Unlike past years, the Los Angeles Kings didn’t have the busiest of weekends at this past Draft in Buffalo if you were to go by quantity of picks. Entering said weekend, the Kings had just four selections and, not surprisingly, three of them were defensemen. Of the Kings’ four picks, the last was blueliner Jacob Friend, who just finished his first full season of junior hockey with the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack.
Taken in the seventh and final round (202nd overall), Friend was described by Kings’ VP of Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel Mike Futa as a “throwback-type defenseman” as he told Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider on Draft Weekend. Futa went on to rave about the soon-to-be 19-year-old, further describing him as “a kid that’s not afraid to muck it up,” comparing him to current Kings defenseman Matt Greene in that sense.
While the Kings management and scouting staff know a fair deal about Friend, I spoke with a man who is familiar with Friend’s play first-hand: Owen Sound head coach Ryan McGill.
Regarding Mike Futa’s aforementioned comments about Jacob Friend, McGill agreed before elaborating further on the blueliner’s assets.
“Mike Futa’s comments about [Friend’s] compete level is accurate for sure,” McGill said. “He also brings a solid puck moving element to his game. He has good sense and can play special teams as well. His skating is actually very deceptive in that he has a powerful stride and, like any young defenseman, can always improve foot speed. [Friend] has real consistent ability to get his shots through to the net in an era of solid shot blockers. Quick release.”
In 54 games last season, Friend scored four goals and added 17 assists. But for the native of Bowmanville, Ont., there was more to his game than his offensive contributions as Friend racked up a total of 106 penalty minutes. While his 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame certainly helps, Friend nonetheless has proven that he is not afraid to drop the gloves and get physical, which has certainly caught the eye of his coach.
“Jacob’s toughness is all about sticking up for his teammates,” McGill noted. “[He] also brings an edge to his game that sometimes invites confrontation.
“Jacob likes to be a physical player while defending and has gained that reputation across the OHL.”
In addition, Friend put up decent offensive numbers as his aforementioned four goals and 17 helpers attest. I asked Coach McGill whether he will emphasize more offensive production from Friend next season or if he will focus more on honing the blueliner’s physical game.
“[Friend has] the ability to be an all-around player,” the coach said. “So, we will make sure we work on all aspects of his game to help him develop into a two-way pro player.”
As promising as his physical game is and as respectable as his offensive game has been, though, the reality of any young hockey player is that there is always room for improvement. Coach McGill touched on which area Friend could benefit from most.
“Just trying to make sure consistency is brought to his game in all areas with his huge potential,” he added.
And how has Jacob Friend handled the excitement of being drafted?
“He has been real business-like to his approach this summer,” said McGill. “[Friend] is very focused on the next phase, taking it in all in stride. He is a fantastic person first and foremost.”
Like the three Kings prospects drafted before him two weekends ago, Jacob Friend is spending the week in El Segundo at the team’s annual Development Camp. Like Kale Clague, Jacob Moverare and Michael Eyssimont, Jacob Friend is at Development Camp to make a good first impression. Yet, while he may not be on the doorstep of becoming a pro just yet, expect Friend to have a prevalent impact at the pro level in just a few years from now.