The Los Angeles Kings keep on trucking with their rebuild. 2020-21 was headlined by a Jeff Carter trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins, along with a bottom eight finish in the standings. Safe to say the Kings have been in a rut these last number of years. The good news is things may be starting to get better. This offseason they brought aboard Phillip Danault from the Montreal Canadiens on a six-year deal north of 30 million dollars. Another free-agent addition was long-time Vancouver Cannuck Alex Edler on a year deal. Additionally in July, they also received Viktor Arvidsson from the Nashville Predators in a multi-team trade. Two players on the older side, yes, but both can hopefully add something to this Kings roster.
The Kings also have the blessing of an absolutely loaded prospect pool. Of that pool, 2020 second overall pick Quinton Byfield could factor into the Kings plans this year. It may not happen right away but you may see the 19-year-old hit the ice at Staples Center at some point. The kings added to their pool with defenseman Brandt Clarke in this year’s draft. A member of the Barrie Colts in the OHL who spent time in Slovakia last year. While Todd McLellan’s squad will unlikely be a world-beater this season, the pieces are slowly beginning to fall to try and get Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar back to the promised land.
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Just four teams scored fewer goals a season ago than the Kings. Additionally, just seven Los Angeles players broke the double-digit goal plateau. Not surprising seeing as where they ended up, but problematic all the same. Dustin Brown at age 36 led this Kings squad in goals with 17, with Adrian Kempe in tow three goals back. Kopitar, in spite of a less than stellar team, still managed a 50 point season a year ago. Doughty helped out in the offensive zone as well, tallying up 25 assists and 34 points. Hopefully, the Arvidsson trade pays dividends with putting the puck in the net as well, but this is an area where the Kings must improve.
As it has been the case for over a decade now, Doughty has been the lifeblood of the Kings’ back end. He averaged nearly 26.5 minutes of ice time a season ago, most of any defenseman on the team by five minutes. Additionally, he had the worst plus-minus of the defensemen core as well, but on paper, it is hard to say how much of that is on him.
Young Michael Anderson will likely run with him on the top pair as opposed to Edler. Anderson blocked more shots than any King not named Doughty a season ago and is only 22-years-old. On the bottom two pairs, it will likely be some combination of Edler, Matt Roy, Sean Walker, and Tobias Bjornfot. Not the best group in the world, but guys like Clarke and Brock Faber should hopefully be NHL-bound sooner rather than later.
Not only has Jonathan Quick hit rock bottom, but he was also then given the Rock Bottom by the Rock after picking himself up. In other words, he has had a rough go these last number of years. In the last three, the pride of ZooMass hockey has averaged a brutal .896 save percentage, a far cry from some of his Vezina caliber years.
The good news for the Kings is they may have found the next guy in between the pipes. Enter Waterloo, Iowa’s Calvin Petersen, who spent his amateur days at Notre Dame. He got 35 starts last year and all things considered, did not do too bad for himself. In all likelihood, this is his team now as it relates to defending the net.
Let’s stick with the goaltender here. Petersen a year ago had a goals-against average nearing three with a .911 save percentage. If the Kings want to return to relevancy, Petersen taking a jump in production would be a good start. Also, it is not like he has to play like prime Dominik Hasek by any stretch, this Kings team still has some work to do, but good netminding has never hurt any team.
This could be a stretch since Byfield is still very young even by NHL standards. However, the 19-year-old’s ceiling is very high. In his two seasons in the OHL, Byfield racked up 61 goals to go with 82 assists in 109 games. Byfield even producing a fraction of that in these next few years could be gigantic for the Kings. The dilemma is that does Los Angeles want to burn the first year of his entry-level deal where they won’t be a playoff contender? That remains to be seen, but Byfield has superstar potential all over him. It will be worth watching if he can put it on display this season if allowed to.
Biggest Question Facing the Kings
Along with Byfield, the Kings have names like Alex Turcotte, Arthur Kaliyev, Rasmus Kupari, and a few other previously mentioned names in the pipeline. However, with some of them not NHL ready quite just yet is begs this question. How long is too long to hold off with the main core of Kopitar, Brown, and Doughty not getting any younger and on big deals? You obviously do not want to rush things with the future of your franchise. The tricky part here is that you would also like to think that the Kings brass would like to give their lifers another chance at the Cup too.
This Kings team is still a bit away from being a playoff contender. However, if they can collectively take a jump out of the league’s cellar, that could go a long way. The best-case scenario is if they can put themselves in a good spot for the draft next year to continue adding to their prospect pool. In addition to winning a good number of games to show the league that they are not bottom feeders. So say around fifth or fourth place in the Pacific Division is a good goal to set. It will not be this year, but this Kings squad could get very good in the years to come if they play their cards right.
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