The Los Angeles Kings
|I assure you the dark circles under my eyes are genetic...
Previous Year's Team Stats
46 wins, 27 losses, 9 OTL, 101 points, 9th overall in the league
The Kings returned to prominence after several years of playoff-less mediocrity. The team is on the verge of being elite boasting a handful of young superstars, a talented cast of regulars and solid depth at every position. The question for LA isn't about whether or not they'll make the playoffs this season. The question is just how deep will they be able to make it in the post-season?
The Kings are led up front by 23-year old Slovenian center Anze Kopitar who had a career year last season with 81 points. The uber talented pivot has struggled with consistency in his young career and has heavily relied on the talent of his linemates. However Kopitar remains one of the brightest young stars in the league and should continue to improve on his numbers this season. One of the key reasons for Kopitar's monster season was the arrival of gritty goalie pest Ryan Smyth who's game compliments Kopitar perfectly. Smyth is beginning to get long in the tooth and has always been suffered through durability issues. However Smyth once again will be an integral part of the Kings' first line with Kopitar. Likely playing on the opposite wing will be Justin Williams who also had an injury shortened campaign last year. Williams has been a source of skepticism from Kings' fans about whether or not he's a first line talent. However Williams will likely get the ice time as he's shown the ability to click with Kopitar in the past.
The Kings' signed UFA winger Alexei Ponikarovsky who is a talented two-way complimentary player that will likely be playing second line minutes. Centering the second line will be Jarret Stoll who's made a name for himself as one of the better two-way centers in the game. Stoll will never be confused with an offensive dynamo but he'll fill his role adequately in LA while playing on both special teams. Likely playing on the opposite wing will be Kings' captain Dustin Brown who's developed into one of the gritty player and one of the best hitters in the league. Brown has struggled with scoring inconsistency in his NHL career but will crack the 50 point barrier in any healthy campaign.
LA's third line this season will likely be led by 22-year old winger Wayne Simmonds who had a coming out party in his sophomore season and was extremely impressive in the Kings' six player off games. Simmonds lacks the hockey sense to be a first line talent in this league but makes up for this with an elite work ethic and strong two-way game. Michal Handzus is one of the best third line centers in the game and will once be relied upon to carry the first penalty kill unit. Occupying the opposite wing will likely be toolbox player Brad Richardson who can do a little bit of everything in the bottom six.
Filling out the Kings' forward core will likely be an assortment of young players. 26-year old playing making winger Scott Parse played 59 games last season and will bounce around the Kings' depth chart this year. Likely centering the fourth line will be 23-year old former 17th overall pick Trevor Lewis who's struggled to find himself in professional hockey and faces what may well be his last opportunity to make the Kings. 23-year old defensive forward Richard Clune will make the team this season and likely make himself a fixture on the Kings' fourth line. Utility player Peter Harrold will fill in on defense or in the bottom six when needed.
Heavyweight enforcer Kevin Westgarth, 21-year old scorer Oscar Moller, 20-year old Russian center Andrei Loktionov, and former 5th overall pick Brayden Schenn all stand a good chance of seeing games in LA this season.
The Kings' boast perhaps the finest defense in the league with several blue-chip prospects pushing to make the team. LA's blueline is led by 20-year old Norris Trophy nominee Drew Doughty who absolutely exploded last year with 59 points. Doughty has shown himself to be one of the most elite defensemen in the world before being able to legally drink. Even though it's still very early in Doughty's career he's projecting to be a generational defenseman. Likely playing with Doughty will be Willie Mitchell who was signed by LA this off-season. Mitchell is one of the finest defensive defensemen and penalty killers in the league and will give LA's penalty kill (which was one of their weaknesses last season) a huge boost.
The second pairing will likely be led by former third overall pick Jack Johnson who's been something of a controversial figure for the Kings. Johnson has one of the best physical skill sets in the league but has some serious holes in his defensive game. Johnson took some big strides in improving his overall game last season and played out of his mind in the Olympics. Playing with Johnson will likely be veteran defensive defenseman Rob Scuderi who was LA's defacto shutdown defenseman last season.
The bottom pairing this season will see gritty defensive defenseman Matt Greene stabilizing this pairing. Greene unfortunately will miss training camp and the opening of the season with a shoulder injury but is expected back in early October. After Greene the depth chart in LA gets crazy with potential defensive prospects the Kings could give a NHL job to. My personal pick to be the sixth defenseman in LA this season is former fourth overall pick Thomas Hickey who's been sidelined by injuries the last two years. Hickey was an absolute hockey prodigy in his time in Seattle and offers one of the best talent packages of any defensive prospect in the league if he could just get his health in order. Likely filling in as the seventh defenseman will be defensive defenseman Davis Drewiske.
20-year old offensive defenseman Viatcheslav Voynov, Swedish import Johan Fransson, and 23-year three zone defenseman old Alec Martinez all stand a good chance of seeing games in LA this season.
The Kings face an interesting log jam in net. 24-year old Jonathan Quick had an exceptional season seemingly out of nowhere last year playing 72 games before imploding in the playoffs. Quick is being pushed by blue chip prospect 22-year old Jonathan Bernier who destroyed the AHL last season being named the league's best goalie with the Baz Bastien Trophy. Bernier is projecting to be the next great goalie in the NHL but will have to unseat Quick as the Kings' number one before he can reach his ceiling. To further complicate matters Quick signed a three year contract extension last year. Look for Quick to start the season as the Kings' number one but for Bernier to overtake him somewhere around the 41 game mark. Also in the mix is Swedish import Erik Ersberg who's done a very respectable job as LA's backup for the last three years but who's future is in doubt with Quick and Bernier on the depth chart.
The Kings' right now are beginning to look like the Blackhawks of two years ago with the accumulation of young superstars and the first dividends being shown of a successful rebuild. The Kings' forward core lacks elite talent beyond Kopitar and probably doesn't have the top end talent for this team to be considered a top team. However the Kings have arguably the best defense in the league and perhaps the best depth in goal. Look for the Kings to come in somewhere between 6th-10th in the league.
BVB Opening Night Projected Line-Up
Ryan Smyth - 24 G/32 A 56 P
Anze Kopitar - 38 G/50 A 88 P
Justin Williams - 18 G/30 A 48 P
Alexei Ponikarovsky - 21 G/30 A 51 P
Jarret Stoll - 16 G/35 A 51 P
Dustin Brown - 27 G/30 A 57 P
Brad Richardson - 13 G/18 A 31 P
Michal Handzus - 18 G/20 A 38 P
Wayne Simmonds - 20 G/28 A 48 P
Scott Parse - 10 G/19 A 29 P
Trevor Lewis - 6 G/10 A 16 P
Richard Clune - 2 G/5 A 7 P
Drew Doughty - 19 G/48 A 67 P
Willie Mitchell - 2 G/18 A 20 P
Jack Johnson - 7 G/30 A 37 P
Rob Scuderi - 1 G/13 A 14 P
Matt Greene - 3 G/9 A 12 P
Thomas Hickey - 5 G/17 A 22 P
Jonathan Quick - 23-17-5 | 2.68 GAA | .909 Sv%
Erik Ersberg - 1-1-0 | 2.70 GAA | .904 Sv%
Jonathan Bernier - 20-13-2 | 2.43 GAA | .919 Sv%