stanley Cup times but having a strong veteran on your team that can still play is never a bad idea. The Kings also let Jeremy Roenick go. This seemed like a prudent decision since Roenick’s best days were behind him and, if you believe Joe Bartnick, Roenick only moved out west so he would have nice golf weather inbetween hockey games.
Either way, it’s a pretty decent first season for Hextall in acquiring talent in the draft. The fact that these picks helped the team get talent in later years also is another bonus that most people don’t consider when you’re reviewing the picks on draft day.
Kings 2007 Draft – 2nd year of Hextall
1st round, 4th – Thomas Hickey, D
2nd round, 52nd – Oscar Moller, D
2nd round, 61st – Wayne Simmonds, RW
3rd round, 82nd – Bryan Cameron, C/RW
4th round, 95th – Alex Martinez, D (2012 Cup, 2014 Cup)
4th round, 109th – Dwight King, C/LW (2012 Cup, 2014 Cup)
5th round, 124th – Liden Rowat, G
5th round, 137th – Joshua Turnbull, C
7th round, 184th – Josh Kidd, D
7th round, 188th – Matt Fillier, C/LW
This was second draft Hextall was in charge of where the first pick is mostly forgettable. Thomas Hickey never panned out and went through so many injuries that the Kings just walked away from him. He’s recovered now and is doing pretty well for himself playing on the Islanders but he never made an impact with the Kings.
Wayne Simmonds is a great find for the second round after seeing the player he’s blossomed into with the Flyers. It also makes sense why Hextall is mum on announcing any decisions that he’s planning to make on Simmonds’ future with the Flyers. As a guy you drafted, there’s a nice bond between the two of them. Just like the same bond that exists between George McPhee and Michal Neuvirth. You know, the bond that had McPhee taking Neuvirth in a handshake deal during the expansion draft last year.
Where this draft really shines is the value the Kings got in the 4th round. When you draft two players that end up playing key roles on two Stanley Cup teams, that shows a good scouting pool and a front office that has a solid grasp on evaluating talent. A lot of that may have been Hextall, as it’s readily apparent his ability to discern talent has brought the Flyers prospect pool back to relevancy.
Free agent signings during this year included Michal Handzus and Kyle Calder. Neither made a huge impact but were so-so depth players for the team.
Kings 2008 Draft – 3rd year of Hextall
1st round, 2nd – Drew Doughty, D (2012 Cup, 2014 Cup)
1st round, 13th – Colton Teubert, D
2nd round, 32nd – Slava Voynov, D (2012 Cup, 2014 Cup)
3rd round, 63rd – Robert Czarnik, C
3rd round, 74th – Andrew Campbell, D (2014 Cup)
3rd round, 88th – Gordie Wudrick, LW
5th round, 123rd – Andrei Loktionov, C (2012 Cup)
6th round, 153rd – Justin Azevedo, C
7th round, 183rd – Garret Roe, LW
The 2008 draft might have been the easiest draft Hextall had in his time with the Kings because after Stamoks went 1st to the Lightning, Drew Doughty became an obvious choice to go second. The Kings made a good choice in taking Doughty over 2nd ranked Zach Bogosian, Alex Pietrangelo, and Luke Schenn. What could’ve been if Hextall and the Kings made the wrong choice. They made the right choice, though, and locked up their franchise defenseman who helped lead the team to two Stanley Cups.
If you can put the girlfriend/wife beating aside, Slava Voynov was also a pretty good pick for the second round. He was also a part of the 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup teams. Now he’s in limbo in Russia but it looks like he’s trying to make a return to the NHL. It may not be worth it for the Kings with his past baggage and their own aging corps of players, but he’d probably still be a pretty serviceable defenseman if an NHL team were interested.
The second 1st round pick this year, Colton Teubert, never quite impressed. As such, on February 28, 2011, Teubert, a 2012 conditional 3rd round pick that was dependent on playoff positioning, and a 2011 1st round pick, went to Edmonton to bring Dustin Penner to town. The 2011 1st round pick went on to become Oscar Klefbom. It could’ve been a disappointing trade but Dustin Penner went on to win the Stanley Cup with the Kings in 2012 so it seems like a fair trade off.
As for trades and signings, on June 29, 2008, the Kings traded Lubomir Visnovsky for Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene. Jarrett Stoll went on to play a role in the 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup teams while Matt Greene was only around long enough to play a role in the 2012 Stanley Cup team.
On March 4, 2009, in a four way trade, Edmonton got Patrick O’Sullivan and Ales Kotalik, Carolina got Erik Cole, Buffalo got a 2nd round 2009 pick, and the Kings pick up Justin Williams. Justin Williams cemented his nickname, Mr. Game 7, and was a big part in the 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup teams.
This offseason was arguably one of the best for setting the Kings up for their future success under Hextall and Lombardi.
