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National Hockey League Draft : Kings Think Big but Settle for 'Not Very Tall'

June 12, 1988|JERRY CROWE | Times Staff Writer

In search of a brutish right wing to fill one of their most glaring needs, the Kings used their first two picks in the National Hockey League entry draft Saturday to take a smallish left wing and a defenseman described by at least one scout as "a bit lazy."

"You never know how the draft is going to go," General Manager Rogie Vachon of the Kings said from Montreal, where the Kings selected left wing Martin Gelinas of the Hull (Canada) Olympiques with the No. 7 pick and defenseman Paul Holden of the London (Canada) Knights with the No. 28 pick.

Finally, with the No. 49 pick, the Kings chose John Van Kessel of the North Bay (Canada) Centennials, a 6-foot 4-inch, 193-pound right wing.

"For the right price, we'd like to get a big right winger, so we're still going to pursue that," said Vachon, whose pursuit will now be limited to trades. "We certainly could use one and there are a couple of guys who might be available in the next week or so."

Trevor Linden, the most highly regarded right wing in the draft, was taken second by the Vancouver Canucks after the Minnesota North Stars made center Mike Modano of Livonia, Mich., only the second American to be the No. 1 choice.

Another highly regarded right wing, Daniel Dore, was taken by the Quebec Nordiques with the No. 5 pick.

Vachon, though, said that Gelinas, who played last season for the same junior team that produced Luc Robitaille, was just too good to pass up and that, even if Dore had been available, he would have taken Gelinas.

Gelinas, 18, was the rookie of the year and a first-team all-star last season in the Quebec Major junior league, helping lead the Olympiques to the league championship and the final game of the Memorial Cup tournament.

Short and stocky at 5-10 and 196 pounds, Gelinas was Hull's No. 3 scorer with 131 points, including a team-high 63 goals, in 65 games. Although he was the shortest of the top 24 winger prospects, as ranked by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau, he was ranked as the No. 8 prospect overall.

"He's not very tall, but he's stocky and strong in the upper body," Vachon said. "We're very comfortable with him.

"He's a very natural scorer with great hands and he's a very smooth skater. He has the ability to hit the holes and be in the right place at the right time. He doesn't mind going into traffic to pick up a loose puck and he doesn't mind the corners. Of course, he's not a physical player, but he never backed away from anybody."

According to Vachon, the Montreal Canadiens regarded the French-speaking Gelinas as the No. 2 prospect in the draft.

Gelinas told reporters in Montreal that he was happy to be taken by the Kings because of the presence of so many French-speaking players, including Robitaille, Steve Duchesne and Jimmy Carson. Robbie Ftorek, the Kings' coach, also speaks French.

"I know Los Angeles has the reputation of a party town," Gelinas said, "but I plan to bear down and play hockey."

Holden, the Kings' second-round pick, was regarded as the No. 14 prospect by the Central Scouting Bureau, but not all reports on the 6-3, 210-pound defenseman were favorable.

"My first impression of him was that he's a bit lazy and needs to be pushed," a scout, quoted anonymously, told the Hockey News.

Another, also quoted anonymously, told the Hockey News: "He's the kind of player you would like to take and put a firecracker you know where."

However, Vachon said: "We saw him a great deal and we didn't see any problem at all (with his motivation)."

Holden, 18, described himself as a physical, "stay-at-home" defenseman. In 65 games last season, he had 8 goals and 12 assists.

"I do have some offensive capabilities," he said, "but my main forte is defense. I can move the man in front of the net well."

As for the anonymous criticism of his work habits, Holden said: "I was a little annoyed, I must admit."

Holden described himself as a hard worker.

"I think because I'm a bigger player," he said, "it looks like I'm not trying as hard because I have a longer stride than the average player."

King Notes

According to King scouts, Martin Gelinas was the No. 5 prospect in the draft and Paul Holden was No. 13. However, General Manager Rogie Vachon said he didn't foresee either player making the Kings' roster next season. . . . Asked what he knew about Los Angeles, Holden said: "Just what I've seen in the movies." . . . Other King selections: 4. defenseman Rob Blake, 6-3 and 210; 5. defenseman Jeff Robison, 6-1 and 183; 6a. center Micah Aivazoff, 6-0 and 192; 6b. Swedish defenseman Robert Larsson, 6-2 and 198; 7. goaltender Jeff Kruesel, 5-11 and 180; 8. Finnish left wing Timo Peltomaa, 6-1 and 185; 9. left wing Jim Larkin, 6-0 and 175; 10. defenseman Brad Hyatt, 6-0 and 200; 11. right wing Doug Laprade, 6-0 and 190; 12. center Joe Flanagan, 6-0 and 180.

A crowd of more than 7,000, the largest ever for the draft, watched the proceedings at the Montreal Forum. . . . At the Forum in Inglewood, about 50 fans showed up to watch the first two hours of the draft on television. . . . Goaltender Jason Muzzatti, chosen in the first round by the Calgary Flames, underwent open-heart surgery to correct a murmur this spring following his freshman year at Michigan State. Muzzatti was the first goaltender taken. . . . Typecasting: With the No. 14 pick, the Philadelphia Flyers took left wing Claude Boivin, the most penalized of the Central Scouting Bureau's top 22 prospects.

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