Former Kings captain and general manager Dave Taylor at his home in Tarzana… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)
Every goal Anze Kopitar scores, every save Jonathan Quick makes, every shoulder-to-body message Dustin Brown sends, Dave Taylor is there.
The Kings are in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1993, a massive rebuilding project that General Manager Dean Lombardi has nearly completed. Taylor, his predecessor, left him some building blocks.
Brown, Kopitar and Quick — the three essential ingredients in this playoff run — were Taylor draft picks, though he is quick to pass the praise like a puck.
Al Murray, the Kings’ director of amateur scouting, “was the one who is responsible for those guys,” said Taylor, now the St. Louis Blues' director of player personnel.
Taylor, the Kings' general manager from 1997 to 2006, was the man at the top who agreed with Murray’s assessment of the three. He is now as pleased as a father, or as pleased as he can be given that the Kings eliminated the Blues in the second round.
“I wish it was the Blues in the final,” said Taylor, a former Kings player. “But I spent 30 years with the Kings. I have a lot of friends there.”
Including three of his players.
Kopitar was drafted 11th overall in 2005 and was playing for the Kings by 2006-07.
“Al was really excited about him,” Taylor said. “I saw him in the World Championships when he was 17. It was difficult getting a read as he was playing for Slovenia, but he was scoring goals against Finland and Czech [Republic].”
Kopitar was among the “100 or so kids” the Kings interviewed at the NHL combine and Taylor said, “He walked into the room a big, bold, raw-looking physical kid, and he was one of the most respectful kids I ever met. You dream of a big No. 1 center like that.”
Brown, selected 13th overall in 2003, was big too. Really big.
“He weighed 220 pounds and could just crush people,” Taylor said. “He always played north-and-south. When he got with the sports trainers and really worked on his body, he started getting to guys to lay those checks on people.”
Brown's personality was such, Taylor said, that “we knew we had drafted a future team captain.”
Quick was a third-round pick in 2005.
“I saw a goalie with raw athletic ability, deep crouch, moved very well laterally across the crease, all the things you see today,” Taylor said. “I felt with proper coaching there was a real upside.”
And Taylor said that Kings goaltender coach Bill Ranford “deserves a lot of credit. Every year Quick gets better.”
Taylor is reluctant to talk about the players he drafted. He said, “I felt our group left the Kings in a good position,” but Lombardi “put together a sound, balanced team and the ownership has stepped up and done what is needed.”
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