Saturday, August 31, 2019

Los Angeles Kings 2019-20 season preview

From Getty Images


        The story of the Kings can be told be just one stat. Only two returning players had a plus/minus over zero in 2018-19. Those two players, Austin Wagner and Kyle Clifford (Nate Thompson and Jake Muzzin were traded midseason), are fourth liners. A quiet offseason that really only saw the Kings get a new coach looks to be the start of a rebuild.

         Additions: Joakim Ryan, Mario Kempe, Martin Frk

         Subtractions: Dion Phaneuf, Brendan Leipsic, Jonny Brodzinski, Peter Budaj, Nikita Scherbak

         Forwards
A two time Selke winner, Anze Kopitar had a career season in 2017-18, but he fell in 2018-19. His -20 rating was a career worst, and while his 22 goals and 60 points weren't as bad as his 2016-17 season, it's still disappointing for a player getting paid $10 million. Dustin Brown has actually gotten better as he has aged, with 50 goals and 112 points over the last two seasons. Ilya Kovalchuk's return to the NHL was a dud, as the former Rocket Richard winner scored just 16 goals with 34 points in 64 games. Kovalchuk is now 36, and earning $6.25 million a season. In his prime, Tyler Toffoli has been more inconsistent than ever. After scoring 31 goals as a 23 year old in 2015-16, Toffoli has scored 16. 24 and 13 goals in the three seasons since. His 13 goals in 2018-19 and 34 points, plus a -16 rating was very disappointing, and he is a trade target. Jeff Carter had the worst season of his career, with career worsts in plus/minus (-20), goals per game (.17) and points per game (.43). Alex Iafallo had a nice 15 goal season, but like everyone else, his plus/minus was terrible (-17). Adrian Kempe had a promising 2017-18 season, but fell a little bit in 2018-19, with 12 goals and 28 points. He is currently an RFA. Austin Wagner had a good rookie season, with 12 goals, even though he averaged less than nine minutes a game. Kyle Clifford's previous career high in goals was seven entering 2018-19, then he scored 11 goals. Trevor Lewis played in just 44 games, and scored 12 points. Over the last two seasons, Michael Amadio has 21 points in 80 games. Nikolai Prokhorkin comes to North America after scoring 20 goals and 41 points in 41 KHL games.

           Defensemen
The Kings had just two defensemen with 70 games played, and just three returning defensemen with more than 40. Just after signing an $11 million deal, Drew Doughty had a terrible season. His points went from 60 in 2017-18 to 45 in 2018-19, and for the third time, he was a minus player. His -34 rating was the second worst in the league. Alec Martinez missed 22 games, leading to just 18 points, his lowest total since 2012-13, when he played in just 27 games. Former first rounder Derek Forbort saw his plus/minus drop by 31 points. He averaged 20 minutes a night for the third consecutive season. Paul LaDue played in a career high 33 games, and had five points. Joakim Ryan signed after playing in 106 games for the Sharks over the last two years, with 19 points. Sean Walker had 17 points in 22 AHL games, and 10 points in 39 NHL games. Matt Roy and Kurtis MacDermid combined for seven points in 36 games.

            Goalies
Jonathan Quick had his worst season in 2018-19, and it is not up for discussion. His previous career lows were a 2.54 GAA and .902 SV%. In 2018-19, he had a 3.38 GAA with a .888 SV%. If the Kings want to be relevant, Quick needs to be better. While Quick was inconsistent and battling injuries, Jack Campbell stepped up. Drafted 11th overall in 2010, Campbell played in his first full season, and had an impressive 2.30 GAA and .928 SV%. Cal Peterson had a .924 SV% in 11 games.

            Deep Depths
Martin Frk signs with the Kings after scoring six points in 30 games for Detroit in 2018-19. He was good in 2017-18, with 11 goals and 25 points in 68 games. Adrian Kempe's brother, Mario, comes to L.A. after scoring 13 points in 70 games over two seasons in Arizona. Matt Luff scored eight goals in 33 games, which is a 20 goal pace. He will fight for an NHL starting job.

            Up and Coming
Carl Grundstrom, a part of the Jake Muzzin trade, had 39 points in 55 AHL games, and scored five goals in his first 15 career NHL games. Blake Lizotte made his NHL debut after 42 points in 37 games at St. Cloud State. Gabe Vilardi made his pro debut in the AHL last year, playing in four contests. He missed the rest of the season with a back injury. Jaret Anderson-Dolan played in five NHL games. He had 43 points in 32 games in the WHL. Defenseman Kale Clague had 29 points in 52 games in the AHL.

            2019 draft class
Round 1, 5th overall: Alex Turcotte
Round 1, 22nd overall: Tobias Bjornfot
Round 2, 33rd overall: Arthur Kaliyev
Round 2, 50th overall: Sam Fagemo
Round 3, 87th overall: Lukas Parik
Round 4, 95th overall: Jordan Spence
Round 4, 119th overall: Kim Nousianinen
Round 6, 157th overall: Braden Doyle
Round 7, 188th overall: Andre Lee

             Management
Just 13 games into the season, the Kings fired John Stevens, in Stevens' second season as coach. They hired Willie Desjardins, who had a rough track record in Vancouver. The new coach is former Oilers bench boss Todd McLellan. With the Sharks and Oilers, McLellan teams have a .594 winning percentage. An NHL hall of famer and a King for 14 seasons, Rob Blake remains as GM, but he may not for long if the Kings continue to go downward. The third coach over the last two years that Blake has hired, Blake played under McLellan in San Jose in Blake's last two NHL seasons.

              Projected Lineup
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Tyler Toffoli
Alex Iafallo - Jeff Carter - Carl Grundstrom
Nikolai Prokhorkin - Adrian Kempe - Ilya Kovalchuk
Kyle Clifford - Trevor Lewis - Austin Wagner
Extras: Michael Amadio, Matt Luff, Jaret Anderson-Dolan

              Alec Martinez - Drew Doughty
              Derek Forbort - Paul LaDue
              Joakim Ryan - Sean Walker
Extras: Matt Roy, Kurtis MacDermid

                            Jonathan Quick
                            Jack Campbell
Extras: Cal Peterson

               Prediction
The Kings aren't a good team. Their core has aged, and their young players are still a year away from being regulars. The Kings will have an L.A./Anaheim rivalry with the Ducks, but that rivalry will be for last place in the Pacific Division.

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