Our Los Angeles Kings 2021-22 Preview is a part of our 2021-22 NHL Team Preview Series. Starting September 9th, we have covered one team per day in the leadup to the 2021-22 season. After a crazy busy offseason with a ton of player movement we need something to help summarize what happened and give an outlook of the impact on each team. Make sure to check back each day for the next team in the list!
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Share this post somewhere if you’re also insanely excited for this Los Angeles Kings team, regardless of how well they do this season. LA’s prospect pool is insanely stacked and might be the best I have ever seen. Rob Blake and his front office team have done an absolutely fantastic job handling this rebuild and they are only 3 seasons into it.
Those 3 seasons haven’t been great on the ice, as they’ve been bottom of the division each year with not much to watch. From an aging core and player regression to lackluster depth not really replacing any of what’s been lost, it’s been a challenge for sure. But this is the season that it appears the Kings want to start turning things around.
The results may not be immediate, mind you, it could still be a season or two before we start seeing a rise in the standings. But based off of the offseason moves the Kings just made, it is clear that the managerial side of the team is ready to start breaking in the new look Kings.
Proper veteran leadership is an absolutely crucial part to getting a young roster ready for the NHL and NHL lifestyle. The Kings already had a solid core from their Cup winning teams, with Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick still hanging around. To help them out and to attain a wider variety of players for the rookies to learn from being around, Phillip Danault and Alex Edler were brought in to help this transition phase.
Danault’s is well-known for his defensive prowess as a centre. He will be relied on initially to help take some of the load off of Anze Kopitar by giving the Kings a strong second line centre. As the rebuild progresses, Danault can share his wisdom with the young forwards on defensive responsibility before slowly getting overtaken in the depth chart in the later years of the contract.
Alex Edler has been a solid, reliable defender for the Canucks for well over a decade. Edler and Doughty will be excellent mentors for the young defenders, even if they might not be the players they used to be.
This projects to be a season where a lot of younger players get real shots at roster spots. Training camp will be a huge competition between guys like Quinton Byfield, Akil Thomas, Alex Turcotte, Lias Andersson, and Jaret Anderson-Dolan for opening night honours. We could see a lot of exciting young players rotating through the Kings’ lineup over the season.
The interesting storyline for the team is how well this style of lineup could do. It is no secret that the Pacific Division is weak. Aside from Vegas being alone in the top tier, the rest of the division is wildly unpredictable. If Los Angeles can get on a hot streak with the energy of a youthful roster that the opposition does not yet have a read on, then we might be looking at a surprise candidate for a wildcard playoff spot here.
Los Angeles Kings Roster Additions
Los Angeles Kings Roster Subtractions
Los Angeles Kings Roster Overview
Trying to figure out the Kings’ depth chart here has been an absolute struggle as a combination of a relatively weak roster with lots of interchangeable pieces as well as a complete uncertainty over who will actually be in the lineup on opening night.
Something that does seem fairly set in stone is the first line combination of Alex Iafallo-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown. This was by far the team’s most utilized line combination last season. The biggest question is whether or not Dustin Brown’s late career resurgence will continue. After 4 seasons where he struggled to hit 30 points, Brown has had 50+ points (or at least on pace for 50+) in the four most recent seasons. Brown will be 37 years old shortly after the season starts and a player with his physical, power forward style may drop off completely on no notice.
Victor Arvidsson is there to hopefully replace Brown’s 20 goals if Dustin regresses this season.
In the absence of said regression, Arvidsson could wing the second line with Adrian Kempe and Phillip Danault. This one-two punch of Kopitar and Danault at centre is going to be a significant boost to the team’s defensive play by having two Selke calibre players to centre the top two lines. This could go a long way to helping bring younger players in the lineup as well, since allowing the rookies to play wing with a defensively capable centre will give them the freedom to develop and find their games in the NHL with a little bit of coverage on defensive lapses.
There are a ton of available spots in the bottom 6 here. Likely on the third line is Andreas Athanasiou, who had a decent season with 23 points in 46 games. Trevor Moore seems to slot in on the third line in roster projections as well, though I feel he might be an option to slide down in place of a player like Quinton Byfield. Gabriel Vilardi, though he was only in his first full season in the NHL, played a lot of centre and I expect that will continue this season on the third line.
Beyond that is an even greater mystery. The Kings have a few slightly more experienced options in Brendan Lemieux, Austin Wagner, and Blake Lizotte. To a lesser extent Carl Grundstrom and Lias Andersson. However, Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Rasmus Kupari would be great options to get some additional offense from the bottom 6 and Vladimir Tkachev is a wildcard option to get some NHL time to see how he fares in North America.
I see Anderson-Dolan and Lizotte being regulars in the lineup/on this line, but the blender will be very active through the season.
Despite a significant dropoff in the quality of his play in recent years, Drew Doughty is still by far the #1 defender on this team. He averaged over 26 minutes of ice time last season, which is not ideal. Hopefully the development of some younger defenders and the addition of Alex Edler can help take a couple minutes off his TOI/GP. Mikey Anderson was Doughty’s go-to partner in 2020-21, and there is no real reason yet why this would change. Anderson, entering his second full season, played just over 21 minutes per game in 20-21 and was more than capable, given the context.
The bottom two pairings might have some mixed usage here, as Alex Edler, Olli Maata, and Tobias Bjornfot are the main players aiming for the bottom two LD spots. Alex Edler is still a strong two-way defender who played over 20 minutes per night last season but he is starting to lose his speed a bit and may benefit from a reduced role, leaning towards third pairing/rotating duties with Olli Maata. This gives Tobias Bjornfot a chance to expand his role on the second pairing from the 33 games he played last season to a full-time regular NHL’er.
Matt Roy and Sean Walker are fairly interchangeable defenders to take the bottom 2 RD spots. Both averaged similar TOI/GP last season. Walker contributes a little bit more offense so he might get more time with Edler/Maata. Matt Roy, who is an insanely underrated defender with positive impacts on both ends of the ice, is then partnered with Bjornfot. As was most common last season.
There was a changing of the guard in net last season as Cal Petersen took over the #1 spot from Jonathan Quick. Petersen did great in that spot. His GAA was very similar to Quick’s (2.86 for Petersen to Quick’s 2.89) but the SV% is where Petersen really made the difference in play. Quick had an .898 SV% while Petersen had a .911 SV%. This makes a huge difference in the number of goals given up and affects the confidence the team has playing in front of him. The team sees this in him too, as they’ve awarded him with a 3 year, $5M AAV contract signed the day this preview dropped.
Petersen will be given even more starts in 2021-22. Expect him to get 50-60 starts to Quick’s 20-30.
Los Angeles Kings 2021-22 Prediction
5th-6th Pacific Division
The Kings are definitely not the worst in the division thanks to the other California teams but they likely still have a ways to go before moving farther up the standings. Though as mentioned earlier on in this preview, the division is weak and uncertain. If the Kings’ youth can spark something in this team they do have a longshot chance of challenging for a wildcard playoff spot.
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