Of all the bad teams in the league, the Kings may have the brightest future. Picking in the top-five for multiple seasons helped that for sure. A sign of moving out of a rebuild is when a team aggressively adds in an offseason when the young talent is moving in. That is something the Kings did, and they also kept just about their entire team. They may not be a playoff team yet, but Los Angeles can at least be exciting.
Offseason additions: F Phillip Danault, F Viktor Arvidsson, D Alex Edler.
Offseason subtractions: D Kurtis MacDermid.
While he may be entering his age 34 season, Anze Kopitar is still a productive top line center. He played in all 56 games last year, scoring 17 goals with 33 assists for 50 points. The two-time Selke winner finished 12th in voting this year as well as eighth for the Lady Byng award, signifying that he is still a good two-way player. Instead of trading him, the Kings extended Alex Iafallo at the trade deadline. He scored 13 goals with 30 points, missing just one game last year. His 49.24 xGF% may not seem like much, but it was second on the team. The only player with a higher mark, and the only guy over 50, was Dustin Brown. He scored 17 goals, tying Kopitar for the team lead. The Kings’ all-time games played leader can move into the top-five in goals if he scores more than 11. Coming in from Montreal is defensive center Phillip Danault. He was a dominant shutdown player in the playoffs, although his offense dropped off last year. Danault scored just five goals with 24 points in the regular season, then had just four points in the run to the finals. Still, he is that defensively that the dip in offense can be tolerated. Speaking of a dip in offense, that has happened to Viktor Arvidsson over the past two seasons. He was healthy for the most part last year, but still scored just 10 goals with 25 points in 50 games. That is a huge difference from the 34 goals he scored in 58 games back in 2018-19. The good news is that he should receive a boost from his 6.6 percent shooting rate from 2020-21. Adrian Kempe’s 14 goals in 56 games last year were his most since his first full season of 2017-18. He has been consistent scoring-wise over the past four seasons, with a range in goals from just 11-16, and a point range of 28-37. Unfortunately, the 16 and 37 both came in the first of those four years, which is not a great look. Returning is speedy winger Andreas Athanasiou, who struggles defensively but has not scored enough to overcome that the past two seasons. He was a decent third line add last year, potting ten goals along with 23 points. After taking him second overall in 2020, the Kings received mixed results from Quinton Byfield in his first professional season. He played in just six NHL games, with one assist. The more concerning part is that he did not really dominate the AHL, scoring eight goals with 20 points in 32 games. Of course, Byfield is just 19, so there is still a ton of hope. He could rise to become the team’s third line center this season. The 11th overall pick in 2017, Gabe Vilardi spent the whole season with the big club after splitting 2019-20 in the AHL. The results were not bad at all, as Vilardi scored 10 goals with 13 assists for 23 points in 54 games. If you add his seven points in ten games from the season prior, Vilardi has an 82 game pace of 17 goals and 38 points in his career. Also scoring ten goals with 13 assists was small winger Trevor Moore, a product of nearby Thousand Oaks. In his first full season after a trade from Toronto, Moore played in every single game for Los Angeles. Center Blake Lizotte returns for what should be his third full season in the NHL. The light forward has been a serviceable bottom-six center for the Kings over the past two seasons, with a combined 33 points in 106 games. The Kings got decent results from Jaret Anderson-Dolan in his first NHL season, as he scored seven goals in 34 games. The last wing spot on the fourth line is a real throw-up, with Anderson-Dolan a threat to take either that spot, or Lizotte’s at center. Physical winger Carl Grundstrom is also an option. He threw 104 hits with 11 points in 47 games last year. After a trade from the Rangers, Brendan Lemieux scored twice with an equal amount of assists. He blocked 12 shots with 44 hits in 18 games. Two more options are Lias Andersson and Austin Wagner. Andersson, drafted seventh overall in 2017, scored three goals with three assists in 23 games. Wagner had 97 hits with eight points in 44 contests.
After a couple of rough seasons following his huge contract extension, Drew Doughty had a nice bounce-back season, although he is still not on the level that he was during his prime. Doughty’s 34 points, 26 of them assists, were second on the team following Kopitar. For the first time in his career, he failed to reach 100 blocked shots AND 100 hits. He had 83 and 91, respectively. To be fair, a full season and he hits triple-digits for both categories. Behind Doughty, the Kings have seen the emergence of two young right-handed shot defensemen, both of whom are signed on a cheap deal for three more seasons. Sean Walker has a ton of offensive upside, and his 18 points in 47 games was the best scoring pace of his career. He could definitely benefit from a veteran partner to back him up defensively. That is where Alex Edler comes in. The 35-year-old Edler had eight assists with 118 blocked shots in his 15th and for now, final season with the Vancouver Canucks. He will fit in very well amongst the young Los Angeles defensive core. Matt Roy, the second right-hander after Walker, has a more refined two-way game. He blocked 67 shots with ten points in 44 games last year. Roy has slid in well to a third-pairing role. Mikey Anderson showed a ton of offensive talent at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, although that has not transitioned into the NHL all that much. Anderson played in 54 games last year, with 11 points. Veteran Olli Maatta enters his 9th season in the league. He played in 41 games last year, posting four assists with 53 blocked shots. He is capable defensively, but could plausibly be scratched if the King commit to the youth movement. The reason behind that is Tobias Bjornfot, a 2019 first-round pick. The talented Swedish defenseman played in 33 NHL games last year, scoring a goal with five assists. Offensive defenseman Kale Clague also has a shot. He had six assists in 18 NHL games, plus 12 points in 23 AHL appearances.
As Jonathan Quick moves into a backup role, the Kings have found his successor. Cal Petersen was great as the team’s starter behind a weak defense. He posted a .911 save percentage, with a 3.9 GSAA. These are good numbers to build on. The Kings agreed, as they extended Petersen a year before he would have become an unrestricted free agent. Quick himself has faded from the elite netminder that he was in his prime. In 22 starts last year, he posted a weak .898 save percentage.
Alex Iafallo – Anze Kopitar – Dustin Brown
Adrian Kempe – Phillip Danault – Viktor Arvidsson
Andreas Athanasiou – Quinton Byfield – Gabe Vilardi
Jaret Anderson-Dolan – Blake Lizotte – Trevor Moore
Extras: Brendan Lemieux, Carl Grundstrom, Lias Andersson, Austin Wagner
Mikey Anderson – Drew Doughty
Alex Edler – Sean Walker
Tobias Bjornfot – Matt Roy
Extras: Olli Maatta, Kale Clague
Los Angeles is building to something better than most people realize. They have the talent on their current roster, and in their system with guys who have not yet reached the NHL. They could be very exciting very soon. But this year is too soon. They could surprise in a weak Pacific Division, but the Kings will fall short.