Our Los Angeles Kings 2020-21 Preview is part of a one-a-day series covering the entire NHL. Click here for the rest of the teams in the leadup to another action-packed NHL season!
The Los Angeles Kings had an abysmal showing in 2019-20, to no one’s surprise. Finishing 28th in the league with 64 points (one ahead of San Jose and two ahead of Ottawa), the Kings are mostly just biding time while their arguably league leading prospect pool develops and cracks the NHL. Ideally, they will do so while Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are still in the league.
The team’s core players, Kopitar, Doughty, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, and Jonathan Quick are all hitting their early to mid thirties and many are starting to see declines in their play. Dustin Brown experienced a couple years of resurgence but saw his 2019-20 season regress in production. Jeff Carter’s taken a nosedive since his injury-ruined 17-18 season and recorded 27 points in 60 games last year. Drew Doughty had the worst possession numbers of any player who played a full season on this team and did not have a good year. Just a struggle all around. Of course, we must also consider that it’s difficult for individual players to look good when the team is not.
There were not very many bright spots for this team in 2019-20. One of those few was Alex Iafallo. In each of his three NHL seasons, he has improved offensively and played well enough to noticeably increase his ice time. Ending with 43 points in 70 games playing 18:56 per game, Iafallo (who will be 27 by the time the season starts) will be either utilized as a great piece to help the team transition into the next generation, or be dangled as a trade chip for more prospects/draft picks. In the meantime, the Kings are glad to have someone contributing to the team’s secondary scoring.
Another bright spot was Matt Roy. He is not an offensively flashy player (18 points in 70 games, good for third among Kings defenders) but his advanced stats on a poor Los Angeles squad were phenomenal. As Roy begins to enter some of the key years for a defender’s development and the bulk of the Kings’ defense prospects still a couple years away, Matt will be needed to help with these transitional years in a similar way as Iafallo. If Roy maintains his performance and stays a reliable, defensive workhorse, then the team will have another player they can pair with prospects to help them adjust to the NHL game.
Looking through the Kings’ roster and depth charts shows that the team won’t be competing for much in the standings but there will be a decent amount of competition among the prospects for roster spots and playing time.
Los Angeles Kings Roster Overview
Due to a complete lack of depth, the key trend among Kings forwards is playing too high on the depth chart. Except for Anze Kopitar, the Kings do not have any first line forwards. Iafallo and Brown are Kopitar’s most common linemates. Alex Iafallo is improving, but his career high of 43 points (on pace for about 50) is second line production. Dustin Brown’s 35 is bordering as a second/third line forward.
Losing Tyler Toffoli at the trade deadline removes even more potential depth scoring. Left to fill spots on the actual second line are 30 point players Adrian Kempe and Jeff Carter. Aside from them you have a handful of players lucky to hit 10-20 points for the third and fourth lines.
There is a huge opportunity here for some of the higher end offensive prospects to grab lineup spots with minimal competition from the existing NHL roster. Even though there is not much room at centre for some of these players, the wings are so weak that it would be good for the centre prospects to break into the league with the reduced responsibility of a winger role.
In terms of NHL-readiness, Gabriel Vilardi leads this group. In his 10 game audition at the end of 2019-20, he put up 7 points. The concern for Vilardi is his injury history, but if he can stay healthy he has a real shot at not just taking on a top-6 role with the Kings, but even competing for the Calder Trophy.
Alex Turcotte will also be making the jump to the pro game full-time this season. As one of the Kings’ top prospects, a quick start and strong showing in training camp will easily vault him into an NHL position for the upcoming season. 2020’s second overall pick Quinton Byfield will likely see some time with the Kings as well.
A sampling of the other high-end prospects that will be around include Rasmus Kupari, Arthur Kaliyev, and Jaret Anderson-Dolan.
All of these players will go a long ways to helping the Kings scoring, as their 177 goals for placed them in 30th in the NHL.
Despite a regression over a couple of seasons, Drew Doughty is by far the Kings’ best defender and will take on the majority of the workload in all situations. His 25:49 TOI/GP in 2019/20 was his lowest average since 2013-14 (25:43 TOI/GP), but it still places him among the league leaders in that stat. Due to the weakness in scoring the team as a whole possessed, Doughty’s dropping point totals aren’t as much of a concern. If some of the forward prospects break into the lineup with energy and production, expect Drew to see a few more assists padding his totals.
The addition of Olli Maatta gives them another capable and well-rounded NHL defender. Maatta will be given a prime opportunity to showcase his talents in an expanded role.
On defense, the prospects are mostly a little ways away from seeing regular NHL time, but some are close and could break into the lineup. Leading the way there is Mikey Anderson, who got into 6 games in 2019-20 but a lack of NHL calibre defenders means the opportunity is there for him to become a regular in 2020-21. Anderson is regarded as an intelligent player, one who is able to think the game at a high level which vaults him up the prospect list in terms of NHL-readiness.
Jonathan Quick is still without a doubt the Kings’ starter, but he has been dealing with injury troubles limiting his playing time the last two seasons and his statistical regression may slowly lead to a phasing out/transferring of duties to another goalie.
Waiting in the wings is Cal Petersen. In his first couple tastes of NHL action, Cal has been impressive on a mediocre at best team. In 2018-19, he posted a 2.60 GAA and .924 SV% in 11 games. And in 2019-20, a 2.64 GAA and .922 SV% in 8 games. His AHL numbers are questionable over the same period, but he is now further up the Kings’ depth chart and is slotted in as Quick’s back-up to start the season. The Kings are probably looking at a 60/40 split to help keep Quick rested and healthy and give Petersen a chance to prove himself.
Los Angeles Kings 2020-21 Prediction
7th – 8th West Division
This team won’t make much of an impact this season. They may have a youthful driven hot streak here and there, but the overall roster is not strong enough to compete over the whole schedule.
That concludes our Los Angeles Kings 2020-21 Preview. Check to see if your team has been covered yet in our 2020-21 Season Preview Series.
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