Slowly but surely the Los Angeles Kings are taking on a new identity. This isn’t Darryl Sutter‘s boys anymore. The new boys will be making an impact soon, and they are primed to so under the guidance of head coach Todd McLellan. The dump and chase strategy has been replaced with a more traditional puck possession offense. Improvements will be made, albeit throughout several seasons. Los Angeles was marginally better this past season, with an influx of young talent coming down the pipeline, one can expect that they will only get better. Let’s take a closer look at the 2019-2020 Los Angeles Kings and what can we expect down the road.
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Record: 29-35-6 64 points(.457 pt.%)(28th)
CORSI%: 53.10(4th) *naturalstattrick.com
What Went Right
It’s safe to say that the Los Angeles Kings are on to better things despite being only the 28th best team in the NHL for the 2019-2020 season. The team was very busy in February trading a multitude of key contributors to bring in prospects and draft picks. Defenseman Alec Martinez went to Vegas for two second-rounders(2020,2021). Forward Tyler Toffoli was shipped to Vancouver for prospect Tyler Madden and a 2020 third-round pick. A pair of players, goalie Jack Campbell and forward Kyle Clifford, were dealt to Toronto for forward Trevor Moore and a 2020 third-round selection. It’s clear that the Kings are committed to a rebuild, plenty of new faces will be in the lineup next season.
Leading the Way
With some of the younger players already getting a chance with the big club, the Kings ended the season on a high note. They reeled off seven straight victories when play was halted due to COVID-19. Over their last 13 games, they put together a very strong 10-3 record. As per usual, team leader and captain Anze Kopitar was a big part of everything successful. Kopitar suited up for all 70 games and led in team scoring with 62 points. His 21 goals and 41 assists were also each team-bests. The 32-year old led all forwards in ice time at 21:02 minutes per game. He had a very good +6 which was second on the team. Kopitar was solid on faceoffs winning 55% of draws. L.A. is set with Kopitar leading the way for the foreseeable future.
With Kopitar being a staple and a sure thing, defenseman Matt Roy was a pleasant surprise. The 24-year-old led the team in plus-minus with a +16 rating and in blocks with 100. Roy’s stable play at the back-end will be much needed going forward. Depth wise the Kings aren’t loaded at defense.
Between the Pipes
A position where the Kings seem to be in good standing is at goaltender. The duo of Jonathan Quick and Calvin Petersen proved to be very adequate most nights. Quick did endure some struggles early in the season but rebounded quickly and finished very strong. This on the heels of a very disappointing 2018-2019 where he posted a 3.38 GAA and an ugly .888 save%. The former two-time Cup Champion proved that he can still play in his mid 30’s as he finished 2019-2020 with a 2.79 GAA and a .904 save%.
As far as Petersen is concerned, first off, we need to see more of him. In just eight starts this season, Petersen won five allowing 2.64 goals per contest. This was the 25-year-old’s second season with Los Angeles. He has a career record of 10-7-1 with a .923 save% and a 2.62 GAA. Based on the Jack Campbell trade, the Kings appear to hold Petersen in high regard.
What Went Wrong
Don’t let the hot streak to end the season fool you, this team endured its fair share of struggles. A good example of this was between the period of January 11th and February 9th. The Kings secured just a single victory in 11 contests(1-9-1) over the time frame. The blame can’t be put on any one particular player but a few players at the tail end of their careers can’t be ignored.
Dustin Brown is 35 and is making $5.88M per season until 2021-2022. The days of 60 point campaigns are likely over, it will be interesting where Brown will fit in the lineup going forward. His best assets are likely to be his leadership and experience.
Of the same age and making a tick less than Brown is forward Jeff Carter($5.27M/year until 2021-2022). Carter is more skilled offensively but the production is very likely to continue to slip. Carter had 17 goals this year, if he can hover around the 20 goal mark, the kings should be pleased. At the very least, Carter will be leaned upon for leadership and mentorship purposes.
If Anze Kopitar isn’t the face of the franchise, Drew Doughty is. Amongst all King d-men, Doughty is far and away the best. His 35 points were the teams best. Sean Walker and Matt Roy finished next in line with 24 and 18 respectively. The Kings are committed to eight more seasons at $11M per season with Doughty. He will need to improve upon the -16 rating for next year and beyond. More resources at the position will be something management will have to address.
2014 24th overall draft pick, Adrian Kempe continues to slowly progress. The 23-year-old enjoyed his best points per game season with 32 in 69 games. Expect more ice-time and more offensive opportunities next year.
2017 11th overall selection, center, Gabriel Vilardi got his first taste of big-league hockey. He got off to a nice start registering three goals and four assists in just 10 games. A bigger role, providing he continues to improve, is likely on the horizon.
2019 5th overall pick, center, Alex Turcotte is regarded as the team’s most skilled prospect. He is on par to be a future core piece with the potential to be featured on a top scoring line. He was recently just signed to a three-year entry-level deal. Some seasoning in the AHL could be in order coming up, but he should be a mainstay by the time 2021-2022 rolls around.
Some other prospects to keep an eye on are defenseman Michael Anderson and winger Samuel Fagemo.
With the draft lottery being completed, the L.A, Kings come away feeling really good with the second overall draft pick. No matter whom they select(Quinton Byfield, Tim Stutzle, etc) they are likely to have a budding superstar added to their lineup within the next few years.
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