No team surprised more this NHL season than the Los Angeles Kings. Before the season began, they were in the bottom quarter of the league in outright Stanley Cup Odds, in addition to point total over/under. Better than getting close to the postseason, the Kings made it in comfortably, nearly securing the two seed in the Pacific. Large in part coming via Jonathan Quick resurging to one of his better seasons in recent memory. In addition to an interesting mix of youth on this roster. Although not without their flaws, this was a significant development for the Kings as they look to return to being a force in the Western Conference. The rebuild will be completed sooner rather than later for sure.
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By the Numbers
Power Play: 16.1% (27th)
Penalty Kill: 76.6% (22nd)
Goals For: 235 (20th)
Goals Against: 232 (9th)
The all-time King great Anze Kopitar would be a fine selection here. To the surprise, and more so delight, of the Kings, Adrian Kempe made ‘the leap’ in a big way this season. In year six in the NHL, the Swede put up a career-high (by a wide margin) 35 goals, which is the most by a King since Kopitar did the same in 2017-18. Kempe then led Los Angeles in postseason points, racking up a 2-4-6 statline in seven games of work. The Kings should expect the 25-year-old to play a big part in their scoring production moving forward. Assuming they don’t trade off the soon-to-be Restricted Free Agent that is.
While injuries are out of his control, this was the third consecutive season where Drew Doughty has failed to hit 70 games. This season he only played in 39 tilts, and in fairness, was nearly a point-per-game player in that span. However, Doughty’s monumental 11 million dollar cap hit continues to look not great. Furthermore, that deal still has four seasons remaining as well. Not much of a stretch to say all involved parties would probably want Doughty on the ice more moving forward.
Behind the Bench Analysis
Todd McLellan has had the Kings improve each year in his first three seasons as the head coach. To the surprise of many, the Kings jumped from sixth out west a season ago to third in 2021-22. This becomes exponentially more impressive when looking at the youth Los Angeles put out on the ice. Six forwards who played 40 or more games for the Kings were either 25 years old or younger. Headlining that group were Kempe, Arthur Kaliyev, and Quinton Byfield.
The back end didn’t miss out on the youth movement either, with young defensemen Michael Anderson, Tobias Bjornfot, and Sean Durzi getting ample playing time. As far as playing the young guys go, McLellan did about as good a job as he could. The Kings’ coaching staff was not without fault, however. Both of their special team units ranked bottom third in the league. As the Kings move forward, they have to get better in that area.
Front Office Analysis
Rob Blake and the Kings front office have done a very good job in the last year and change. Not only have they made good moves to add to the team, but they’ve also done so without sacrificing any significant future assets at all. The Kings are only not in control of their third-round pick in this year’s draft, as a result of getting Arvidsson from the Nashville Predators. On the flip side, the Kings have a third-round pick as a result of the Jeff Carter trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This isn’t even getting into the Kings’ free-agent signing of Phillip Danault, who put up 55 points in his first season in Hollywood. At only 5.5 million a year, that is good value for the former Montreal Canadien (see that Don Sweeney?). Additionally, since Blake didn’t make a big splash at the trade deadline, he has the ability to potentially make a splash this offseason if he so chooses.
2022 NHL Entry Draft Picks
Blake and the Kings lack only a seventh-round draft pick this year, having one pick in every other round. While not an imminent need, Quick won’t be between the pipes forever, and a season like he had this year shouldn’t be counted on again. Cal Petersen is under term until the end of the 2025 season, but just had his worst seasonal save percentage as an NHL Goaltender. Not that he can’t improve, but Petersen isn’t exactly super young, currently at 27 years old. As of now, they still have some guys yet to come up at forward and defenseman, but some extra depth there couldn’t hurt either.
The Kings will have a healthy 20 million dollars in cap space once the new league year rolls around. Given that they would enter not far off the league minimum cap hit, expect them to spend, both internally and externally. Kempe will more than likely get himself a well-earned payday, that is for certain. As for who they can bring in, the Kings should be active in the defenseman market, specifically a left shot. Keep an eye out on Ben Chiarot, currently of the Florida Panthers. He is currently 29 years old, but a short-term deal wouldn’t cripple the Kings moving forward.
Follow Jack Gaffney on Twitter @JackGaffneyPTST
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images