Kings 2009 Draft – 4th year of Hextall
1st round, 5th – Brayden Schenn, C
2nd round, 35th – Kyle Clifford, LW (2012 Cup, 2014 Cup)
3rd round, 84th – Nicolas Deslauriers, D
4th round, 95th – Jean-Francois Berube, G
4th round, 96th – Linden Vey, RW
5th round, 126th – David Kolomatis, D
6th round, 156th – Michael Pelech, C/LW
6th round, 179th – Brandon Kozun, RW
7th round, 186th – Jordan Nolan, C (2014 Cup)
7th round, 198th – Nic Dowd, C
Brayden Schenn should have been a sure fire star with the 5th overall pick. But Schenn never worked with the team and was eventually included in the trade, along with Wayne Simmonds, for Mike Richards from the Flyers. As Flyers fans are well aware, Schenn was then flipped later in his Flyers career by Hextall, to the Blues, for Jori Lehtera and the 1st round picks that turned into Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee.
Hextall and the Kings managed to find another 2nd round gem in Kyle Clifford. While not super flashy, Clifford was still involved in both of the Kings Stanley Cup wins. Another good pull at the bottom of the draft was 7th round pick Jordan Nolan, who ended up getting some playing time with the 2014 Stanley Cup team.
On March 5, 2014, 3rd round pick Nicolas Deslauriers and another draft pick, Hudson Fasching, was traded by the Kings to Buffalo for Brayden McNabb, Jonathan Parker, and two 2nd round picks. Getting McNabb helped the Kings win the 2014 Stanley Cup. Unfortunately for the Kings, McNabb was claimed in the expansion draft and now the Vegas Golden Knights are enjoying his services. McNabb was part of the Vegas team that made a historic run to the Stanley Cup Final in the team’s inaugural season.
Another important, and underrated, free agent signing in this offseason was picking up Rob Scuderi, who helped the Kings in their 2012 Stanley Cup run.
Kings 2010 Draft – 5th year of Hextall
1st round, 15th – Derek Forbort, D
2nd round, 47th – Tyler Toffoli, RW (2014 Cup)
3rd round, 70th – Jordal Weal, C
5th round, 148th – Kevin Gravel, D
6th round, 158th – Maxim Kitsyn, LW
This is a very un – Hextall type draft in that the Kings only had 5 picks. It is a very Hetall type draft in the quality of player that the Kings got from the middle rounds.
Forbort is still with the Kings, and is a solid defenseman, but isn’t a big name yet. He had a pretty decent past two seasons playing at least 78 games in both of them. In 2016-2017, he played all 82.
In a trade mentioned earlier, the Kings got the 2nd round pick in this draft from a trade with the Avalanche where they sent a 2nd round pick, who eventually became Calvin Pickard, and a 4th round pick in 2010. The Kings then used that 2nd round pick to sign Tyler Toffoli. After playing a role on the 2014 Stanley Cup team, Toffoli signed a three year extension with the Kings in 2017 and is becoming one of their rising stars.
Another solid pull for Hextall was Jordan Weal in the third round. Weal ended up winning the 2015 Calder Cup and was named the MVP of the AHL playoffs. Fortunately for the Flyers, Weal never found a consistent spot in the Kings’ lineup. When Hextall called the Kings as the General Manager of the Flyers, Weal was included as a throw in to a trade that cleared Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn off the Flyers salary cap. Weal has yet to dazzle in his short time with the Flyers but it sounds like Hextall is expecting 2018-2019 to be his breakout year. With the Flyers bottom two lines being a question mark as the team awaits camp to open, it leaves Weal a solid chance to win the third center spot. Hextall appears to like what Weal can do and made sure not to give up on him.
The Kings also signed Willie Mitchell during the offseason and he became a big part of both the 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup teams.
Kings 2011 Draft – 6th year of Hextall
2nd round, 49th – Christopher Gibson, G
3rd round, 80th – Andy Andreoff, C
4th round, 82nd – Nick Shore, C
4th round, 110th – Michael Marsch, LW
5th round, 140th – Joel Lowry, LW
7th round, 200th – Michael Schumacher, LW
Without a first round pick, the Kings tried to strike some gold in the second round. Unfortunately, Gibson never signed with the team and ended up in Toronto before being traded to the Islanders. But, 3rd round pick Nick Shore did end up getting packaged with Marian Gaborik to Ottawa for Dion Phaneuf and Nate Thompson on February 13, 2018.
This 2011-2012 is season is where the Kings made their power moves to get Jeff Carter and the previously mentioned Mike Richards, while simultaneously getting rid of Jack Johnson in the trade to get Carter. Richards and Carter were both 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup winners.
For one final great signing, on July 2, 2011, the Kings grabbed Simon Gagne who helped win the Stanley Cup in 2012.
