London Monarchs 2023 Draft Preview

No picks, no goalies, no chance? The Monarchs find themselves at a fork in the road heading into the 2023 Entry Draft. Which direction will they choose?
by Michael Oram | August 23, 2023, 9:55 AM ET

Without any picks in the upcoming entry draft the London Monarchs find themselves on the cusp of major decisions. After re-tooling on the fly back in 2018 the team has had limited playoff success, as was the case in the 2022-23 season when the team fell to Portland in five games. This quick playoff exit came about despite the team going ‘all in’ prior to the season with acquisitions of Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Braden Holtby, and Blake Wheeler. Now with an aging and underperforming roster the team must decide on its future direction.

Immediate Needs: Goaltending. And it has been goaltending for a couple of years. Goaltending for the London Monarchs fell off a cliff in recent years. The team went from having three high performing and highly sought-after starters to a rotation of backup caliber goaltenders as each of their leading men in the crease suffered from their performance dropping off rapidly leaving the team high and dry. This was exemplified in 2022-23 when the team used eight goalies as injuries and poor play ravaged the team.

Long-Term Needs: The cupboards are bare in London, and this will only be exacerbated with the team’s lack of picks in the upcoming draft. It therefore behoves the team to start considering the future and restocking. Alexander Ovechkin, the heart and sole of the Monarchs, only has so many years remaining before hanging up the skates and while the team has emerging stars in Sebastian Aho and Jack Eichel other veterans such as Mark Stone and Matt Duchene are looking at the sunset years of their respective careers. The team can afford to give a cup run another shot or two but then questions around rebuilding will begin to emerge. A down year by any of their stars in 2023-24 could lead to a complete teardown much sooner than anticipated, however no 2024 first round pick limits this option. Either way, the London club needs to start placing greater value on draft picks and have an eye firmly on future before they find themselves in the wasteland of continued playoff disappointment with no prospects to build a future around.

Financial Situation: Despite going for it last season with a ballooned payroll, the Monarchs find themselves in a healthy financial situation. Sound financial management over the last few seasons has left the Monarchs with $40M in the bank and only $54M in pro contracts committed to for the 2023-24 season (ahead of a few key resignings), a very manageable commitment based upon projected gate revenue for the club. This again points to a crossroad for the team. Do they drain the bank accounts and go for it again knowing that failure will handicap them in future free agency periods, do they tweak around the edges and hope for a better outcome than recent history and potentially waste the final years of their veteran players careers, or is now the time to blow it up and rebuild?

In The System: There isn’t much that will knock your socks off in London’s system. A few standout players under the age of 22 are there but no true difference makers. British sensation Liam Kirk remains the management team’s and perhaps the nations favourite prospect. Beyond Kirk, Jett Woo, Shane Bowers, Michael Dipietro, and Ryan O’Rourke lead the pack of a lackluster prospect pool.

Did You Know: The Monarchs have only drafted one Russian, Konstantin Volkov, since the team was burned by Ilya Kovalchuk and then Valeri Nichushkin’s decisions to leave the SICHL and head for the KHL. Although Nichushkin has subsequently returned to the SICHL, the team remains weary of Russian players and the prospect of losing valuable years of control while they play in the KHL.

Late Round Gems: When they have actually had draft picks to use, the Monarchs have had some success in the later rounds of the draft. For players taken after 100 in the draft, London has secured the likes of Darren Dietz who had a promising start to his career before leaving for lower European leagues, Nikita Gusev took his time leaving the KHL but then performed admirably for the team through 101 games before once again returning to Russia, Fredrik Bergvik is perhaps the greatest emergency backup goaltender to ever play in the league securing three wins and a shutout in two stints in such a role, and at only 20 years old Isaak Phillips has turned into a solid GHA performer.

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