Hextall and the Kings didn’t do much for drafting this year but they made up for not having draft picks by acquiring talent in other ways. This should be soothing to Flyers fans and show them that Hextall may know what he’s doing on the trade market after all. While Schenn and Simmonds were projected stars in their own right, Hextall, along with Lombardi, knew what pieces the Kings needed to bring home the Stanley Cup and went out and got them. A lot of the times, if you want to get NHL ready players, you have to give up those fringe prospects that you think will do good things but haven’t started doing good things yet. Now that the Flyers top prospects are starting to hit the NHL, it’ll be a matter of time before Hextall will be cajoled into be making these types of decisions again.
Kings 2012 Draft – 7th year of Hextall
1st round, 30th – Tanner Pearson, LW (2014 Cup)
4th round, 121st – Nikolai Prokhorkin, LW
5th round, 151st – Colin Miller, D
6th round, 171st – Tomas Hyka, EW
6th round, 181st – Paul LaDue, D
7th round, 211th – Nick Ebert, D
From quick glance, the Kings’ drafts suffered as a result of the team gearing up for their Cup runs. In order to acquire talent and bring in the players they needed to win, they had to end up parting with their draft picks. It’s interesting to see because Flyers fans know how stingy Hextall is with amassing his draft picks and parting with them only when he absolutely has to, like to get Mrazek this year. And, even then, Hextall threw so many conditions in the Mrazek trade it ended up not being as bad as it could have been. In LA, with less picks, Hextall may have had less chances to guess at a success. Or maybe Lombardi didn’t give him as much free reign as Hextall would’ve liked.
But, after saying all that, Tanner Pearson is still playing for the Kings and was part of the 2014 Stanley Cup winning team. Colin Miller from this draft eventually was packaged with Martin Jones, and a 2015 1st round pick that got sent to Boston for Milan Lucic. This was pre-Edmonton Lucic before people were lameting his ridicuously expensive contract that the Oilers now regret.
This was also summer as the previous mentioned June 23, 2013 trade of Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens, and the 2nd round pick in 2014 or 2015 went to the Toronto for Jonathan Bernier.
And just for a fun anecdote for anyone who doesn’t already know the story: Tomas Hyka was drafted by the Kings after he signed with the Flyers but then the Flyers had to release him because they didn’t understand the rules when they signed him.
Kings 2013 Draft – 8th year of Hextall
2nd round, 37th – Valentin Zykov, LW
4th round, 103rd – Justin Auger, RW
4th round, 118th – Hudson Fasching, RW
5th round, 146th – Patrik Bartosak, G
5th round, 148th – Jonny Brodzinski, RW
6th round, 178th – Zac Leslie, D
7th round, 191st – Dominik Kubalik, LW
In Hextall’s final draft with the Kings on June 30, 2013, just prior to him leaving for the Flyers on July 15, 2013, the Kings had a pretty unmemorable draft.
Later that season on February 28, 2016, Zykov and a conditional 5th round pick went to Carolina for Kris Versteeg. And the very next year after drafting Fasching, he was included in the trade to get McNabb from the Sabres.
Conclusion and a Wrap Up on Hextall
Outside of Hextall’s first and last years with the team, the Kings did a pretty solid job of finding talent that helped the team win in the middle rounds. If you go back and look at who they got, a lot of solid pieces from their Stanley Cup teams were pulled from the middle of the draft. And this was with Hextall as the second in command, probably deferring to Dean Lombardi on certain decisions. But now, in Philadelphia, that role is reversed with the Flyers. As the guy calling the shots and making the final decisions, Flyers fans are seeing just how well Hextall can draft.
Outside of the Rubstov first round pick, which can’t even be considered a bust yet, all of his first round picks have been highly praised. And, while Nolan Patrick was an obvious pick, Hextall still could’ve went off board and picked another player. It’s highly unlikely but it’s always possible. Hextall loves to go offboard if he thinks he can get a better value. As for the rest of the farm system, Hextall has stockpiled the available talent by stockpiling draft picks and picking smart. Let’s remember, Carter Hart was a second round pick, Sandstrom was drafted in the third round, and Lindblom was a fifth round pick.
Another thing we can look at is that as the time passed, the Kings got better. So far, with Hextall in charge of the Flyers, he’s progressively made them better, as well. The Kings two Stanley Cups weren’t won by accident. They were won by Lombardi and Hextall acquiring the right pieces and building a winning team.
And since they’ve both left Los Angeles, it seems the Kings are making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Their core is aging and they spent this off season assembling a team that would’ve destroyed anybody in NHL 11. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of buzz around the Flyers youth and that was before Hextall went out and signed James Van Riemsdyk to bolster the top two lines.
Is Hextall perfect? No. But he’s doing a lot better than Holmgren did, all things considered, so cut him break.
Or don’t. It’s your life.
(This article was researched with the links you see throughout the piece, a heavy diet of Wikipedia, HockeyDB, NHL Trade Tracker, and NHL.com. A big thanks to all of these for recording stats to make my research way easier.)
1 It wasn’t.
2 It wasn’t deserved. I hope you mouth breathers who felt that way made it all the way down to these footnotes just to read this and are now angry I referred to you as a mouth breather.